FOR most brides, the wedding dress is a creation that enjoys but a single day of glory before being boxed up and consigned to the attic.
However, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge is not like most brides. Her wedding gown is to go on display at Buckingham Palace, where it is likely to guarantee bumper crowds.
At the specific request of the Duchess, the dress – by Sarah Burton, creative director at Alexander McQueen – will be the centrepiece of an exhibition for the summer opening of the Palace between July 23 and October 3.
The Duchess’s veil, tiara and wedding shoes, as well as the diamond earrings she wore on her wedding day, will form part of the display, a spokesman for the Royal Collection said.
However, the wedding garment that received almost as much attention on the day – Pippa Middleton’s figure-hugging dress, also by Sarah Burton – will not be on show.
A media star Miss Middleton may be, but royal she is not, and for all the admiration that the dress attracted it has not yet earned its return ticket to the Palace.
William and Kate’s wedding cake, created by Fiona Cairns, will be shown in the State Dining Room to complement the wedding dress exhibition.
The confection, a multi-tiered traditional fruit cake decorated with sugar flowers, is the very one seen on the day by guests at the reception (but not, obviously, the one that was cut up and sent out to the guests; that was a spare).
For royal enthusiasts, the display of the dress will be an unrivalled opportunity to admire the intricately decorated gown that was worn by the Duchess at Westminster Abbey on April 29.
Buckingham Palace will also welcome the loan of the dress. Although the Palace has proved a popular attraction since it started opening to the public, it has never sold out. Visitor figures have risen year on year, with a record 413,000 in eight weeks last year. With the added lure of the dress, that record is likely to be broken again.
The dress, which was designed and created under the strictest secrecy, featured lace applique floral detail and was made of ivory and white satin gazar, with a skirt that resembled “an opening flower” with white satin gazar arches and pleats.
Displaying the gown will help to confirm its place among the most famous wedding dresses of the past 100 years. The most celebrated of all, that of Diana, Princess of Wales, is still a popular public attraction, 30 years after her wedding to the Prince of Wales.
With its 25ft train, the dress is part of an exhibition entitled Diana: A Celebration, which, when not on view at her family home at Althorp, Northamptonshire, travels around the world. It is estimated that it has been seen by a million people since 1998.
Though the Duchess will not be the first royal bride whose dress has gone on display, few have been as quick off the mark. The Queen’s wedding dress was shown at Buckingham Palace during the summer opening in 2007, while a collection of royal wedding dresses was shown to the media at Kensington Palace earlier this year. It included the wedding dresses of Queen Victoria and Princess Margaret and, oldest of all, the dress in which Princess Charlotte – only child of George IV – married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg in 1816.
One of the most famous wedding dresses of the 20th century, worn by Grace Kelly when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, was donated by the bride to the Museum of Art in her home town of Philadelphia. The garment was regarded by many as bearing a striking similarity to the Duchess’s dress. – Times of London