Britain · Denmark

Royal Wedding Gowns – Out of the Past

Welcome our Royal Wedding Gown summer series, where we look at royal gowns from a different perspective.

While not entirely exclusive to royals, using historic and artistic references as the basis of the design of a dress is not something most brides have the resources to do. Let’s explore how some of our royal brides, and their designers, worked from paintings and history to craft one-of-a-kind, memorable gowns. Previous entries in this series include: Danish Heirloom Lace , Royal Wedding Venues and Venue Scale and Size.

Bride: Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones
Designer: Jasper Conran
Inspiration: Holbein Portrait

Given Lady Sarah Chatto’s profession, it’s not surprising that she chose an artist as the inspiration for her gown. The dress designer, Jasper Conran, delivered a square necked gown, done up in flowing georgette. With its tightly fitted bodice and dropped waist, it is a direct nod to the paintings of the sixteenth century master, Hans Holbein the Younger.

Sarah wore a simple hairstyle, similar to the style of the women in Holbein’s paintings. The adult bridesmaids dresses were of the same type of design, making the reference to the painter consistent throughout the wedding party.

Hans Holbein the Younger, Royal Collection, Public Domain

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Bride: Princess Anne
Designer: Maureen Baker of Susan Small
Inspiration: Court dress of Elizabeth I

It was said that Princess Anne herself was the force behind the idea of using court dress from the Elizabethan era as an inspiration for her 1973 gown. The designer, Maureen Baker, worked in secret for months to create the white silk dress. It had a high neck and exaggerated medieval sleeves, which opened to reveal a chiffon cuff. The train’s subtle embroidery was done by Lock’s Embroiderers. The dress was finally revealed on the wedding day, when Anne walked into Westminster Abbey.

Sketch from Maureen Baker; Mary Dudley in 16th century court dress, Wikimedia Commons

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Bride: Mary Donaldson
Designer: Uffe Frank
Inspiration: Danish Masters

Mary Donaldson was an Australian commoner marrying a Danish prince, the heir to the throne, no less. She and her designer, Uffe Frank, worked to design an overall look that would nod to Danish history and art, and to tie the bride to her new home. One of the references found in Mary’s gown are the paintings of Andreas Møller.

Møller was a Danish portrait painter, and a pioneer of miniature painting. He worked at, and was influenced by, many European courts in the early 18th century. The royal and society women of the time wore the latest low, often round necked and full skirted fashions. Bodices were tight and smooth, and often free of adornment. These features found their way into Mary Donaldson’s ivory duchess satin gown: a unique and historically influenced bridal dress.

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Which gown best reflects its influences?