Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear Kate, Please don't be too "Modern"...

I love history and I love all types of needlework.

Princess Grace Kelly on her wedding day 1956

So, when the opportunity arises in my modern life, to combine a historical moment with the possibility of a fabulously embroidered, jewel-encrusted, sequin-laden, hand-sewn silk gown trimmed with the world's finest laces and the most exquisite attention to detail...

Close-up of Princess Grace's headdress

I anticipate something spectacular. I can't help it. I'm convinced that we're in for a stunning, modern marvel of handwork tomorrow in the form of Kate Middleton's wedding dress.

And it's not just the dress itself...but it's the stories behind the creation of the gown...about the people who have labored for months and the hands that have crafted every little component...that I am eager to hear.

Many of the royal gowns that have preceded Kate's have been marvelous historical showpieces of embroidery, bobbin lace, tambour beading, silk weaving, etc.

One of my absolute faves was the gown of Princess Charlotte in 1816...


It was made by Mrs. Triaud of Bolton Street from 'cloth-of-silver', silk bobbinet embroidered with heavy silver lame embellished with Brussels lace, and with embroidered flowers and shells festooning the hem. ~telegraph.co.uk
And lucky for us, here is a beautiful video showing much of its gorgeous detail:



It's a complete stunner, isn't it?

Next was Queen Victoria, the first reigning British Queen to be married and who married for love to Albert in 1840 -- and her dress was designed to make a political statement.


One of the main concerns in late 1830s England was the effect the Industrial Revolution was having on traditional textile industries. In particular, the invention of machine laces was decimating handmade lace industries across England, and causing widespread poverty and unemployment among the skilled artisans.

In order to stimulate and support the lace industry, Victoria chose for her wedding dress a large piece of handmade Honiton lace. The rest of the dress then became a vehicle to showcase the lace, and white was chosen as the most suitable colour to do this. In the case of Victoria’s dress, white symbolised practicality and patriotism, rather than purity. (Source: The Dreamstress Blog)

The lace production was overseen over a six week period by "Miss Bidny" and took nearly 200 lacemakers in the towns of Beer and Honiton to make it.

In 1923, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married Prince Albert and her dress was a simpler, straight-lined gown whose style you'll recognize as representative of the 20s...



I couldn't find much about the story of her gown though I can see that veil was lace and the bodice and skirt were heavily beaded. This gown has just been approved by the Queen for display in honor of Kate and Will's big day so maybe I'll learn more of its history then.

Then comes the gown of Queen Elizabeth II...


The embroiderers were out in full force for this baby!

The veil and the 15-foot train were a tour de force of dressmaking. Designed by Norman Hartnell (he also designed Elizabeth's coronation gown which I talked about here), the silk, duchesse satin dress was embroidered with 10,000 seed pearls imported from the United States and crystal beads in garlands of star-shaped lily heads, white York roses with orange blossoms and the heads of wheat (a symbol of fertility) -- and all of that embroidery was duplicated on the silk tulle train...



I love the idea that the veil was embroidered tulle. The transparency of the tulle really showed off the embroidery on the train.


I'm afraid if I had been there, I'd have been watching the beautiful embroidery on the train as it went by rather than the bride!!

And then there was Princess Diana...


I was 16 when she was married in 1981 and I'll never forget that day or her dress. It really affected me much in the same way that Princess Grace of Monaco's wedding in 1956 affected my mother.

And thanks to this amazing book...


Which tells the entire story of the making of Diana's dress -- all the design ideas, the sourcing of supplies, the people that wove the silk, made the lace, sewed the sequins -- I get to vicariously work alongside the dressmakers and couturiers who made this amazing dress.

It's a great read and I was able to find it at my library.

Designed and created by the small design house of David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the dress was made from ivory silk taffeta woven at Sudbury Silk Mills in Suffolk.


The lace for the bodice was actually a piece of historic Carrick lace originally given to the Royal School of Needlework by Queen Mary to use for a lace fund set up during World War I. Donated laces were used to make up articles such as cushions, scent sachets, nightdress cases, etc. These items were sold and the proceeds used for a fund for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Association.


And onto the lace bodice and the hundreds of metres of other laces, were embroidered pearls and mother-of-pearl sequins -- thousands of them!!

All done by hand, it was taking longer than anticipated so the design house decided to outsource the embroidery of the veil. Here's one of my favorite excerpts from the book...

We decided we would have to send the veil out to be embroidered. Who better to call upon than our trusted friend and embroiderer, "Miss Peggy" Umpelby at S. Lock Ltd. We asked her to hand-embroider a staggering 10,000 3mm sequins onto the veil. She decided that because of the secrecy of the whole project, she would do all this at home. She spent the best part of two weeks with a huge tambour frame in her living room - large enough to take the veil, which measured 11.5 foot by 40 foot. The only thing that annoyed Miss Peggy was her friends at work asking why, after two weeks holiday (as she had told them), she did not have a better sun tan. (Source: A Dress for Diana by David Emanuel and Elizabeth Emanuel)
And that, my friends, is a beautiful part of Diana's royal wedding story that is now history.

Who has made the stitches and sewn the sequins for Kate's dress?

Who is the "Miss Peggy" Umpelby of 2011?

I hope we get to "meet" her...and I hope somebody tells her story...

And so on the eve of the big day, I pray that Kate hasn't opted to be so modern of a bride that she doesn't honor the rich royal wedding history of the hand-wrought couture gown.

I pray for beads that blind us and embroidery that moves us to tears. I pray for exquisite handmade lace and for silk fabrics that carry the day.

