Exploring the enchanting journey of Kate Middleton’s wedding dress – from secret origins to the intricate details that made it a royal masterpiece. 💍👰 #KateMiddleton #RoyalWeddingDress

The Princess of Wales chose Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen to design her royal wedding gown in 2011

Chris Jackson/GettyPrince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

Kate Middleton’s royal wedding dress is nothing short of iconic.

The Princess of Wales wore a fitted white V-neck gown with a long-sleeved lace overlay to wed Prince William at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. The wedding dress was designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen and paid tribute to the United Kingdom through its lace embroidery. It later broke royal records when it was displayed at Buckingham Palace.

“It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress, and I have enjoyed every moment of it,” Burton said in a statement on the royal wedding day. “It was such an incredible honor to be asked, and I am so proud of what we and the Alexander McQueen team have created. I am delighted that the dress represents the best of British craftsmanship.”

Over a decade since Kate wore it down the aisle, the timeless gown is still an inspiration to brides everywhere. In 2021, Kate’s look was even named one of the most popular wedding dresses of the decade.

Read on to find out everything that went into making Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, from the extreme measures taken to keep its design under wraps to the meaningful details incorporated throughout.

Everyone went to great lengths to keep Kate’s dress a secret

Samir Hussein/WireImageCatherine Duchess of Cambridge arrives for the marriage of Their Royal Highnesses Prince William Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

By January 2011, Kate had already chosen Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen, as her wedding dress designer, but the decision remained under wraps for the next three months thanks to extraordinary measures taken by the palace and the design team.

In 2017, dressmaker Mandy Ewing called being on the dress-making team a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” She recalled of keeping the look a secret before the wedding day, “We had net curtains up and cleaners were not allowed into the room and the code on the door was changed. The dress was all in the news, but nobody knew who was doing it.”

So hush-hush was the operation that Burton told Vogue, per The Telegraph, she didn’t even let her parents in on the news until the night before the wedding due to a confidentiality agreement she had signed with Buckingham Palace. “Because my core team knew, it was okay for me to disappear and then come back, and then disappear again. But I remember other people asking me, ‘Are you coming in on Friday?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah, see you in the morning’. I’d be scheduling meetings knowing full well I wasn’t going to be there for them,” she recalled to the publication.

Kate chose Alexander McQueen for the fashion house’s “workmanship” and “artistic vision”

Suzanne Plunkett – WPA Pool/GettyCatherine Middleton has her dress adjusted by her sister and Maid of Honor Pippa Middleton as she arrives with her father Michael Middleton before her wedding at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

When Burton’s name was officially revealed as the designer of the princess’s wedding gown on the morning of April 29, Buckingham Palace explained Kate’s choice of the British designer in detail with a statement on the royal family website.

“​​Miss Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress has been designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen,” the statement read. “Miss Middleton chose British brand Alexander McQueen for the beauty of its craftsmanship and its respect for traditional workmanship and the technical construction of clothing.”

The statement also said that Kate aimed to “combine tradition and modernity with the artistic vision that characterizes Alexander McQueen’s work.”

Embroiders had to wash their hands every 30 minutes while working on the dress

Prince William exchanges rings with his bride Catherine Middleton in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams inside Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

According to the BBC, extreme measures were taken to ensure that nothing would happen to the dress’s lace as a team of embroiderers aged 19 to 70 at the London Royal School of Needlework created it. The outlet reported that hand-washing was required every 30 minutes, while needles were renewed every three hours in an effort to keep the fabric pristine.

The long-sleeved V-neck gown featured two types of lace and four special motifs

Indigo/GettyCatherine, Duchess of Cambridge travels down The Mall on route to Buckingham Palace in a horse drawn carriage following her wedding at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

Burton used French Chantilly lace and English Cluny lace throughout the gown’s bodice, skirt and underskirt. According to the royal family’s website, the lace was appliquéd using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique, which originated in Ireland in the 1820s.

There was also more to the embroidery than met the eye. Four plant motifs, including a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, were hand-cut from lace and hand-appliquéd onto ivory silk tulle to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — the four countries that comprise the United Kingdom.

Fifty-eight gazar- and organza-covered buttons lined the back of the bodice, all fastened by Rouleau loops.

The train was nearly 9 feet long

Catherine Middleton waves to the crowds as her sister and Maid of Honour Pippa Middleton holds her dress before walking in to the Abbey to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

Kate’s impressive train was quite lengthy, spanning nearly 9 feet. However, the grand train wasn’t the longest in royal history: Her late mother-in-law Princess Diana’s wedding dress featured a 25-foot train that was so long it had to be “folded like a bedsheet” to fit inside her horse-drawn carriage.

The skirt was designed to look like an opening flower

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

The ivory and white satin gazar skirt was made to resemble the opening of a flower thanks to white satin gazar arches and pleats. The Victorian-style bodice of the royal’s gown was also padded at the hips and narrowed at the waist, a signature design element of McQueen.

Kate’s accessories also had special meaning

Guibbaud-Mousse-Nebinger-Orban/ABACA/ShutterstockPrince William and Princess Catherine leave Westminster Abbey in a carriage following their wedding ceremony in London on April 29, 2011.

While there were plenty of hidden details to be found in the dress, Kate’s accessories were just as important on her big day. The Cartier Halo tiara she wore, which held her ivory silk tulle veil in place, was her “something borrowed,” and was lent to her by Queen Elizabeth. The tiara featured 739 brilliant-cut diamonds and 139 baguettes and was commissioned by King George VI for his wife, the Queen Mother, in 1936. It was presented to Queen Elizabeth on her 18th birthday.

Its scroll motif was a great match for the Robinson Pelham earrings Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, had commissioned for her big day (her “something new”), the design of which — oak leaves with a pear-shaped diamond — was inspired by family’s new coat of arms.

As for her bouquet, it was shaped like a shield and included lily of the valley for happiness, sweet William for gallantry, hyacinth for consistency of love, ivy for fidelity and myrtle for love and marriage.

Kate had a final fitting the day before the wedding

Kate Middleton and Prince William on the balcony at Buckingham Palace after their wedding in 2011.

Embroider Chloe Savage told in 2011 that the Princess of Wales had a fitting just one day before her nuptials to ensure her measurements hadn’t changed. “Brides have a tendency to do things like drop [7 pounds] before a wedding and as her dress was going to be seen from every conceivable angle by a billion people, you couldn’t have it being a bit saggy because she’d lost weight or gained a couple of ounces due to stress,” Savage said.

While the dress needed few alterations, according to Savage, the designers worked on the gown until 9 p.m. the night before the big day. When the dress was completed, Savage said, “We then went to the pub for a drink!”

Kate wore a second wedding dress at the reception

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge leaves Clarence House to travel to Buckingham Palace for the evening celebrations following her wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge on April 29, 2011 in London, England.

Later in the evening, the Princess of Wales debuted a second dress, also by Burton for Alexander McQueen, of white satin with a strapless neckline and a full circle skirt with a band of diamante detailing at the waist. Kate topped the look off with a fuzzy white shrug.

The gown broke royal records while on display

Lewis Whyld/WPA Pool/ GettyA detail of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, is photographed before it goes on display at Buckingham Palace during the annual summer opening on July 20, 2011 in London, England.

On July 23, 2011, the storied gown went on display at Buckingham Palace, where it remained available for viewing through Oct. 3 of that year. A spokesperson told of the exhibit, “The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to give members of the public the opportunity to see, close-up, the skilled British craftsmanship that went into various elements of the wedding.”

 

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