Wednesday, May 24, 2017

title pic Royal Wedding Gowns Through the Decades

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on May 19, 2017

As we’re less than one day away to Pippa Middleton’s wedding – the closest thing we’ve seen to a British royal wedding in over 6 years – I can’t help but think back to all the royal wedding dresses over the decades.  As we have no royal family in America, there’s something quite captivating about a royal wedding that stirs our imaginations like little else.  In 1951, almost four years after the then-Princess Elizabeth’s own royal wedding, the United States were still so enchanted by the event that Hollywood produced a film about the weeks surrounding it – Royal Wedding – starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell.  It used some rare color footage from the actual wedding parade route and was an enormous hit.  And ever since then, whenever there’s been a royal wedding, we American women have huddled around our television sets to soak in every detail of the glorious occasion!

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Queen Elizabeth

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norman-hartnell-wedding-dress

Princess Elizabeth was married in 1947 and wore a Norman Hartnell designed gown.  Hartnell had designed many gowns for her mother, and he presented the Princess with several sketches that she chose from.  Seeing as Elizabeth was heir to the throne, the gown was somewhat of a political statement as well – so all silk for the gown was woven within the United Kingdom (using Chinese silkworms). The 10,000 seed pearls (purchased from the US due to UK shortage), were embroidered in the shapes of  orange blossom, jasmine, wheat, and White Rose of York.  I have yet to see a sewing pattern that resembles the Queen’s wedding gown exactly, but it was fairly typical of the late 1940s necklines.  I feel that the long sleeves were a bit austere, but not at all uncommon for the decade.

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Princess Margaret

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Princess Margaret had an absolutely tiny frame and was known for her exquisitely fashionable wardrobe.  When I viewed some of her 1950s gowns at Kensington Palace, one of the aides in the exhibit told me that she believe Margaret’s waist size to be 19″ or 20″.  Yikes!  I must say, though, that her entire build was  positively diminutive – this was not a case of a “normal” sized person with a miniscule waist.  Rather, it was a lady with a very slight frame who happened to be very trim in the midsection.  I actually have a picture of myself standing next to one of her gowns, and as a very petite person myself by modern standards (size 6 and not quite 5 ft. 4″), I looked perfectly enormous next to the Princess Margaret mannequin! 😉  (In the photo I was wearing a giant crinoline under my skirt, but still…) She was probably closer to the size of a modern 11 or 12 year old girl, but with women’s proportions.

princess-margaret-wedding-gown

All that to say, I am rather surprised that Princess Margaret chose such a camouflaging gown when she could have chosen something less pouffy and a bit more flattering.  Here she looks almost as if she’s drowning in fabric! 😉

princess-margaret-wedding-gownMargaret’s wedding gown was made of layers and layers of silk organza, featured a bouffant skirt, high collar, and little or no ornamentation at all.  She did wear one stunner of a tiara, though, so we can forgive her for disappointing all those ladies who were hoping for more sparkle in the dress itself.

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Princess Diana

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princess-diana-wedding-gown

I doubt if there’s a person alive who hasn’t seen photographs of this iconic gown.  Designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, it embodies the bouffant and romantic look of 1980s fashion.  It also is still considered by most to be too much – too ornamented, too big in the sleeves, too long in the train – even against the impressive backdrop of St. Paul’s Cathedral, it was still took center stage.  But this was the gown Diana wanted to wear, and it will always have a special place in history!

diana-wedding-gown-royal

From what I am told, Diana’s wedding had an explosive impact on American women at the time – so it’s little wonder that a number of sewing pattern brands released copies of her bridal look within a year of the wedding!  Burda Patterns released what I consider to be the most accurate to her bridal gown.

~Burda #7940~

burda

The Burda design nailed the double ruffle at the neckline, the straight panel of lace down the bodice front, the puff sleeves with bows and gathered lace at the hem, and the narrow lace trim along the skirt edge.  It is worth noting that version B bears a striking resemblance to the bridesmaids’ gowns that Diana’s entourage wore.  Highly impressive!!

