McQueen for a Queen

Fashion’s best-kept secret

Yes, you got me. I sold out. I’m writing THE article, on IT. For the past month I have been moaning and whining about the incessant coverage on the Royal Wedding – did you know, Kate Middleton has a head?! Shocker. But then I caught glimpses of the wedding and found myself thinking it was time to stop pretending I was above it all – and That Dress merits every article it swishes its way into. So yes, here is yet another article for any of you haters and cynics to add to your blacklist.

I was all set to hate the dress, or at least be thoroughly underwhelmed by it. I’m not a great fan of meringues masquerading as “traditional” wedding dresses and I expected nothing but traditional from safe-Kate Middleton. But I was pleasantly surprised. She displayed a great balance of interesting and classic, chic and demure and the future-Queen steered well clear of a Gaga car-crash, apparently leaving that to Princess Beatrice and Eugenie – the less said about them the better.

The dress is striking rather than ostentatious with the beauty in the details. Unlike Diana’s 25ft train, Kate opted for a mere 9ft, long enough to mark her out as the belle of the ball, short enough not to look ridiculous. The dress complimented her slim figure rather than drowning it in a mass of lace and netting. It was the perfect choice for the modern day Royals with a nod to Victorian tradition from the corset and a nod to modern day fashion from the designer – Sarah Burton for McQueen.

She was the designer everyone had been betting on – a dress by the quirky British label McQueen, for a (future) Queen. Sarah Burton took over the role of creative director at the fashion house of McQueen when Alexander McQueen committed suicide last year. The dress was a fitting tribute to a very British man at a very British event, and Burton did not disappoint. She has stepped away from the darker side of fashion that McQueen made cool -although I doubt very much the Queen and future-Queen would have appreciated a gothic-style wedding dress. Kate Middleton’s stamp is glaringly obvious both on the ceremony dress and on her sparkling reception number. Burton was more architect of the designs than creator of them, as is the case with the majority of bespoke wedding dresses. Whilst the dress is obviously going to be a turning point in the self-professed “shy” designer’s career (previously unknown to the majority of the world, she is now known by all of Britain and at least half of the rest of the universe), it won’t go down as her most original and ground-breaking design – Burton herself will be all too aware of the joint Middleton-Burton designer label attached to the dress. Kate had a strong idea of what dress she wanted even before she got engaged (girls reading this, you cannot say you don’t have even the slightest inkling about what your dress will look like…), and she was clearly enormously inspired by the wedding dress Grace Kelly wore at her marriage with Prince Rainier of Monaco. A wedding dress is, after all, one of the most personal pieces a girl will wear in her life.

Middleton was such a fan of Sarah Burton’s work that the designer also created the more relaxed reception dress and the figure hugging dress of Pippa Middleton. Ah, the bridesmaid’s dress, gracing almost as many fashion columns as the Bride’s dress. The new Duchess of Cambridge’s evening dress was still branded with Kate’s Sloane-style, a simple strapless number with a band of diamonds around the waist to match the more upbeat evening celebrations.

What amazed me the most about The Dress of the Month (yes month not century, I’m still holding out for Kate Moss’ wedding) was the success of the clandestine operation. Just how did fashions best-kept secret stay a secret in a world of gossipers and rumours? Since the day of the engagement it was all anyone seemed to care about. Bypassing the fact that two young adults had finally taken the plunge to cement their love in front of billions of people, the first question on everyone’s lips was the designer of the dress. The second question? What would the design of the dress be? Third question? Well, you get it.

The creation started in January and for four months, no one but Burton, Middleton and a close-knit McQueen team knew about the dress. Confidentiality agreements were signed and rooms were locked, keeping the masses at McQueen in the dark as to what the fashion house was producing. Burton continued with the creation of her first Paris catwalk show at the same time and no suspicions were aroused. Even the seamstresses at the Royal School of Needlework were clueless as to what the lace they were painstakingly stitching would be used for. Clueless, despite the fact they were ordered to wash their hands every half an hour to ensure the lace would be kept pristine white, and had to change needles frequently for precision – yeah right.

How did the other guests fare? Victoria Beckham looked surprisingly pared-down, clearly having freed herself from the grips of trashy Posh Spice. Tara Palmer Tomkinson looked like an alien, following in the footsteps of Beatrice and Eugenie, and Chelsy Davy looked, well, awful – an ill-fitting Alberta Ferretti skirt and jacket pushing her away from taking part in her own Royal Wedding. SamCam didn’t look much better but at least there was no hat. Hurrah! Hats at weddings are in the same league as meringue dresses for me…

And so, the result of this military operation? A successful, stunning creation, souvenir of a day which will be remembered for centuries and a symbol of the royals-to-be – fun, modern, but fully aware of their duties and tradition.

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