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The Wedding Dress of Sarah, Duchess of York

It was filled with special symbolism for the bride and groom and became a popular favourite, too.  The dress worn by the then Sarah Ferguson for her marriage to Prince Andrew on July 23rd 1986 at Westminster Abbey is still one of the most talked about royal weddings gowns of modern times and it’s more than stood the test of time.

The bride called it ”the most flattering gown ever” and there’s no doubt that this dress fitted its wearer to perfection. Made of ivory satin, it featured a fitted bodice with three quarter length sleeves and a neat waist which gave way to a full skirt over which lay a train seventeen feet in length. Over that was a tulle veil held in place by a garland of flowers which the bride famously swapped for her brand new tiara (a gift from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) once she had signed the register.

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One of the most memorable aspects of this royal wedding dress was the amount of symbolism contained in the embellishments worked into its bodice and train. They included anchors and waves as a nod to her new husband’s naval career . There were also bees and thistles, taken from her family’s crest.

The train famously featured the couple’s initials, A and S, sewn onto the last section of its rounded end in silver beads and intertwined as a sign of their new lives, together. And across the gown and train were hearts to symbolise love and bows, the accessory this bride had already made her own.

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Ah yes, the bows. Within weeks of her engagement, the ‘Fergie Bow’ had been named in honour of her devotion to the style statement and Sarah incorporated this favourite of hers into her dress in more ways than one. As well as the sparkling versions on the gown, there was a bow on each shoulder and one on the back of the waist of the dress, anchoring her train in place.

The designer responsible for the creation, Lindka Cierach, later said that she wanted the bride’s personality to shine through in the gown. Lindka Cierach had set up her couture fashion business in 1979 inspired, she said, by her love of ”luxurious fabrics, exquisite beadwork and embroidery”. She graduated from the London College of Fashion and by the time of the wedding, her shop in Fulham, London had a loyal and well heeled clientele. The commission turned her into a household name.

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Years later, Fergie described her wedding dress designer as a ”genius” and the gown created for that royal wedding won praise all round for its creative take on a classic style. The bride may never have attained the fashion icon status attributed to some royal women but her wedding style continues to attract praise and plaudits, over thirty years on.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.