OK, to clarify: Clare Cushman knows the wedding dress she wore 20 years ago isn’t exactly like Kate Middleton’s wedding dress. The pattern of the lace on the sleeves and shoulders is different. The buttons on the back of the dress aren’t quite the same size. And, because Cushman didn’t get married at Westminster Abbey, the train of her gown was shorter.
But take a quick glance at photos of the two dresses and uncanny similarity emerges.
Cushman, 48, of Chevy Chase, Md., woke up early on the morning of April 29 to watch the royal wedding. She especially wanted to see what kind of dress Middleton would wear after months of speculation leading up to the big day. When the great unveiling of the top-secret dress finally happened, it left Cushman both stunned and bemused.
“Kate was wearing an exact replica of the wedding dress I had worn — and I was about to celebrate my 20th anniversary!” Cushman wrote in a humorous personal essay for The Washington Post. “A dress I had picked up in 1991 at Kleinfeld’s in Brooklyn, off the rack and on sale (albeit in the high-end department).”
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Cushman’s essay kicked off a flurry of banter on the Internet. Many loved the piece. Others pounced, noticing differences between the two dresses. Still others wondered whether Cushman planned to sue Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton, the woman who created Kate’s dress?
“No, I’m not suing Sarah Burton!” Cushman said in a phone interview. “Nothing in my piece said anything about being angry. I’m not at all angry, and this is not really a copycat story. This is just really about my bemusement because the dress is so similar. ...Video: Kate’s dress ‘sensational, regal, stunning’ (on this page)
“You know what? I bet you can find someone from the ’50s who wore this dress. I’m sure these things are cyclical. As I wrote in my piece, maybe nothing in fashion is ever truly original.”
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Don’t tell that to Cushman’s daughter. The 16-year-old aspiring costume designer is quite passionate about creativity and originality, and on the day of the royal wedding she frantically texted her mom.
“Her response that day was the most telling,” Cushman said. “She texted me, saying, ‘I can’t believe it! It’s the same dress as yours!’ My daughter loves the dress and always thought she’d wear it someday, but now she’s saying, ‘I can’t wear it! It’s a Kate Middleton copycat dress!’ ”
Family members and friends who attended Cushman’s wedding also noticed the similarity right away. Cushman’s mother was so flabbergasted about the look of the dress that she called her daughter ship-to-shore from a cruise in Greece.
Cushman, who works for the Supreme Court Historical Society and writes and edits books on the history of the Supreme Court, celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary on May 4 — less than a week after Middleton married Prince William in that signature dress. Cushman concluded her essay thusly:
“My husband sweetly said that if People magazine ran its ‘Who Wore It Best?’ feature, I would win. (Note to William: That’s how you get to 20 years of marriage.) But I think he was more excited by the fact that he still has more hair than the groom.”
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