Catherine Middleton has chosen a bridal gown fit for a queen-to-be. Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen is the British designer who has created the Wedding Dress of the Century.
Ms Middleton's arrival at Westminster Abbey a few minutes ago revealed 'the dress' in all its sumptuous glory, to a waiting world estimated at two billion.
Ms Middleton stepped out of the vintage Rolls Royce Phantom VI and into the pages of royal and fashion history.
Fabulous, fashionable and fairytale, the dress was fit for a queen-to-be and combined the style of a modern princess with that of a 20th Century princess, namely Grace Kelly, one of Diana, Princess of Wales's early champions.
The dress featured a strapless, Victorian style corset, narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips - long a signature of the late Alexander McQueen's designs - underneath a high-necked, sculpted bodice in hand-made lace. The long, medieval-style sleeves and train on the softly pleated ivory and white satin gazar skirt, which was held by her maid of honour, her sister Philippa, enhanced Ms Middleton's regal bearing as she made her way, on the arm of her father, to the Abbey's Great West Door.
The design of the long-awaited wedding-dress combined majesty and modernity, royal heritage and romantic history, passion and pageantry. Ms. Middleton chose the British brand Alexander McQueen for its craftsmenship, respect for traditional workmanship and technical wizardry of cut. Following a tradition set by Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert in 1840 in a gown of silk-satin woven in Spitalfields and lace hand-made in Homiton, the dress involved craftmenship from all over the United Kingdom, and paid tribute to the country's Arts and Crafts heritage.
The lace appliqué for the bodice and skirt was hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace. It was hand-engineered using the Carrickmacross technique, which originated in Ireland in the 1820s.
The lace incorporated individual floral motifs representing the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock. It was also used for the brides shoes and to trim the veil. The main body of the skirt in ivory and white satin gazar was designed by Ms. Burton to echo an opening flower with soft pleats which unfolded to the floor and finished in a short train measuring just under three metres. With Ms. Middleton's veil of ivory silk tulle was held in place by a Cartier 'halo' tiara, which was loaned by the Queen. The tiara was made in 1936 and was bought by the then Duke of York for his Duchess, three weeks before he succeeded his brother as King. It was then presented to Princess Elizabeth, (now the Queen) by her mother on her 18th birthday.
The earrings, diamond-set oak leaves with a pavé diamond acorn in the centre were inspired by the Middleton family's new coat of arms and made by Robinson Pelham to echo the tiara.
The bouquet, a message in the language of flowers, designed by Shane Connolly, featured flowers of significance to both families: lily-of-the-valley - meaning return of happiness; Sweet William - gallantry; hyacinth - constancy of love; ivy - fidelity, marriage, wedded love, friendship and affection; and myrtle - the emblem of marriage and love.
The myrtle stems came from the evergreen shrub planted at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, while another sprig was from a plant grown from the myrtle used in the Queen's wedding bouquet of 1947.
The gown worn by Miss Philippa Middleton, the maid of honour, was also designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, and was in heavy ivory, satin-based crepe, with cowl front and with the same button detail and lace trim as the bridal gown.
The four young bridesmaids' dresses were designed especially to echo the bride's dress, and were hand-made by the children's wear designer, Nicky Macfarlane and her daughter, Charlotte, at their homes in Wiltshire and Kent.
The pages wore a uniform in the style of that worn by a Foot Guards officer at the time of the Regency (the 1820s) and which drew its insignia from the Irish Guards, whose colonel is Prince William. They were designed inthe royal household and made by Kashket and Partners, who also fitted Prince William's uniform for the royal wedding.
The first glimpse of the spectacular gown ended months of anticipation, weeks of speculation, and endless rumours and gossip.
Since the engagement of Prince William and Ms Middleton was announced in November, feverish guesswork and hypothetical fashion scenarios had suggested most of the country's better-known designers, including Stella McCartney and Bruce Oldfield, a favourite of Diana, Princess of Wales, as having landed the coveted royal commission.
Ms Burton, however, remained the hot favourite.
Aged 35, the Manchester-born designer took over as creative director of the Alexander McQueen brand in May last year, following the tragic death by suicide of the maverick British couturier. She had been his atelier right-hand for 12 years.
The legacy of having worked alongside the man regarded as one of the true British fashion geniuses was quickly demonstrated. In just two seasons, Burton has shown the ability to infuse McQueen's radical ethos with a breathtaking sense of romance and sensuality, and a mastery of hand-craftsmanship.