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Image: Clare Cushman in her wedding dress 20 years ago, next to Kate Middleton in her wedding dress on royal wedding day
(Left) Courtesy Clare Cushman; (Right) Getty Images file
Clare Cushman, far left, married Amedee Prouvost 20 years ago in a dress that looks awfully similar to a certain gown that's garnered plenty of media attention in recent weeks.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 5/11/2011 9:40:25 AM ET 2011-05-11T13:40:25

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.”

Story: Sew fast: Kate-inspired gowns in the works

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.

The Windsor Knot: Finally, Kate’s royal wedding gown revealed!

“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.”

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Kate’s dress ‘sensational, regal, stunning’

Photos: Ceremony

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  1. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk hand in hand from Buckingham Palace the day after their wedding to a waiting helicopter. (John Stillwell / PA / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The wedding bouquet of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, lies on the grave of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey on April 30, 2011 in London, England. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge pose for an official photo with (left to right): Miss Grace van Cutsem, Miss Eliza Lopes, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HM The Queen, The Hon. Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Lady Louise Windsor, Master William Lowther-Pinkerton.

    Back Row (left to right): Master Tom Pettifer, HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, HRH Prince Harry of Wales, Mr. Michael Middleton, Mrs. Michael Middleton, Mr. James Middleton, Miss Philippa Middleton, in the throne room at Buckingham Palace. (Handout / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, pose for a photograph with (clockwise from bottom right): Margarita Armstrong-Jones, Eliza Lopes, Grace van Cutsem, Lady Louise Windsor, Tom Pettifer, and William Lowther-Pinkerton in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, following their wedding at Westminster Abbey. (Hugo Burnand / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The royal couple poses in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace on April 29, 2011 in London. (Hugo Burnand / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Prince William and Princess Catherine take a spin outside Buckingham Palace in a convertible following their marriage. (Matt Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Members of the public gather along the Mall and around the Queen Victoria Memorial as they await Prince William and his wife Catherine's appearance. (Oli Scarff / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Prince William, who has been given the title of The Duke of Cambridge, greets Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her husband Tim Mathieson at Buckingham Palace in London after his wedding. (Ian West / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Prince William and his wife Catherine exit the 1902 State Landau carriage as they arrive at Buckingham Palace after their wedding in Westminster Abbey. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Prince Charles makes the journey by carriage procession to Buckingham Palace following his son's wedding at Westminster Abbey. (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Prince William and Princess Catherine approach Buckingham Palace by carriage procession following their marriage at Westminster Abbey. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Rachel Jane Eardley and Diane Pallett put the finishing touches to the royal wedding cake, that Fiona Cairns and her team created for Prince William and Princess Catherine, in the Picture Gallery of Buckingham Palace. (John Stillwell / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Their Royal Highnesses Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace. Thousands gathered outside the palace gates to witness the couples first public kiss as husband and wife. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Prince William and his wife Catherine, now known as the duchess of Cambridge, wave from their open-topped carriage as they leave Westminster Abbey after their wedding ceremony. (Alastair Grant / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Prince William, duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, duchess of Cambridge, ride along The Mall to Buckingham Palace following their marriage ceremony at Westminster Abbey. (Christopher Furlong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Best man Prince Harry rides with two of the bridesmaids and a page boy in an Ascot Landau carriage along the processional route to Buckingham Palace after his brother's wedding ceremony. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Prince William and Catherine greet the thousands of people gathered along the processional route as they make their way in the 1902 State Landau carriage to Buckingham Palace. (Damien Meyer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Prince William and his new wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge emerge from Westminster Abbey after their wedding ceremony. (Lewis Whyld / Pa / Pool / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Prince William's father Prince Charles stands with Kate's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, after the wedding ceremony of their children. (Toby Melville / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Phillip travel in a closed-top carriage along the processional route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. An aerial view of Westminster Abbey as bride Kate Middleton arrives on the hand of her father Michael Middleton. She was trailed by her sister and maid of honor, Pippa Middleton, as well as her bridesmaids and page boys. (Wpa Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Prince William puts the ring on the finger of his bride Catherine Middleton in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The ring was made from a nugget of Welsh gold. (Andrew Milligan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Guests at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton join the couple in singing hymns. (Wpa Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Catherine Middleton, holding the hand of her father Michael, gives her groom Prince William a big smile while joining him at the altar at the start of their wedding ceremony. