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British royal wedding gowns through the years

Come a royal wedding, millions around the world tune in to see the happy couple tie the knot. While everyone is excited for the pair, there might be one thing that outshines the day –  the bridal gown. For months people speculate about what the bride-to-be is going to wear. From Queen Elizabeth II to Princess Eugenie, here is a history of the royal bridal gown.

Britten weddings have put together an infographic of the royal wedding gowns from Queen Elizabeth to the Duchess of Sussex:

History of the Royal Bridal Outfit Infographic

Princess Elizabeth – 20 November 1947 

Just five years before she became Queen Elizabeth II, King George VI’s elder daughter married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey.

The future Queen’s dress was designed by couturier Norman Hartnell who described it as the most beautiful dress he ever made. Famously paid for with clothing coupons, the dress was covered in 10,000 pearls.

Inspired by Botticelli’s masterpiece ‘La Primavera,’ the silk gown was embroidered in gold and silver thread. Paired with open-toed satin sandals and the Queen Mary Fringe Tiara (which broke the day of the wedding and was quickly repaired), this dress would set the standard for every royal wedding to follow.

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Princess Anne – 14 November 1973 

In the early Seventies the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne, married Captain Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey. Between her big day and her mother’s, fashions had changed considerably. Maureen Baker of British ready to wear fashion house Susan Small decided to take inspiration from Queen Elizabeth I for the Princess’s gown.

A pin tucked bodice emphasised the Princess’s waist while the gown also featured dramatic trumpet-shaped sleeves. It was paired with a floating veil and simple square heeled court shoes. For her “something borrowed,” Anne chose to wear the same tiara that her mother had worn for her wedding, 26 years before.

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Lady Diana Spencer – 29 July 1981 

Nearly ten years later, it was time for Princess Anne’s big brother Prince Charles to get married. The world watched as Lady Diana Spencer walked down St Paul’s Cathedral in a dress with a 25-foot train. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, the ivory silk and Carrickmacross lace gown included an even longer veil.

Diana chose hand-stitched shoes for her big day, which took six months to create and wore her own family’s tiara rather than borrowing one from The Queen’s collection.

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Sarah Ferguson – 23 July 1986 

When it came time for Prince Andrew, Duke of York to marry Sarah Ferguson, the world watched as ‘Fergie’ put an 80s spin on her bridal fashion. Marrying at Westminster Abbey, the gown reflected Fergie’s vibrant personality.

The dress included pearl embellishments with hidden meanings. From anchors for her husband Prince Andrew to bumblebees and thistles from the Ferguson family crest, Sarah was able to add a personal touch to her gown. Created by British designer Lindka Cierach, the dress became widely copied for the next decade.

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Sophie Rhys-Jones – 19 June 1999

The last Windsor wedding of the 20thcentury took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle between Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie Helen-Rhy-Jones. British designer Samantha Shaw was chosen to design Sophie’s dress.

The gown was made of silk and tulle and was covered in 325,000 pearls and glass beads. Being the most modern bridal outfit of the time, Sophie wore black and white pearl jewellery designed by her husband.

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Camilla Parker-Bowles – April 2005

The first wedding of the new millennium, Prince Charles’ second wife, Camilla took inspiration from her new sister-in-law, Sophie Rhys-Jones. Camilla wore a cream coatdress and a Philip Treacy hat for her civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. For the blessing in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Camilla changed into a floor-length gown covered with a tailored coat dress, just as Sophie had, although the new Duchess of Cornwall chose pale blue and gold for her wedding day. The outfit was paired with a feather fascinator. Both wedding outfits were designed by Robinson Valentine.

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Kate Middleton – 29 April 2011

When Catherine Elizabeth Middleton married Prince William at Westminster Abbey, she created an iconic look in her gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The dress seemed to reference Hollywood’s Grace Kelly (who became the Princess of Monaco) with its hand-cut Chantilly lace and ivory silk tulle. Sarah Burton did not shy away from the details as flowers were embroidered on Middleton’s veil and her dainty court shoes.

Kate paired the gown with the Queen’s Scroll Tiara and earrings, which were modelled on her family crest.

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Meghan Markle – 19 May 2018

Seven years later, the world tuned in as Prince Harry married American former actress Meghan Markle. This royal bride chose a simple yet striking dress with Meghan wearing a gown by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. She also had the flowers of the Commonwealth and the California poppy embroidered onto her veil.

The California native’s royal accessories included the Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara, a forgotten treasure that fit her contemporary style.

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Princess Eugenie – 12th October 2018

Princess Eugenie, the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York married Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor. Her dress was designed by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, following the tradition of using British-based designers for the royal wedding dress.

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The dress features a neckline that folds around to a low back that drapes into a beautiful full-length train. Princess Eugenie bravely showed off her scoliosis surgery scar, which is something the Princess is an advocate for. To top it all off, the dress was paired with an emerald tiara from The Queen’s collection and emerald drop earrings.

Infographic from

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.