Catherine Middleton's stunning wedding gown captured the heart of the world so a chance to see it up close at Buckingham Palace was too fabulous to miss for our managing editor, Louise Prance. Read on for a run down of the dream dress...
Catherine's wedding dress has been the talk of the town since the moment her engagement to Prince William was announced back in November, 2010. And as she stepped onto the red carpet outside Westminster Abbey the world waited no more, the Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen creation suited the occasion perfectly.
For those not lucky enough to get a front-row seat at the Royal wedding, the gown has only been glimpsed through the TV and in the magazines. However, the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace this year comes complete with a special exhibition showcasing the finer details of Catherine and William's big day, including the cake, shoes, tiara, earrings, replica bouquet and, of course, the dress.
After navigating through the opulent rooms of the palace you will pass through the Royal Faberge collection, a sight to be seen itself, before entering the main ballroom, where the dress is proudly displayed in all its glory.
Rather than being encased in glass and completely off limits, the Sarah Burton design is resplendent within the darkened room. Set amongst all the finery of the ballroom it really does deserve all the attention it has been bestowed. Before getting up close and personal you are invited to watch a short DVD from the designer herself about the process involved in designing and making a dress for a soon-to-be Duchess, and it provides you with a fascinating insight into the amount of man-power and detail that went into the final product. Walking through the corridor to reach the gown, patches of the original lace appliqué created specifically for Catherine by the Royal School of Needlework are on show, which incorporates the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, this same appliqué was also added to the Alexander McQueen shoes worn on the day.
The dress itself is awe-inspiring. Made from ivory and white satin-gazar, seeing the dress up close after watching the DVD of its creation allows a better understanding of the importance of the gown. And with it fitting in perfectly in the regal surroundings of the palace ballroom, while not looking out of place as a modern and fashion-forward design, its fair to say Sarah Burton fulfilled her brief from Catherine perfectly.
The other elements of the big day are also worth a look. The diamond earrings given to the bride by her parents on the morning of the wedding are more dazzling up close and the thoughtful detailing shines through. In a nod to both the Halo tiara Catherine was set to wear, and the Middleton family's new coat of arms, London jewellers Robinson Pelham created a bespoke pair of stylised oak leaves with a pear-shaped diamond set drop and a pavé-set diamond acron suspended in the centre, a feature of the coat of arms.
The replica bouquet sympathetically imitates all the flowers Catherine carefully chose thanks to their meaning; lily-of-the-valley (return to happiness), sweet William (gallantry), hyacinth (constancy of love), ivy (fidelity, marriage, friendship) and myrtle (marriage, love), while the round-toe, Alexander McQueen shoes are a further nod towards the mix of tradition and modernity Catherine strived for.
Another impressive element of the day is the cake, created by Leicestershire-based cake designer, Fiona Bairns. Up close the cake is awesome; at 8-tiers the traditional fruit cake is littered with hand-crafted flowers which are, again, a nod towards the Middleton's coat of arms. And seeing the mark where the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge cut into the cake on the big day is a further insight into their nuptials.
The visit to the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace is no doubt made complete by the Royal wedding dress, and the intimacy in which you can view the gown is a once-in-a-lifetime event not to be missed. But what you also get to experience on the tour of the 19 state rooms is the Throne Room in which the official photographs were taken and the ballroom where the Queen held a wedding reception for the special few invited to take part in the big day.
It is an event that will go down in history and visiting the State Rooms will give you a sense of occasion that can't be matched.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.royalcollection.org.uk
Photo courtesy of The Royal Collection (C) 2011