Royal wedding dresses: a history

What can history teach us about Kate Middleton’s choice of wedding dress?

In this video, our senior curator Dr Joanna Marschner reveals the style and symbolism of two centuries of royal wedding dresses. Each of these dresses, part of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection looked after by us at Kensington Palace, say something fascinating about attitudes to royal marriage, about the the state of the nation – and about the personality of the brides who wore them. From Princess Charlotte’s silver gown of 1826, through Queen Victoria’s iconic white silk dress, through to Princess Margaret’s Norman Hartnell designed couture gown.

In Joanna’s own words: “We can see from earlier royal wedding dresses that all royal brides have looked to the gifts that their generation, their era, can provide for them. For some royal brides it has been a wealth of arts and craft skills that have been available in the country. In other instances it has been fashion that has been a way of empathising with their community and the generation of which they are a part. In more recent years we have had the rise of the couturier. 2011 is a very different world to that of earlier royal brides, but one which provides many, many opportunities for creating a lovely thing.”

5 thoughts on “Royal wedding dresses: a history

  • I remember in the run up to Princess Diana’s wedding her designers being rather rude about Margaret’s wedding dress, saying it was a poor plain thing for a princess. When I saw that dress in Kensington Palace I had been very impressed by its classic simplicity, also the cutting skills of Hartnell. The bodice and sleeves seemed to be cut in one piece with no shoulder seam (unlike the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress) . The simplicity perfectly suited Margaret’s slim but very petite figure. Ironically the dress now appears much more classy and attractive than Diana’s.

  • “From Princess Charlotte’s silver gown of 1826 …”

    I thought Princess Charlotte married in 1816? Just wondering whether that was a typo?

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