The History of The Royal Bridal Outfit
As Meghan Markle decided on her own Royal wedding dress, she was no doubt influenced by all the regal brides who had walked down the aisle before her. Starting with Princess Elizabeth, Royal bridal outfits have always reflected the style of their times while achieving a look that is effortlessly timeless and iconic.
On 20 November 1947, just two short years after the end of WWII, Princess Elizabeth - eldest daughter and successor of King George VI - was married to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey. Her gorgeous dress was designed by couturier Norman Hartnell who described it as the most beautiful dress he ever made. It was famously paid for using clothing coupons as rationing was still in force, and was covered in 10,000 pearls.
Hartnell was inspired by Botticelli's masterpiece 'La Primavera' and motifs of flowers, wheat and a secret lucky clover were embroidered on the silk gown in gold and silver thread. The future Queen's Royal wedding accessories included the kind of open-toed satin sandals so popular at the time and the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara that broke on the morning of the wedding and had to be hastily repaired.
It was a gown that was to set the gold standard for every Royal wedding that followed.
By the time Princess Anne, the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey on 14 November 1973 fashions had changed considerably. But Maureen Baker of British ready to wear fashion house Susan Small went back in time and took her inspiration from Queen Elizabeth I. With a series of pin tucks on the bodice to emphasise the Princess's slender waist and incredibly dramatic trumpet-shaped sleeves, the Royal bridal outfit was completed with a floating veil, simple square heeled court shoes and the same tiara that her mother had worn for her wedding 26 years before.
Modest yet flattering, Princess Anne's dress was utterly unique and, in its simplicity, quite contemporary. Very different, in fact, to what would come next.
Probably the most romantic of all the Royal bridal outfits, Princess Diana's wedding dress met the universal idea of what a fairytale princess should look like. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, the ivory silk taffeta and Carrickmacross lace dress featured a 25-foot train and an even longer veil. Her beautifully hand stitched shoes alone took six months to create.
Without doubt one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, the world stopped to watch on 29 July 1981 as Charles, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and heir apparent, was married to Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral. In a break with tradition, Diana wore her own family's tiara that was an 18th-century heirloom.
'Fergie' as she was affectionately known would break the mould with her definitely 80s spin on Royal wedding fashion. When she married Prince Andrew, Duke of York on 23 July 1986 in Westminster Abbey, her entire gown would reflect her fun-loving and vibrant personality. There were pearl embellishments including anchors for husband Prince Andrew's love of sailing, plus love hearts and bumblebees and thistles from the Ferguson family crest. Created by British designer Lindka Cierach, with a structured boned bodice and big puffed sleeves, it was definitely a dress of its time and was widely copied for the next decade.
Sarah's Royal wedding accessories included an over the face veil anchored by a floral headdress. This was later removed to reveal an exquisite tiara that the bride had selected at Garrard's. The York Tiara, as it became known, may next be worn by Princess Eugenie.
Our next Royal wedding, on 19 June 1999 took place at the breathtaking St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle between Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, and Sophie Helen Rhys-Jones. British designer Samantha Shaw created a dress that was a real departure from tradition - much like the wedding itself which set the blueprint for this years' marriage between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Sophie's dress was an extremely elegant creation of silk and tulle, featuring a panelled coat embellished with 325,000 pearls and glass beads over a slimline gown. This was a Royal bridal outfit for the most modern of the Royal brides - Sophie even wore daring black and white pearl jewellery designed by her husband.
The first of the Royal brides of the new Millennium wore an outfit befitting her status as an older woman and Prince Charles' second wife. Taking inspiration from Sophie Rhys-Jones, Camilla wore a cream coat dress paired with simple courts and a Philip Treacy hat for the Windsor Guildhall civil ceremony then a dramatic blue-gold floor-length outfit paired with a feather fascinator for the blessing in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. Both outfits were designed by Robinson Valentine and created a sleek and slimline silhouette for the Duchess as she married Charles in April 2005.
When Catherine Elizabeth Middleton married Prince William, Duke of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011 she created a sensation in an iconic Alexander McQueen gown that seemed to reference Hollywood's princess Grace Kelly in its use of hand-cut Chantilly lace and ivory silk tulle. No detail went overlooked, from the hand embroidered flowers on her veil to the hand embroidered lace on her dainty court shoes.
Wearing the Queen's elegantly simple Scroll Tiara and earrings modelled on her family crest, Kate looked every inch the modern fairytale princess and her look instantly became the most copied bridal look of recent times.
When Harry met Meghan they created a wedding very much for the 21st century. Borrowing inspiration from all the Royal brides who had preceded her, Meghan chose a simple yet striking bateau neckline dress by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy Couture with the flowers of the Commonwealth plus the California poppy embroidered on her stunning veil.
The timeless and minimal elegance of Meghan's Royal bridal outfit proved her to be the most modern princess, with a nod to the effortless style of Audrey Hepburn and a hint of Hollywood glamour. There were nods to the timeless style of Royal brides gone by, as Meghan's Royal wedding accessories included the Queen Mary's diamond bandeau tiara - a forgotten treasure that seemed perfectly at home with her contemporary Californian style.
Princess Eugenie, the youngest daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, married Jack Brooksbank at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on 12th October 2018.
Her stunning bridal gown was designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, well-known for their innovative textile design and sleek, unusual dress designs. Princess Eugenie kept with the tradition of using British-based designers for the royal wedding dress.
The dress was a ball gown design with sleeves made from a satin material with a stunning, light floral print. This radiant dress features a neckline that folds around the shoulders to a low back that drapes into a beautiful flowing full-length train.
The dress was paired with a quirky yet classical diamond and emerald tiara matched perfectly with diamond and emerald drop earrings.
We also have a beautiful infographic on The History of the Royal Bridal Outfit - find it here.