updated 26 Jun 2014, 08:51
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'Beautiful' Kate wears dress by McQueen designer

LONDON - Kate Middleton wore a stunning ivory and lace wedding dress Friday by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, her face covered lightly with a hand-embroidered veil held by a tiara lent by the queen.

Smiling broadly and waving to the cheering crowd outside Westminster Abbey, the 29-year-old clutched a bouquet of flowers that included Sweet William. Inside, her groom Prince William showed his appreciation, mouthing: “You look beautiful.”

Burton, the 36-year-old creative director of fashion house Alexander McQueen, had long been tipped for the commission, but palace officials had remained tight-lipped right up until the moment Kate stepped out of the car.

They said the bride has “worked closely” with Burton in formulating the design, which she wanted to “combine tradition and modernity”.

In a design that echoed the dress worn by Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, Kate’s gown had long sleeves in lace which drew down over the ivory satin bodice to form a V-neckline.

The bodice narrowed at her tiny waist and was padded at the hips, flaring to a skirt resembling an open flower, with white satin gazar arches and pleats.

Her train measured 2.7 metres (8.8 feet) – relatively short by royal standards, particularly Princess Diana’s, which was 25-feet long (7.6 metres).

The train and bodice were adorned by delicate lace applique flowers, in a unique design that incorporated the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock – the four floral emblems of the United Kingdom.

Members of the Royal School of Needlework worked on the intricate lace detailing, washing their hands every 30 minutes to keep it pristine, and changing their needles every three hours to keep them sharp.

“It’s a bridal gown of very refined detail, much more refined than the one Diana wore” at her marriage to William’s father Prince Charles in 1981, commented German couturier Karl Lagerfeld, adding: “It’s very pretty.”

Harriet Quick, fashion features director at Vogue, said: “It is absolutely beautiful and very restrained and quite modest in many ways.

“It has lots of echoes of Grace Kelly’s wedding dress but I think Sarah Burton’s created something really beautiful for her, with a very simple veil, the incredible lace and that prettiest of necklines.”

Kate’s veil was made of layers of soft, ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers. It fell to just below her waist, held in place by a Cartier tiara lent to her by Prince William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

Her diamond earrings, a gift from her parents, evoked her family’s new coat of arms with an oak leaf design. On her feet, she wore hand-made Alexander McQueen shoes made of ivory duchesse satin and lace.

Kate held a bouquet containing lily of the valley, which symbolises the return of happiness; sweet William, which means gallantry; hyacinth, constancy of love; ivy, fidelity; and myrtle, the emblem of love and marriage.

Burton also created the dress for Kate’s sister Pippa, 26, who was her maid of honour. It was simple and elegant, made of heavy ivory satin-based crape with the same button detail and lace trims as the bride’s dress.

The designer said Kate looked “absolutely stunning”.

“It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress, and I have enjoyed every moment of it,” she said, adding that it had been “such an incredible honour to be asked”.

The dress was the work of skilled workmanship from across Britain, and Burton paid tribute in her design to the Arts and Crafts tradition.

Burton took over as creative director after Alexander Lee McQueen committed suicide in February 2010. The 36-year-old graduate of Central St Martin’s fashion college had worked side by side with him for 14 years.

The dress is expected to spawn a thousand reproductions.

Elizabeth Emanuel, who created Diana’s fairytale ivory silk taffeta wedding gown in 1981 with her husband David, is still being asked to make copies. “There are going to be people watching as she walks down the aisle with their sketch pads, with the machinists and pattern cutters all ready and waiting. By the next morning you’ll see copies in the high street,” she said.

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