Duchess of Cambridge's dress goes on display

It was the most anticipated dress of the century - and now the public can see it up close when it goes on display at Buckingham Palace.

The Duchess of Cambridge's intricately decorated wedding dress, designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, received a rapturous reception.

For months, it was fashion's best-kept secret.

Even the team of embroiderers at Hampton Court Palace working on the gown did not know the identity of the designer until shortly before the public announcement.

But as soon as the then Kate Middleton appeared leaving the Goring Hotel and then entering Westminster Abbey on her wedding day on April 29, the secret was out.

Admirers can view the dress on display in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace during the annual summer opening from tomorrow, July 23, to October 3, the Royal Collection said.

And later today the Queen and the Duchess will have the chance to walk round the exhibition during a private viewing.

Caroline de Guitaut, curator of the exhibition, said: "The Duchess considered a number of options and then decided that she would like it to be displayed here at Buckingham Palace which of course was the scene for the celebrations after Westminster Abbey so it is very fitting that it should be shown here exactly where the reception took place.

"I think really the thing that will be a revelation for visitors is how much detail and how much work went into the creation of this dress.

"The beauty really is in the detail."

The bridal gown 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.

Its train measured just 9ft - modest in comparison with many previous royal brides.

The lace applique for the bodice and skirt was hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework. Individual flowers were hand-cut from lace and hand-engineered on to ivory silk-tulle.

Each lace motif, some as small as a 5p piece, was applied with minute stitches every inch or so.

Kate's veil, tiara and the diamond earrings she wore on the day also form part of the display.

The exhibition also features the Duchess's bridal shoes - which were not visible on the day.

The ivory size five and a half shoes show slight signs of wear and tear and have "Alexander McQueen" embossed on the inner sole.

Her veil, made of layers of ivory silk-tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers, was also embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework.

On the big day it was held in place by the Cartier "Halo" tiara, which was her "something borrowed" and was loaned to the bride by the Queen, a tradition for royal weddings.

The tiara was made in 1936 and bought by the Duke of York - later King George VI - for the Duchess of York - later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother - three weeks before he succeeded his brother as king.

The diamond earrings she wore, which were commissioned by the Middleton family as a personal gift to the bride from her parents, are in the same display cabinet as Kate's shoes and a replica bouquet.

Shane Connolly, artistic director of flowers at the royal wedding, said the Duchess had a "huge" input for the flowers and shrubbery used on the day.

He said: "The Duchess and I started talking about the bouquet quite early on in the process.

"We always knew it wouldn't be very large, that it would include lily of the valley, which is a great favourite of hers and her mother carried in her wedding bouquet.

"We used hyacinths which again the symbolism is constancy of love, so that had a beautiful meaning. Myrtle was included, grown from the bouquet of Queen Victoria, and some ivy which symbolises a happy marriage."

William and Kate's multi-tiered wedding cake, created by cake designer Fiona Cairns, will be shown in the state dining room to complement the wedding dress exhibition.

The tour of the 19 state rooms of the palace also lets visitors see the royal Faberge collection - the largest Faberge display in the world.

:: Tickets and visitor information: http://www.royalcollection.org.uk or 020 7766 7300.

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