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Pippa’s Dress – Not So Shocking

The Bride’s sister wore white?! Isn’t that… improper? Inappropriate? BAD FORM??

Not necessarily.

Did you know that brides and their maids in ancient times actually dressed identically (including heavy veiling) because they hoped to confuse evil spirits? The superstition was that a mischievous spirit wouldn’t be able to figure out who was the real bride, and she would be kept safe from its horrible curses. This is why there are stories of bridegrooms being duped into marrying the wrong woman – he couldn’t see his bride’s face until after the ceremony, and sometimes a family could pull a switcheroo and marry off a different girl. Shakespeare even made use of the surprise bride in plays like Much Ado About Nothing.

Modern weddings use traditional etiquette standards that are customary, but aren’t always as old-fashioned as you might think.

Up until and even during Victorian times, western brides usually wore their “best” dress (which wasn’t always new) as their wedding attire because a white dress was expensive and hard to keep clean, unless you were upper class. One new trend that has become modern tradition began when Queen Victoria chose to wear white as a bride in 1840. (She even dressed her attendants in white.) Before white dresses were common and affordable, western brides would often accessorize with white (the symbol of purity) – white bonnets, white feathers on a colored hat, or white flowers.

Modern day brides tend to choose bridesmaid dresses in one of their wedding colors. And up until recently, it seemed many brides selected ugly dresses for their attendants so that the bridal gown would not be out-shone. (Ironically, a fashion faux-paus can be even more distracting than something pretty!)

And that’s your quickie history lesson for the day! Here’s why Pippa’s dress actually worked:

  • It was understated elegance at its finest – she looked amazing but didn’t look like the bride.  (Or at least not like a Royal bride.)
  • She looked like an extension of the bride’s train as she helped Kate outside the church.

  • She didn’t look out of place in the midst of the tiny bridesmaids who were also in white.

  • She looked modern but her dress gave a nod to 1930s bias cut evening gown – just as Kate’s dress had a retro 1960s feel.
  • By dressing her sister in white, Kate was following a Royal tradition that Queen Victoria (the biggest wedding trendsetter in history) herself used for her attendants.

The Marriage of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert (1840)

Kate Middleton goes Retro-Modern

When Kate Middleton stepped out of the car finally revealing her wedding gown to the world, I immediately saw a modern version of Princess Margaret’s lovely 1960s dress. And it was simply beautiful – of course I love anything that has even a hint of retro style.

Many people immediately started comparing Kate’s dress to the dress that Grace Kelly wore to her wedding in 1956. The fabric of Grace’s dress was also lace over a similar bodice, but I think that it may have been the inspiration for the details of Kate’s dress while Princess Margaret’s gown was the inspiration for the overall silhouette and cut of Kate’s.

Let’s compare all three elegant gowns.

 First we have Kate arriving:

  See the similar lines of Princess Margaret’s dress? Notice the pleats and the shape of the neckline:

 Aside from the fuller skirt near the waist, the silhouette is remarkably alike:

Even the pleats of Kate’s train look like a modern, more controlled version of Margaret’s:

Kate and Grace have different skirts (pleats where one is flat, natural waistline versus high waistline) and different necklines. Kate’s veil, however, is the same style as Grace’s (it even has a scalloped lace edge) and you can see how both gowns are alike in placement & use of fabric types:

Grace Kelly was a “Hollywood Princess” before becoming a real princess so, naturally, her wedding dress was designed by costume designer Helen Rose.

Princess Margaret’s dress was designed by Norman Hartnell. Her wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones was the very first televised royal wedding.

British designer Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen was the designer who brought Kate’s dream to life. She created an amazing dress for a modern princess with a nod to the past.  I’m sure I’ll be making a dress based on Kate’s for some bride in the future.  =)

Happy wedding day Princess Catherine! You were exactly as your groom said – “beautiful”. May you live happily ever after with your Prince.

(Royal Wedding 2011 photos found at The Telegraph.)

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