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Kate Middleton walks to the alter with her father Michael. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Bride Kate Middleton walks down the aisle with her father Michael at Westminster Abbey, followed by her sister Philippa and other bridemaids. (Andrew Milligan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Page-boy Tom Pettifer laughs as he arrives at Westminster Abbey with William Lowther-Pinkerton, and bridesmaids Lady Louise Windsor and Margarita Armstrong-Jones for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Kate Middleton arrives with her sister Philippa Middleton at the West Door of Westminster Abbey in London for her wedding to Britain's Prince William. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Kate Middleton waves as she rides next to her father Michael in a Rolls Royce on their way to Westminster Abbey for her marriage to Britain's Prince William. (Tony Gentile / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Maid of honor Philippa Middleton arrives at Westminster Abbey for the wedding of her sister to Prince William. (Carl De Souza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Britain's Prince William waves as he arrives with his brother Prince Harry at the West Door of Westminster Abbey for his wedding, in London on Friday. (Odd Anderson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Princess Eugenie of York and Princess Beatrice of York arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend the royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Britain's Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with the Dean of Westminster as she arrives at the West Door of Westminster Abbey. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Carole Middleton, the mother of Kate Middleton, arrives at the West Door of Westminster Abbey for the wedding of her daughter to Britain's Prince William. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrives at Westminster Abbey. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Anne, the Princess Royal, arrives at the West Door of Westminster Abbey. (Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Prince William marries Kate Middleton in the wedding watched by millions around the world (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. David and Victoria Beckham arrive at Westminster Abbey to attend the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Beckham served as a soccer ambassador with Prince William in Britain's failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam arrive at Westminster Abbey for the royal wedding. (Alastair Grant / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish are directed to their seats in Westminster Abbey. (Dominic Lipinska / PA Pool via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Military bands play in London's Parliament Square ahead of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. (John Giles / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. A marching band of guardsmen parades along The Mall before the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Guests arrive at Westminster Abbey in the hours before the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton. (Phil Noble / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. The Right Reverend Dr. John Hall, Dean of Westminster holds the wedding program, titled the Order of Service, before the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk together in Buckingham Palace in central London
    John Stillwell / PA / Pool via Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (44) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Ceremony
  2. Image: Royal Wedding - The Newlyweds Greet Wellwishers From The Buckingham Palace Balcony
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    Slideshow (31) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Royal fans
  3. Image: Ex-pats In Kabul Watch Royal Wedding
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Slideshow (18) Will and Kate's royal wedding - World reaction
  4. Image: Police officers walk down The Mall before the wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton in central London
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Slideshow (9) Will and Kate's royal wedding - Security
  5. Image: Duchess of Cambridge, Duchess of Cornwall
    John Stillwell / AP
    Slideshow (21) Royal wedding’s flashy fashion - Royal fashions
  6. Image: Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk together in Buckingham Palace in central London
    John Stillwell / PA / Pool via Getty Images
    Slideshow (44) Royal wedding’s flashy fashion - Ceremony
  1. Image: Royal Wedding - The Newlyweds Greet Wellwishers From The Buckingham Palace Balcony
    Oli Scarff / Getty Images
    Slideshow (31) Royal wedding’s flashy fashion - Royal fans
  2. Image: Ex-pats In Kabul Watch Royal Wedding
    Paula Bronstein / Getty Images
    Slideshow (18) Royal wedding’s flashy fashion - World reaction
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    Slideshow (13) Kate Middleton’s princess style
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    Chris Jackson / Getty Images
    Slideshow (111) A history of British royal weddings - Prince William

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