The Cambridges

Up close with royal fashion: Kate’s wedding lace


The Duchess of Cambridge’s 2011 wedding dress is one of the most celebrated royal wedding dresses of modern history. When she emerged from that Rolls-Royce Phantom with her father, the world immediately rushed to find any information possible about the dress. And although the dress was dissected by royal watchers and media alike, some elements drew more attention than others. In particular, people were fascinated by the lace featured on the dress. 

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The lace on Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, was assembled the Royal School of Needlework. The RSN was founded as the School of Needlework Art by Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the third daughter of Queen Victoria, in 1872. It became the Royal School of Needlework in 1875 when Queen Victoria became its first patron. Housed at Hampton Court Palace, the Duchess of Cornwall is currently its patron and the Duchess of Gloucester is its president. (The Duchess of Cornwall last visited the School in September 2019.)

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When working on the lace in 2010 and 2011, the RSN embroiders did not know who the designer was. Embroiders ranged in age from 19 to 70, and strict protocols were followed. They were required to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the lace clean and to replace their needles every three hours. 

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The lace itself is a traditional Cluny and Leavers lace and was influenced by nineteenth-century Carrickmacross lace patterns. It covers the entire dress, including the bodice, skirt, and train. The pattern incorporated the national flowers of all four nations in the United Kingdom: the English rose, the Scottish thistle, the Irish Shamrock, and the Welsh daffodil. The floral patterns were machine-made and then applied by hand to the netting by RSN embroiderers. Interestingly, the pattern is not unique to this dress but rather draws on traditional patterns. 



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Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com