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Kate Chooses British Label McQueen for Royal Wedding Dress

Catherine Middleton's Wedding Dress
Catherine Middleton is seen arriving for the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London. Photographer: Paul Rogers/WPA Pool via Getty Images

Royal bride Kate Middleton picked British label Alexander McQueen for her wedding dress, revealing the design to the world as she arrived at Westminster Abbey to marry Prince William, the second in line to the British throne.

The floor-length ivory dress with lace detailing was designed by Sarah Burton, assistant to McQueen for over a decade before he committed suicide in 2010. Burton, a Briton, was appointed creative director of McQueen, part of PPR SA, last year. Middleton wore a diamond tiara and full veil.

“She looked just like a princess should and beautifully British,” Peta Hunt, fashion director of You and Your Wedding magazine, said in a telephone interview. “We have a new Grace Kelly amongst us,” she said, recalling the American actress who married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956.

The dress was made of ivory and white satin gazar, a loosely woven silk, with the skirt echoing an opening flower, with white satin gazar arches and pleats and a train measuring 2.7 meters (9 feet). The ivory satin bodice, which is narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips, draws on the Victorian tradition of corsetry and is a hallmark of McQueen’s designs, Prince William’s office said.

‘Tradition and Modernity’

The bride “wished for her dress to combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterizes Alexander McQueen’s work,” William’s office said in an e-mail.

Middleton’s dress, which was a closely guarded secret in the run-up to the wedding, featured a lace applique bodice and skirt handmade by the Royal School of Needlework and lace flowers on ivory silk tulle in a design incorporating the symbolic rose of England, thistle of Scotland, daffodil of Wales and shamrock of Ireland.

The train of the dress was “big enough to fill the abbey but not ostentatious,” and overall, Middleton’s outfit was “simple, classic and chic,” Hunt said. “For a mere mortal to buy that dress, I imagine you are looking at over 50,000 pounds ($83,000).”

The royal bride, 29, had a chance to see Burton’s work at the wedding of friends. She designed a silk strapless dress worn by Sara Buys, who married the Duchess of Cornwall’s son, Tom Parker Bowles, in 2005. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is Prince Charles’s second wife and William’s stepmother.

First Lady

Burton has also designed for Michelle Obama, the U.S. first lady, supermodel Naomi Campbell, pop star Lady Gaga and actresses Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow.

“She looked radiant; very royal,” said Elisabeth Altby, 18, a student from Gothenburg, Sweden, who was watching the wedding on a giant screen in Hyde Park. “The dress resembles Grace Kelly’s.”

Her shoes were handmade by the team at McQueen of ivory duchesse satin with lace hand-embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. The veil was made of layers of soft, ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers.

The veil was held in place by a Cartier Ltd. “halo” tiara made in 1936, lent to the bride by William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. The bride’s earrings, a wedding present from her parents, were diamond-set stylized oak leaves with a pear-shaped diamond set drop and a pave-set diamond acorn suspended in the center.

Middleton carried a shield-shaped wired bouquet of myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet-william and hyacinth flowers.

‘Support British Fashion’

“There is always a big fuss about the dress, it’s the big feature of the day,” royal expert Hugo Vickers, who acted as consultant on the Academy Award-winning movie “The King’s Speech,” said in a telephone interview. Middleton was bound “to choose an English designer because she has to support British fashion. There would be an outcry if she didn’t.”

British brides spend an average 1,250 pounds ($2,080) on a wedding dress, according to Brides magazine. The dress worn by the bride’s sister and bridesmaid, Pippa Middleton, was also created by Burton. It was of a heavy, ivory satin-based crepe, with a cowl front and with the same button detail and lace trims as the bride’s dress.

William, 28, who as monarch will command Britain’s military, was dressed in the uniform of a colonel of the Irish Guards regiment, his senior honorary appointment in the army. He is currently a flight lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, based in north Wales, and could also have worn a naval uniform. His younger brother and best man Prince Harry, 26, wore the uniform of a captain of the Household Cavalry.

Bride’s Mother

The bride’s mother, Carole Middleton, wore a sky-blue wool crepe coatdress with matching satin piping and trimming at the waist and cuff. Underneath, she wore a sky-blue silk shantung “Sydney” day dress with short pleated sleeves and pleated pockets. Both were made by the label established by Catherine Walker, who was a favorite of William’s mother, Diana, before her death in 1997.

Queen Elizabeth wore an Angela Kelly-designed single crepe wool primrose dress with hand-sewn beading at the neck in the shape of sunrays with a matching wool tailored primrose coat and a matching hat.

Middleton’s dress will inspire designs for other brides for “the next few years at least,” Hunt said. “It is a very attainable look, compared to Diana’s dress” in 1981. “That was a bit extreme.”

When Diana Spencer, then aged 20, married Prince Charles in 1981, she wore an ivory taffeta and antique lace dress with a 25-foot train and puffed sleeves, designed by Elizabeth Emanuel.

Even so, not many brides may follow Kate, said Maria Shenton, who has sold dresses for 10 years at the Beverley Wedgwood shop in Crewe, northwest England.

“I don’t think she will necessarily set a trend because brides are quite clued up these days about what suits them,” Shenton said in an interview. “They read all the magazines and are aware of the shapes out there. She is very slim so what suits her will not necessarily suit all girls.”

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