A gown fit for his­tory

Markle’s wed­ding dress will be full ro­mance with a nod to tra­di­tion

Sunday Herald Sun - - News - ANNA BYRNE

THIS time next week, as the con­fetti set­tles on one of the big­gest wed­dings of the cen­tury, brides around the world will be scram­bling to repli­cate Meghan Markle’s gown.

While the princess bride’s wed­ding dress re­mains a closely guarded se­cret, the spec­u­la­tive spot­light is shin­ing bright­est on Bri­tain-based Aus­tralian de­sign duo Ralph & Russo, who Markle also wore in her and Prince Harry’s en­gage­ment por­traits.

While sev­eral palace in­sid­ers have sug­gested the lux­ury la­bel will de­sign the gown, de­spite the brand not be­ing a house­hold name, Ralph & Russo has been po­litely “de­clin­ing a com­ment” on the royal ru­mours.

If true, fash­ion fans can ex­pect a fairy­tale gown full of whimsy and ro­mance, with Ralph & Russo’s bridal col­lec­tions fa­mous for frothy or­ganza, pearl-en­crusted Chan­tilly lace, fine-spun silk fring­ing, sheer tulle, vo­lu­mi­nous tiered skirts, gold bul­lion em­broi­dery and glass-bead em­bel­lish­ment.

But the la­bel — if the ru­mours are cor­rect — will have to en­sure that eti­quette and royal and re­li­gious stan­dards are met for the cer­e­mony at St Ge­orge’s Chapel in Wind­sor.

De­brett’s, founded in 1769, is Lon­don’s author­ity on eti­quette and be­hav­iour, and rec­om­mends that shoul­ders should be cov­ered for cathedral wed­dings.

De­signer Con Ilio agrees that it is likely that Markle won’t ex­pose her shoul­ders dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

“Em­bel­lish­ment, em­broi­dery and tex­ture such as lace all help make de­tails of the gown stand out from a dis­tance in such a grand cathedral.”

But whether Markle chooses to stick to tra­di­tion or tear up the royal rule book, brides-to-be the world over will be tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from her gown on their own wed­ding day.

The in­flu­ence royal brides have had on wed­ding trends is steeped in his­tory. Queen Vic­to­ria rev­o­lu­tionised wed­dings by choos­ing a white dress to wed Al­bert of Saxe- Coburg in 1840. While she wasn’t the first bride to wear a white dress, the queen is cred­ited with mak­ing the hue of pu­rity the tem­plate for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Bridal miniskirts and caf­tans dom­i­nated wed­ding fash­ion in the ’60s and ’70s, but that all changed af­ter the wed­ding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1980 ush­ered in a new era of ruf­fled ro­mance.

Her ivory silk taffeta gown fea­tured pearl em­bel­lish­ment, puffed shoul­ders, and a bil­low­ing skirt that spilt into a ma­jes­tic 7.5m train.

So big was the resur­gence of the “big white dress” that more than half a decade later, Diana’s sister-in-law, Sarah Fer­gu­son, chose a sim­i­larly vo­lu­mi­nous sil­hou­ette for her wed­ding to Prince An­drew in 1986.

While Fer­gu­son’s dress stuck to the dress code, her gown was a les­son in how to in­cor­po­rate the per­son­al­ity of the wearer into the de­sign. Her 5m train in­cor­po­rated bead­work of var­i­ous sym­bols in­clud­ing bum­ble­bees and this­tles, which were taken from Fer­gu­son’s fam­ily crest, as well as hearts, an­chors and waves rep­re­sent­ing Prince An­drew’s sail­ing back­ground.

In 2004, it was Tas­ma­nia-born com­moner Mary Don­ald­son’s turn to steal the royal spot­light, be­com­ing Crown Princess of Den­mark at her wed­ding to Prince Fred­er­ick.

Brides be­came ea­ger to copy her long, del­i­cate lace veil — a Dan­ish royal fam­ily heir­loom. Sim­i­larly, Kate Mid­dle­ton’s wed­ding dress in 2011 saw a resur­gence of con­ser­va­tive styles. Her ful­l­length, a-line gown fea­tured sheer lace sleeves, a corset­ted waist, padded hips and lace ap­plique.

So whether it is tra­di­tion­ally mod­est, or puts a mod­ern spin on tra­di­tion, Markle’s gown will her­ald a new di­rec­tion for wed­ding dresses around the world.

PRINCESS DIANA

KATEMIDDLETON PRINCESS MARY HER MAJESTY, THE QUEEN

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