Fashion Editor Rosie Steer looks at the sartorial influence of the Royal Wedding on UK industry and beyond
Months of dizzying speculation over that dress came to a climax at precisely 11.01 a.m. It was confirmed: Kate Middleton was wearing Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. An iconic British brand for a new British royal. Glamorous in its simplicity and classic style, Ms Middleton had got it spot on. Evocative of the dress Grace Kelly wore to marry Prince Rainier, the stunning white creation with its tight lace overlay, fitted bodice and large skirt created a timeless aesthetic. Kate had created her own modern fairytale.
The distinct McQueen exaggerated hourglass aesthetic was there, but the dress was entirely Middleton’s own. The FT put it well: ‘it’s by a brand, but not of the brand. Rather, it is of history.’ The dress was certainly modern, and befitting of the message the palace is trying to associate with the next generation of royals.
Choosing to have her dress designed by Alexander McQueen will send the brand stratospheric. I couldn’t help the tears in my eyes as I thought about how proud the late Lee McQueen would be: an artist who never felt he fitted in, given such a massive gesture of approval. Not that he particularly looked for approval (in fact he often courted disapproval), but the colossal recognition the house has been given on the world’s stage is an appropriate tribute to his vast talent.
Sarah Burton was firmly the name in the press and thoroughly deserved her credit after her unrelenting hard work, taking the helm of the fashion house in the face of controversy and adversity, she has ensured the survival of a British name. She has successfully maintained the ‘savage beauty’ visual of the label whilst putting her own, more feminine stamp on it. An incredibly well-delivered balancing act of modern style and substance, whilst being royalty appropriate: it was a big day for the house of McQueen. It has placed the brand beyond fashion and trends – Alexander McQueen will be remembered whatever the fads and fickleness of fashion. A brand which was relatively unknown worldwide outside the fashion scene, barely affording international PR and advertising, is poised to become one of the major names of our generation.
Other brands and sectors will benefit from the Duchess of Cambridge’s choice to include them in the wedding. The UK lace industry will surely be given a boost; the bodice of Kate Middleton’s dress was covered in lace embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. The unique design included the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, imbuing the dress with a unique sense of history and nationality. A few years ago, Prada’s lace-heavy collection helped to give the dying Swiss lace industry a boost and surely Ms Middleton’s stunning dress will aid the almost non-existent British lace manufacturing industry.
According to the palace press release, all the fabric of the dress was sourced from and supplied by British companies who will surely benefit from their involvement. Aside from the French chantilly lace which was combined with the English Cluny lace, hand-worked in the Irish Carrickmacross needlework tradition, the whole dress was a decidedly British affair. A symbolic piece of craftsmanship to say the very least – as a Royal Wedding dress ought to be. The textiles industry was for a long time integral to British manufacturing, but the dawn of the High Street and mass produced and imported banality put paid to the more labour intensive and skilled nature of British industry. I know we can’t all afford to have needleworkers weaving around the clock to appliqué our lace, washing their hands every half an hour to avoid marking, but it’s the principle. Britain was famed for its textile industry; I don’t know much about economics, but surely it’s not a good thing that we let it die.
The wedding as a whole will have done wonders for millinery. Sadly, gone are the days where it was impolite to step outside without one’s top hat or bonnet but maybe the hat parade at the Royal Wedding will spark a headwear revival? I can dream. Philip Treacy’s 80 hats on display at the Wedding solidified his position as the reigning milliner supreme. The range of styles and ages donning his designs are testament to his enduring appeal.
If you like your headwear a little glitzier, then take note – fashion editors are predicting a tiara resurgence. Crowns at the gym and tiaras on the tube? (What else would one hold one’s hair back with?) Kate Middleton went with tradition and borrowed her new Grandma-in-law’s tiara (as you do). “Something borrowed” indeed, the “halo” tiara, made in 1936 and bought by The Duke of York (later King George VI) (Colin Firth) for his wife (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), and given to The Queen for her 18th birthday. So let’s predict a tiara revival, at least in bridalwear…
Maybe more people will rush to copy Ms Middleton’s jewellery. Robinson Pelham created the Middleton family jewels – Kate’s beautiful and endlessly bespoke, covetable earrings inspired by the Middleton family crest were a wedding gift from her parents (predict a thousand copies, I’m waiting for mine from Accessorize, having missed out on their copy of the engagement ring). Pippa and her mothers’ earrings, her mother’s brooch and her father and brothers’ stick pins were also made by the jeweller. Surely another brand that will benefit.
What the whole circus has brought to our attention is this: fashion can have so much more meaning than the superficiality it is so often accused of. The design of one dress can symbolise a nation, and do wonders for its industry.
Image: Rosie Steer www.everythinglooksrosie.com