How Kate’s Wedding Dress Inspired A Thousand Marriages

She stepped out of the Rolls-Royce and the world took a collective breath.

Finally we could see the dress – anticipated for weeks, months, some might say years – that Kate Middleton would be wearing to wed her Prince. As she entered Westminster Abbey, the soon-to-be Duchess of Cambridge made fashion history with a look that would change wedding style forever.

The elegant design, by British designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, was markedly distinct from the strapless gowns that had dominated weddings in the 2010s. The year was 2011, and Kate’s delicate lace sleeves, cinched-in bodice and fuller skirt were a complete departure.

Bridal boutiques have been referencing the look ever since.

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Just last year, I was searching for my own wedding dress when the shop owner showed me a satin, boat-necked number she dubbed ‘The Meghan’, for its similarity to the Givenchy wedding gown worn by the Duchess of Sussex in 2018. She then gestured towards an entire rail of lacier, long-sleeved gowns, “for those who prefer the Kate Middleton look.”

As the Duke and Duchess Cambridges celebrate their 10-year anniversary, designer and dressmaker Holly Winter reflects that the royal wedding marked a pivotal shift in wedding style that continues to influence dresses today.

“As Kate stepped out of the car to reveal her dress, a BBC pundit practically squealed, ‘This is such a fashion moment!’ And it really was,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Naughties bridal boutiques were packed with huge tulle ballgowns and you’d be lucky to have found a strap, let alone a sleeve. I was no different – marrying in 2008 in a strapless gown, looking like I’d just got out of the bath.”

Winter kept an eye on eBay to see how long it would take for a replica Kate dress to appear – and someone managed it in just 12 hours. By 2012, she says, dresses with sleeves were in high demand.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day. 

Just as, three decades earlier, Princess Diana’s puffball dress had been copied by 1980s brides, Kate’s dress became the marker for brides of the noughties – and beyond.

Pinterest, the site many couples use to plan their wedding, has tracked the royal influence. Despite the pandemic sparking headlines about low-key wedding trends, the site has actually seen a 55% year-on-year increase in the search term ‘princess wedding dresses,’ calculated from global searches between April 2020 and April 2021. The term ‘long sleeved lace wedding dress’ has also doubled in popularity, while ‘Kate Middleton dress’ is up 70% from last year.

Although Kate’s dress marked a change from the designs that dominated the previous decade, it was based on a classic style, says luxury wedding planner and royal wedding commentator Sarah Haywood – and that is the secret of its longevity.

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