The Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, which was a top secret triumph of engineering, historical importance -- and personal hygiene -- goes on display at Buckingham Palace tomorrow. And the show, sanctioned by the Queen, gives the strongest hint yet that William and Catherine are planning their first child’s christening.
It seems that the latest recruit into ‘the Firm’ is already a firm draw even in the Queen’s home. When it was announced that Catherine’s iconic dress would feature in the palace ballroom this summer, there was a dramatic spike in ticket sales. While Catherine, accompanied by her mother-in-law, will view the dress, there are no pictures of her and her husband Prince William featured in exhibition which lasts until October.
The dress, designed by Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, is the undoubted star of the show. It stands in a halo of light, the veil and 1936 Cartier tiara loaned by the Queen, suspended above the space where Catherine’s smiling face should be. As a result the wedding dress looks, according to witnesses, rather ‘ghostly and spooky.’
There was nothing other worldly about the usually reclusive Ms Burton when she discussed the inspiration behind the most iconic royal dress of the decade. The challenge, she said, was ‘that it had to be a dress of historical importance and one which had enough presence for Westminster Abbey, and yet it needed to be modest.’ She wanted the dress to look both to the past and the future.
In a five minute film to accompany the display, Sarah gave an indication of the thinking behind the best kept royal secret in years. "There were a lot of references to Victorian corsetry, the padded hip, the tiny cinched-in waist, and also to the arts and crafts movement with all of the hand-work on the lace of the dress and also the bustle inside to create the shape of the back of the dress. Interestingly Catherine’s paternal grandmother Valerie, who loved sewing tapestries, many for her local church, taught both Catherine and Pippa how to sew.
Ms Burton also described the dress - which includes six different types of lace - as a "real feat of engineering". The duchess's bridal gown featured lace applique floral detail - which was hand-made by embroiderers at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace - and was made of ivory and white satin silk. Embroiderers had to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the lace pristine.
The dress has a series of lace motifs including a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Each motif, some as small as a five pence piece, was applied with minute stitches every two to three millimetres.
The couple’s wedding cake, created by cake designer Fiona Cairns, has been recreated for the exhibition and gives a clear indication of the couple’s long-term thinking.
William and Catherine have kept the top two tiers of their eight-tiered wedding cake - a tradition usually undertaken by couples who plan to serve the cake at the christening of their first born.
Watch this space.