Arts & culture

Iconic royal wedding dresses

With the much anticipated wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle this week, we take a browse through the lace and crystal-adorned archives of some of the 20th century’s most iconic royal wedding dresses

Catherine Middleton and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Designer: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The lace detailing was crafted by the Royal School of Needlework and shown off spectacularly with the long sleeves and detail around the back of the dress. Catherine also completed the ‘borrowed’ element of her outfit with the Cartier ‘Halo’ tiara given to the Queen by the Queen Mother on her 18th birthday.

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Sofia Hellqvist and Prince Carl Philip of Sweden
Designer: Ida Sjostedt. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, Sofia also opted for long, elegant lace sleeves but with a striking A-line silhouette and open v-neck neckline. The silk organza, crepe and handmade lace were produced in three shades of white. Her tiara, a gift from the King and Queen of Sweden, sparkled with diamonds and was tipped with emeralds.

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Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III of Monaco
Designer: MGM’s studio ateliers. The American actress required two dresses – one for a civil ceremony and a religious ceremony the following day. Both dresses were given as a wedding gift by the film studio’s bosses, with the first a two-piece in light pink taffeta overlaid with champagne-coloured lace. The second went down in history as a stunning design featuring 300 yards of antique Belgian lace and 150 yards of silk, taffeta and tulle, created by 30 of MGM’s seamstresses.

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Rania Al-Yassin and Prince Abdullah of Jordan
Designer: Bruce Oldfield. The British couture designer was asked to draw inspiration from the embellishments on Syrian formal dresses. The gown had significant gold detailing on the trim, with the oversized lapels, short sleeves and large belt evoking a power suit look. The train extended from the back of the dress. The now-Queen of Jordan wore no tiara but sported an embellished band around her very high bun.

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Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten
Designer: Norman Hartnell. The duchesse satin gown (with the material ordered from Wintherthur, near Dunfermline) was inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera painting, with motifs of star lilies and orange blossoms. The ivory colour of the dress was teamed with a 15-foot silk tulle train and veil in the same material, with Edward Rayne sandals with silver and seed pearl buckles finishing the ensemble.

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Charlene Wittstock and Prince Albert II of Monaco
Designer: Giorgio Armani. The off-the-shoulder Privé silk gown took three seamstresses 2,500 hours to make, including 700 hours on the embroidery alone. It also showed off a five-metre train decorated with 40,000 Swarovski crystals and 20,000 mother-of-pearl teardrops and was made from 50 metres of duchesse silk and 80 metres of silk organza. The striking veil was a 20-metre-long silk tulle work of art.

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Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran
Designer: Christian Dior. Soraya’s gown was memorably couture, having been made from an impressive 37 yards of silver lamé studded with pearls, 6,000 diamond pieces and 20,000 marabou feathers. The dress ended up as a weighty endeavour at 44 pounds. It was complemented with a matching jacket and veil for the ceremony as well as a full-length white mink cape so the bride could stay warm.

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Lady Diana Spencer and Charles, Prince of Wales
Designer: David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The ivory silk taffeta creation was decorated with lace, hand embroidery, sequins and 10,000 pearls. Diana’s veil used 153 yards of tulle and actually outmeasured her 25ft antique lace train. The future Princess of Wales also wore a Spencer family 18th-century heirloom tiara, with a small bow sewn into the waistband of the dress for ‘something blue’.

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Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden and Daniel Westling
Designer: Pär Engsheden. Carefully crafted in duchesse satin, the gown’s rounded collar was turned down all the way around ending in a v-shape at the back, with a cummerbund-style sash pulled in at the waist. The dress had a short manageable train, but a five-metre detachable train was added for the ceremony. Victoria wore the lace veil, cameo tiara and matching bracelet and earrings her mother, Queen Silvia, wore at her own wedding in 1976.

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Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor
Designer: Mainbocher. The New York fashion house designed the nipped-in-at-the-waist dress in the bride’s signature colour, ‘Wallis blue’. The gown also featured a high collar, long sleeves and a draping heart shape just below the waistline. Apparently created to match Simpson’s eyes, the coordinating blue straw hat was designed by Parisian milliner Caroline Reboux, with her blue silk crepe gloves also fashioned in the same shade.

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