The exhibition invites visitors to scrutinise the painstaking needlework and attention to detail that went into the making of the gown.
‘I think what we wanted to achieve was something that was incredibly beautiful and intricately worked,’ Sarah Burton explains in a short film that further illuminates the design process.
‘It was this idea of having a dress with a presence and of historical importance, yet being modern at the same time.’
On show alongside the gown and silk-tulle veil are a panel of work-in-progress lace, the Halo tiara, borrowed from the Queen; diamond earrings gifted by Kate’s parents, the eight-tier cake, and Kate’s bespoke, lace-appliquéd McQueen shoes (size 38 ½, without a scuff in sight).
‘The watchword was modesty,’ exhibition curator Caroline de Guitaut said. ‘There was a lot of trying of shapes, until they got something that they thought proportionally would work in the abbey, but which would still retain a sense of modesty. For example, the veil could have been full length; it could have had a very different feel to it. But I think it is truly successful, the combination of the very rich embellishment and the amazing amount of handcraft and handwork, with this very sort of modern cut and very timeless shape.’
De Guitaut said that Kate was involved in ‘the absolute minutiae’ of the dress’s creation.
‘She had a very strong idea of what she wanted, and I think she really enjoyed every step. She knew that she wanted lace, that she wanted to incorporate the emblems of the United Kingdom, that she wanted to draw in the language of flowers... Everything is there for a reason.’
A number of details remain opaque, namely the dress’s cost (we asked and there's no answer, despite anything you've read) and the Duchess’s new surname (nobody knows!). But organisers were clear that they have no plans to display the gown outside of the UK. As such, they anticipate that the gown will attract unprecedented numbers of attendees to the Palace’s summer opening. Our advice? Book now.
See the royal wedding dress at the summer opening of Buckingham Palace, 23 July-3 October 2011. Click here to find out more.