Long Live McQueen!

I know it may sound cheesy, but when I learnt the Royal Wedding was planned for April 29th – a Friday – I was more than happy: Friday is one of my free days from school, so I was really looking forward to watching the ceremony on tv. I am not a monarchy supporter, but I must admit the British Royal Family has always had a particular charm to me, but I guess this is somehow due to my passion for anything British (it’s not a case I teach English language and literature).

Rumours have circulated about the designer of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, but when I heard Sarah Burton, creative director at Alexander McQueen, had been spotted arriving at the Goring Hotel in Londo, my heart leapt up. You know the name of the McQueen fashion house is somehow sacred to me, so knowing that the British designer’s legacy was somehow involved in the wedding of the decade filled my heart with joy. But enough: here is the dress, with some details about the model and the fabrics, a fascinating story of British craftsmanship and tailoring tradition.

Many have pointed out this dress is similar to the wedding dress worn by Grace Kelly in 1956, designed by Helen Rose, wardrobe designer at MGM. It’s true some details are reminiscent of Grace’s dress, but let’s focus on the one designed by Burton. The ivory number was made with ivory and white satin gazar: the pleated skirt had the shape of a blooming flower; both bodice and skirt had lace appliqués. English Cluny and French Chantilly lace, hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework, was appliquéd using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique; this means “individual flowers have been hand-cut from lace and hand-engineered onto ivory silk tulle to create a unique and organic design, which incorporates the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock” (the emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).

The pictures above shows the beautiful train of the dress, 2.70 metres long. I think the dress was magnificent, traditional but retaining a strong touch of McQueen’s style, especially in the slightly padded hips.

I love the picture above, shot a few moments before Kate’s entrance at Westminster Abbey. The slightly ruffled folds on the back of the skirt are so romantic, and so is the veil covering her face. Now here are a few details about the bride’s bouquet, designed by Shane Connolly:  it included myrtle, lily-of-the-valley, sweet William, hyacinth and ivy, meaning love (myrtle, which is the emblem of marriage, as well), return of happiness (lily-of-the-valley), gallantry (sweet William), constancy of love (hyacinth) and fidelity (ivy).

Sarah Burton, wearing a nice black printed dress and her trademark ballerina flats, adjusted the bride’s dress as she arrived with her father at the Abbey. She must have been so excited and even nervous for taking part into such an important event.

During the wedding ceremony, bride and bridegroom took their seats, one next to the other, in front of the pulpit. In the picture above, the long train of the dress is fully visible.

I was so looking forward to seeing the tiara chosen for the occasion and the choice didn’t disappoint me: Kate wore the Halo [1] tiara by Cartier, lent by Queen Elizabeth II.  It was made in 1936 and purchased by the Duke of York (the future King George VI) for his wife (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother); the piece of jewellery became part of Princess Elizabeth’s (the future Queen) possessions on her 18th birthday. Kate also wore a pair of earrings by Robinson Pelham, with diamond-set oak leaves and pear-shaped diamonds; they were given by her parents as wedding gift.

The veil – shorter on the front – was made of layers of ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers, made by the Royal School of Needlework. Some have criticised it because it’s not so formal – it should have been longer on the front – but I think it was perfect: a much longer veil would have been too heavy for such a sleek dress.

I’m sure the bride’s shoes – hand-made by the Alexander McQueen team, made of ivory duchesse satin and lace – were seen by guests only (I didn’t get a glimpse of them during the live streaming of the event). I would have liked to see her hairdo better, as well: her beautiful dark hair was styled by James Pryce and Richard Ward of London’s Richard Ward salon in a demi-chignon. I loved her make-up, because it was very natural and didn’t mask the bride’s features.

Before closing, just a personal thought: what would have happened if Lee McQueen was alive? Would he have been chosen to design this wedding dress? And if so, would he have enjoyed all this mediatic frenzy? Unfortunately we will never get an answer to this question, but I like thinking he cast a look down today, to appreciate what his successor had done. Maybe he’ll cast another look down next Monday, too, when he is being honoured at the Costume Institute Gala in New York.

[1] I’m not an expert of the British Royal Family jewels, but there’s some confusion on the correct name of the tiara. Some call it the Scroll, some the Halo/Scroll, some say it’s the Halo and not the Scroll, referring to two different tiaras, which are probably very similar. In any case, I think it was gorgeous, with those Paisley-like motifs and all those amazing diamonds.

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13 comments

  1. lovely dress… and great to see a wedding dress with such a structured bodice and hips without actually being “victorian” or anything too obvious (more medieval in feeling, if anything).
    BTW, today I stumbled upon this article where Sarah Burton says the Widows of Culloden lace dress was based on her own wedding dress (which I’d love to see, may I add!) and describes the lace appliqué technique used for it––very much like the one used on the royal dress, it seems.

    1. Thanks a lot for linking that article – I love knowing what lies behind such a gorgeous dress! I wish I could see Sarah Burton’s wedding dress, it must be amazing.

    2. And yes, I think the technique used in both cases was the same. I guess it’s the only way to get a specific lace design.

  2. Regarding the veil, in my opinion, the length is fine. I just wished it floated more around her head and accented her beautiful hair more. The one she chose kind of hangs at the back of her head and flattens out her hair style – which apparently took up to 4 hours to create!

    I also think her make-up is perfect – she looks natural & radiant.

    1. Omg, did it really take so many hours to create that hairdo? I mean, it was nice but nothing particularly elaborated.
      I think she has very straight hair, so I guess the waves didn’t last on her hair for that reason, and yes, that veil didn’t help hair not to get flattened.

      I read somewhere she did her own make-up. Is it possible? I did the same on my wedding day, but I am not the Duchess of Cambridge 😉 If it’s true, I wonder which products she used…

  3. Catherine Middleton was literally perfect. I loved her dress so classic, elegant and sophisticated. I appreciated very much her mother too. Mrs. Carole Middleton is a very stylish and charming lady. I was instead disappointed by Miss Philippa Middleton. I think that she has choosen a wrong colour for her oufit. The gown was stunning but I will make it in a pastel colour, not white.

    1. I wasn’t impressed by Carole’s outfit (very elegant, true, but nothing special), but I agree with you when it comes to Pippa. Her dress was lovely, but it shouldn’t have been an ivory dress.

  4. When I saw the dress, I gasped- it is so very beautiful! I especially loved the sleeves and the bodice. I’m not quite sure whether Lee McQueen would have been asked to design the dress, and if so, what he would have come up with had he been alive, but I think Sarah Burton’s creation was extraordinary!
    I’d like to share with you the comment made by the BBC reporters as soon as Kate appeared: “It has now been confirmed- it is a McQueen dress!” said the first one, to to which the other replied “YAAAAAAAAAY! I am beside myself!”, which I thought was so sweet, because I think we all felt like that when we saw the dress 🙂

    1. Awww, such a sweet remark! Well, I think this is one of the reasons why I liked the dress so much: it kinds of symbolizes the British pride, created by a British designer with British fabrics and traditional tailoring techniques.

      Sarah Burton imbues her creations with a delicately feminine touch and this wedding dress shows it, so you’re right: she’s following the path started by Lee McQueen but doing her own thing, so it’s difficult to say what he would have done in her place.

  5. I have also read the thing about the self-made make up, but will you call me a skeptic if I just don’t believe that?

    1. I don’t believe it either, but it’s true some professional make-up artists have criticised her make-up for not being as glowing as it should be.

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