~McCalls 7894~

royal-wedding-mccalls

But McCalls Patterns wins in the “Best Attempt at an Accurate Photo Shoot” category. 😉  Here, Mccalls 7894 shows several options, with version A being closest to the royal wedding gown.  They got the colors all wrong on the bridal party (pale pink rather than cream and yellow), the crown looked a bit cheesy compared to the magnifcent Spencer tiara, and the wedding gown itself looked positively drab without all the sequins, and lace.  But hats off to them for dressing the groom in a royal military uniform, and for posing the “royal couple” in front of a British manor house! 😉

 Ultimately, it was an ill-fated marriage – I have some personal thoughts about Charles which I won’t share here.  (No matter how sorely I am tempted to say that he was a complete jerk – ahem). But despite the untimely end of the union, Charles and Diana’s wedding lives on as the legendary “Wedding of the Century”. 

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Sarah Ferguson – Duchess of York

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When Prince Andrew married Sarah Ferguson in 1986, I would hazard a guess that the entire world had greater expectations than ever before due to the magnificent royal wedding 5 years earlier.

sarah-ferguson

Royal bride Sarah, a rather wild girl at the time, chose a wedding designer named Lindka Cierach.   Lindka remembers that shortly after being contacted by Miss Ferguson to design the gown, she had a dream wherein every last detail of the wedding gown was shown.  She woke up, sketched it out,  and called the future Duchess of York to come look at it.  Sarah approved it at once, and wanted to include embroideries in the shapes of “A” for her groom Andrew.  The gown also featured embroidered thistles and bumblebees – rather reminiscent of the embroidery on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown and coronation gown.  In that sense, Sarah’s wedding gown was actually more traditionally “royal” with its inclusion of embroidered family and national symbols than Diana’s.

Here is a gorgeous royal wedding pattern replica by Butterick that is practically identical to Sarah Ferguson’s gorgeous wedding gown.  It has the same scoop neck, v waist, 3/4 lenth sleeves, small bows and the shoulders, and enormous bow down the back.

Butterick 4743

butterick.sarah

Butterick also released an identical copy of Sarah’s flower girls’ dresses, which were adorable!  (Butterick 4768)

sarah-ferguson-flower-girls-dresses

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Catherine Middleton – Duchess of Cambridge

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butterick-royal-wedding-dress-comparison-photos

{Left is the Butterick repro; center and right are original gown}

I’ve written up numerous articles about Catherine’s fabulous wedding dress and the subsequent patterns that were made to copy it back in 2011 ( here and here).  But suffice it to say, her wedding gown had inspired two “knock offs” within months of the wedding! 

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Future Royal Brides…

So now that we’re back to the present day wedding of Pippa Middleton, I can only hope for the next 24 hours that her wedding gown will be gorgeous and classic!  I am literally all worried over here, not knowing what sort of gown she’s going to wear and just hoping that it’s neither a sartorial disaster nor a plain and boring white dress.  

Pippa is a no-frills kind of girl, so something almost tailored and structural would be in keeping with her previous choices.  But I can keep hoping that she’ll choose something gorgeous with rosettes and chiffon and lace and pearls, and above all, something that makes her look like a princess! 

And as for the next real royal wedding, we can all keep hoping that Prince Harry might tie the knot with Meghan Markle sooner rather than later!  It would be quite unprecedented for a modern royal couple to marry after so short an acquaintance, but as Meghan is 35 and Harry has repeatedly said he wants kids, they’ll have to cut their dating period much shorter than William and Kate’s eight year relationship if that’s to happen…  I don’t know that she is the right one for him, but if she is I hope they get down to business soon!  It’s been over 6 years since William and Catherine’s royal wedding in 2011, and I’m just dying for another royal wedding! 😉

Thanks for reading!

Katrina

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