A Visit To See “The Dress”
Thirty years ago to the month, a nine-year-old me stood in a queue for five hours with my parents to view the wedding gifts given to the Prince and Princess of Wales at St James’ Palace. Beyond the highlights of the platinum plated replica of the Royal Yacht Britannia with portholes of rubies, the tiaras and candelabra and the his and hers bathrobes and toothbrushes, there was a glass case containing Diana’s wedding dress and shoes. Already less than impressed with what she’d seen on the day on the TV, my mother was further disappointed with the reality, damning it out of hand with the verdict that the creases still hadn’t dropped out and it was far too yellow!
So three decades later, waiting in a much shorter queue for our allotted time slot to enter Buckingham Palace to view the wedding dress of the Duchess of Cambridge, I was prepared again for her disappointment. Indeed the Queen herself had condemned the display (if not the dress) as “horrible” for the odd way of displaying the gown against a black background with the veil and tiara suspended above the headless figure in a ghostly manner.
Having viewed the majority of the state rooms, we entered the State Ballroom where the dress is displayed. Before you reach the dress itself you are able to watch a short film where Sarah Burton explains how the dress was made. We have all heard in the press about the amount of work required to stitch the lace to the dress by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace, but there were plenty of details which were new (to me at least) – the fact that two layers of different coloured silk satin gazar were used to get just the right shade of ivory and how the end of the train contained layers of canvas to ensure that it remained flat as Kate walked up and down the aisle of Westminster Abbey.
Also interesting was the construction of the support under the semi bustle at the back of the dress, which seemed to be a water lily made of silk and was pretty enough to be on show itself!
Cabinets contained close up details of the beautiful lace work in progress and giant screens replayed scenes from the day before we moved round to get near to the dress itself.
The manner of the display is indeed a little supernatural, and the fact that it is surrounded by a cage like structure of fine black mosquito net distracts a little from seeing the details, but even my mother wasn’t disappointed. In reality you get much more of the impression of the opening flower that the pleated skirt was meant to symbolise and the clever construction of the bodice is much easier to see in a display cabinet than when it is moving.
A separate case contains Kate’s shoes which are similarly covered in lace, a replica of her bouquet, and the diamond earrings designed and made by Robinson Pelham which were a gift from her parents and featured the acorn motif which was included in the new Middleton coat of arms, and these seem to draw as many admiring comments as the dress itself.
In addition to the dress and accessories, another state room contains the wedding cake designed and made by Fiona Cairns complete with the first cut made by the happy couple. There was no sign of the second chocolate biscuit cake, which my eight-year old informed me was eaten on the day because everyone loves chocolate and hates fruit cake!
This was the third time I had visited Buckingham Palace and I made the journey for the wedding dress alone. Unlike 30 years earlier, none of our party were disappointed despite the lack of his and hers toothbrushes on display.
The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace, including the wedding dress exhibition, are open to the public until 3rd October 2011.
Diana’s dress: The Dreamstress
Kate’s dress on display: Recycled Bride
Kate and William walking up aisle: via Hollywood Reporter
Dress on display: via Tickets Events
Kate’s earrings: via The Telegraph
Wedding cake: Hello