Oh...And for the good fortune of the happy couple...

Fingers crossed.

22 comments:

Jocelyn in NZ said...

What a fascinating post! The photos were great of course, and your commentary really worth the read. Thank you for sharing your interest and passion.
Jocelyn

PiPa said...

loved this post! Everytime there's a chance to see this kind of clothes "live" in museums or exhibitions I stand there hours trying to imagine the work behind them..it's always fascinating to know the story behind a dress.
Thanks for sharing!

Vicky~ stichr ~ said...

Oh I so hope it's got the fairytale quality about the whole thing.

While lounging in Urgent Care awaiting my turn, the TV was turned onto a news channel. The fellow talking had nothing nice to say and thus should have said nothing at all....BUT....he did bring up the subject of the Big Day for Kate and Will and this other lounger and I decided that a fairytale wedding would not be amiss! Not a'tall!

coral-seas said...

I love seeing dresses and fashion through your eyes. I am looking forward to reading what you have to say about the dress almost as much as I am to seeing that first glimps of it. I'm thinking it will be elegant and modern, as Kate is, but will honour that tradition that you have shown us. Both Kate and William are into conservation and sustainablity, I think that will extend to trades and crafts as well as materials, so I am expecting to see a dress that supports these values.

We have just been watching on the news the crowds gathered more than 12 hours before the wedding. There is a real party atmospher. How refreshing to have cheer and excitement on the news channels. In these troubled time, we are in need of more of that. I will have my embroidery frame set up in front of the television for a front row view of the celebrations :-)

Maureen in Maryland said...

Oh Susan,
This is one of those posts that is just incredible. It makes me want to crawl into my computer and fondle everything. I can hear my husband saying to me "Remember Do No Touch" but I don't care I will risk it. The pictures and the history is just wonderful. You really really have quite a gift and we are so lucky you share it with us.
Now that is not to say I didn't LOVE yesterdays post just as well. It was a great post about Sharon. I would have written but I didn't want to be gushy. Well the heck with that I am totaly GUSHY now.
Thank you so much for this.
Maureen in MD

FredaB said...

I really enjoyed this post. A great walk down memory lane of the British family.

I have set the tivo and will watch the festivities after I go to have blood drawn (just routine) and sit with an English Crumpet. They carry them at the Publix store down here. I used to bring them back from Toronto and freeze them along with my tea bags and butter tarts and other things too numerous to mention. Love going home to stock up.

Glad you had such a great visit with your Dad. He is looking good.

Hugs

FredaB

tongfengdemao said...

Beautiful! I have to say I love Princess May's (Victoria Mary) dress best. But oooooh! The sequins on Diana's dress!!

Lynley said...

Thank you so much for posting this - best half hour on the internet I've had for ages!!! It's so easy to overlook the magic of the handwork in these dresses; we tend to focus on the line and shape now. I hope Kate goes a bit traditional too!

Teresa said...

How very interesting. I can't wait to see Kate's dress added to the list of many wonderful hours of stitching.
Thank you for sharing.
Teresa's Heartfelt Stitches

Carol said...

In just six more hours you will be able to watch ...will you be glued to the tube?

I don't think I ever see all the detail that you do, or appreciate even a smidge as much. But I love to read your posts about fashion design and see events through your eyes.

I'll wait patiently for your post about Kate's dress....

Sweetpea said...

Susan, I ADORED this post...what a wonderful read! Must have taken you hours to prepare but ooooh, so worth it. Thank you for the captivating history lesson :>]]

Masha E said...

Thank you very much for such a touching story and pictures. After your post I became absolutely inpatient to see Kate's dress! And I also hope this deress is made in good English traditions!
Hugs from Russia!

Rent server said...

Sexy! That's the one word coming to my mind after seeing this!

kaite said...

i fear you may have been a touch disappointed but i loved the way you put this wedding dress archive together.
i've been working on my corgis.

Rachel said...

You've found some interesting details about all these dresses - some of them were really wonderful, weren't they!

sudukc said...

Thank you for the history of the Royal wedding dresses. You blog is always a delight to read.
I thought of you this morning as the press compared Catherine Middletons dress to that of Pricess Grace Kelly. And I love that Catherine chose the Royal School of Needlework to be included in the making of her dress.
Thank you again for all you do to further the needlearts.

woolwoman said...

great post - I found your blog thru another - I enjoyed the wedding immensely - I was there watching Diana and Charles on TV and would not have missed this for anything. Melody

Wendy said...

Oh dear, I hope you weren't too disappointed. I loved the lace detail at the top but the rest of the dress left me cold. I wonder if I missed something on my small tv as there was talk of a brocade trim that I couldn't see. I have to say, my favourite of the dresses is the current queen's. Diana's is just hideous but I suppose it wasn't at the time.

liniecat said...

An interesting post thankyou, hadnt seen that Telegraph clip so rather nice to see the closeups.
I think Katherines dress was reminiscent of Princess Graces yes and very elegant. Perhaps better for there being less weight to walk a 100metres in! lol But reckon there was fine worksmanship in there that the cameras havent picked up.
Hope youre not disapointed !

The Blissful Banter of a Creative Crafter said...

Thank you for that wonderful history. It was fascinating!
Analisa in Dubai

Rent Ottawa said...

It's very fascinating and wonderful to see.I really enjoyed that traditional dresses.Thanks for sharing.

Laurel's Quill said...

Just love the wedding gowns. I have made many, but my best was one that i sewed over 13,000 beads on...but who's counting! Thanks for sharing!

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