Like so many other people in London that day, I went to a street party and sipped Pimms in the sunshine while watching the Royal Wedding on TV. I loved the spectacle of horses and royal carriages, of Westminster Abbey and famous women in great dresses and bad hats. I watched avidly the appearance of the newlyweds on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and that first public kiss.
But I have to say I had no idea just how fabulous Kate Middleton’s dress was until I visited Buckingham Palace during the summer openings and saw it up close. It is absolutely a work of art. Unlike Diana’s dress, which was so over-the-top and dated so fast it now looks frankly a bit silly, Kate’s dress will, I’m confident, continue to look elegant and quite, quite beautiful for years, if not centuries to come. I did not realize how much lace work there was on it, although we had all heard about how the lace was handmade at Hampton Court Palace by the Royal School of Needlework.
But what I really never saw on the wedding day was the bustle at the back of the dress and all the tiny buttons from her neck right down her back. While I think Kate’s veil was lovely – it was simple and fell beautifully – now I’ve seen the dress I admit to thinking that veil was a mistake. The back of the dress has wonderful folds of fabric standing out to make a bustle and give shape. These then fall into the many layers of the dress that I also did not see on the day. It is like layers of fabric circling around, like interlinking feathers of, dare I say, a peacock.
During the exhibition of the dress – and the shoes and earrings and veil – there was video of the designer (Sarah Burton) talking about making sure the dress would not collapse in on itself at the front as Kate walked down the aisle but also making it an easy to wear, light construction. I like fashion but I think seeing this dress was the first time I’ve really appreciated the art of design behind making a dress. I’m not sure where it will next be exhibited but it’s definitely worth seeing this dress up close.