Inside the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding outfits exhibition at Windsor Castle
After almost nine months of planning, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding outfits have gone on display at Windsor Castle. Organised by the Royal Collection Trust,A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussexfeatures Meghan's bridal gown, designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, alongside her five metre-long veil and the diamond and platinum tiara gifted to the bride by the Queen. An identical version of Harry's Household Cavalry frockcoat uniform made by Savile Row tailors, Dege & Skinner, is also included in the special exhibition, which will be open until 6 January 2019 before it moves to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh next summer.
The specific location of the exhibit is particularly fitting. The display is open for public viewing in the castle's Grand Reception Room, where the Queen hosted an afternoon reception for the 600 wedding guests following the St George's Chapel wedding ceremony on 19 May. This gives visitors a chance to view the bride and groom's outfits up close in the space where the event actually took place. The display also highlights the level of detail and craftsmanship that went into creating one of the most talked-about wedding dresses in recent history.
"As the dress is so deceptively simple, I thought it was really valuable for visitors to get that little bit of insight into what it really takes to make wonderful couture and everything that is involved," Caroline de Guitaut, senior curator at the Royal Collection Trust, toldHarper's Bazaar UK. "From the word go, when I presented idea to them in January, the duke and duchess were very keen on the exhibition. They could see the value in sharing these pieces, their experience and their memories, much in the same way they wanted to share their wedding day."
Both the duchess and Waight Keller were "very involved" in the production of the exhibit, which has played a big part in bringing it to life. Much to the delight of visitors, the royal couple and the designer can be heard in a recording as part of the multimedia guide, which features Meghan sharing the sweet moment she rushed back to Prince Harry to tell him she knew Waight Keller was "perfect" for the job.
The page boy and bridesmaid outfits of Prince George and Princess Charlotte are also displayed alongside the bride and groom's bespoke mannequins, but there's no doubt that Meghan's dress is the star of the show. Before laying eyes on the finished garment, visitors are also shown just how much work went into its creation. This is highlighted through sketches from the design process of both the gown and the "highly complex piece of embroidery" involved in the veil, crafted by Maison Lesage in Paris.
"I think that the duchess and Clare had a very clear view on what they were trying to create," de Guitaut explained. "The duchess wanted something that was very timeless and very classic but with a modern feel and this is really reflected in Clare's work for the house of Givenchy. It was a perfect combination in many ways."
The elegant, floor-length gown was made with a double-bonded silk cady to give "luminosity" and a triple silk organza under skirt, along with the most standout feature - a bateau neckline. But with such a simple design - it was made using only six seams - "attention to detail was so important", de Guitaut added.
"Having started with initial very rough sketches of shapes and rough ideas, Clare then moved on to creating a toille - in fact there were about six or seven of these," the curator revealed. "The first stage was really to establish the proportion, how the fabric would fall and getting an idea of the shape and cut.... and when we look at the final design, what makes the dress so successful is this attention to proportion. It's almost architectural in its construction."
Of course, the final bridal ensemble wouldn't have been complete without the veil. Together, the two pieces were the result of 3,900 hours of work, with a team of 50 people working on the pieces over several months. In a tribute to the Duke of Sussex's role as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, the veil was embroidered on one layer of silk with the flora of the 53 countries of the Commonwealth, along with two of Meghan's favourite flowers - wintersweet and the California poppy. But it wasn't always planned this way.
"The veil was the obvious choice to reference Harry's role in Commonwealth in some way," de Guitaut said. "So Clare began looking at the idea of flags - then I think she realised this probably wouldn't work. She and the duchess then started looking at flowers, but instead of using national emblems, they looked to wildflowers of the different Commonwealth countries. After about a month of researching, the initial sketches show how the flowers would be sprinkled across the edge of the veil."
Like the display of the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress at Buckingham Palace in 2011, it's worth noting that this will be a temporary instalment at both Windsor and Holyroodhouse. "The outfits will remain the private property of their owners and they will be returned to them once the exhibition has closed," said de Guitaut, who added that the garments will be "rolled with specialist materials" in order to preserve them over the years to come.
As for Harry and Meghan's verdict? "They haven't seen the exhibition yet because they're on tour," de Guitaut noted. "We are trying to find a convenient time - they're kind of busy! "I hope that they'll be pleased with it."
A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussexis part of a visit to Windsor Castle from 26 October 2019 to 6 January 2019 and part of a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse from 14 June to 6 October 2019. Tickets can be booked at.Tickets for the Palace of Holyroodhouse will be available from 1 November 2019.
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