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Why Kate Middleton's wedding dress is still so iconic 10 years later

From the bouquet to the earrings, there are many details within this look you may have missed 10 years ago.
/ Source: TODAY

Over the past 10 years since the former Kate Middleton officially became the Duchess of Cambridge, she's provided many memorable fashion moments, but none are quite as glamorous or capture her essence as perfectly as the stunning dress and accessories she wore on her wedding day to Prince William.

"The entire look (was) simple elegance," E! style correspondent Zanna Roberts Rassi told TODAY. "It had just the right amount of drama without being ostentatious. ... It's such a tricky balance to strike, and the only way you can do it is by being authentically yourself. That is who she is."

Royal watchers will remember the subdued silhouette of the Alexander McQueen gown — no tiers or draping, as Rassi pointed out — its elaborate lace sleeves and the lengthy train that Kate's sister, Pippa, carried as they marched into London's Westminster Abbey before the couple exchanged vows on April 29, 2011.

But there are some details within each aspect of the outfit that you may have missed.

Fit for a princess

From the first glance, the dress, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, seems like exactly what a modern-day princess should wear. It's feminine, thanks to the lace covering the sleeves and bodice, the narrow waist and full skirt, but it's also understated and "perfectly appropriate" for the occasion, Rassi said. "I remember when she walked down the aisle, literally 48 hours later, there were knock-offs of this dress for sale."

The former Kate Middleton's wedding dress drew immediate comparisons to Grace Kelly's 1956 gown.Getty Images

The overall look immediately prompted comparisons to the wedding dress of another princess: movie star Grace Kelly, who married Prince Rainier III of Monaco on April 19, 1956. Both dresses include a lace bodice and silk skirt, Rassi pointed out. Kelly's dress was created by Oscar-winning costume designer Helen Rose with a "fairy-princess image" in mind, according to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Also in true princess fashion, the duchess let her natural beauty take center stage at her wedding by doing her own makeup. "She looked exactly like Kate looked," Rassi said. "It was no heavy-handed makeup on her. ... She wanted to look herself for her husband-to-be when she walked down the aisle."

Prince William and Catherine arrive by coach at Buckingham Palace after the wedding.Anwar Hussein / Getty Images

The designer

It was a mystery who had designed the gown until Sarah Burton, the creative director of famous British fashion house Alexander McQueen, was spotted helping fix the train of Kate's dress before she walked down the aisle, Rassi recalled.

Sarah Burton fixes the train of the dress she designed for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.Jon Bond / WPA Pool via Getty Images

The choice of McQueen was meant to be "another nod to the country," she added, even though the Duchess of Cambridge didn't decide on McQueen by herself.

"Kate had asked (British Vogue editor-in-chief Alex Shulman) to meet for her opinion and advice," Rassi explained. "Alex Shulman had put a mood board together of options. She believed McQueen would be the best due to the incredible craftsmanship and fact he always uses such symbolism in his work."

McQueen, who died by suicide the year before the wedding, was a "perfect choice" because he "represented a modern take on the U.K.," Rassi added. "It was a way of honoring a great British designer but looking towards the future (and) the future king and queen."

The silhouette of the dress, inspired by Victorian tradition and the shape of corsets, was also classic McQueen, Rassi said.

The lace

The appliqué on the lace, which covered the bodice and the sleeves, was all handmade by the Royal School of Needlework, Rassi noted, as was the embroidery on the veil and Kate's shoes. The process for creating the lace was inspired by traditional Carrickmacross lace, which dates back to 1820s Ireland and involves sewing fabric motifs to a delicate net background.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, at Buckingham Palace after her wedding to Prince William on April 29, 2011.Ian West / WPA Pool via Getty Images

The exquisite patterns of hand-cut flowers within the lace were also symbolic, according to Rassi. It featured roses, thistle, shamrocks and daffodils, the national flowers of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, the countries that comprise the U.K.

The 9-foot train

The train of Kate's dress was an impressive 9 feet long, though it's a far cry from the one Princess Diana wore to marry Prince Charles. That train measured 25 feet, the longest in royal history.

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, walk up the aisle followed by Prince Harry and maid of honor Pippa Middleton after their wedding ceremony in Westminster Abbey.Reuters

Kate's dress and train were made of white satin gazar, and the train was also adorned with floral lace appliqué similar to the veil and bodice. Continuing the flower theme, Burton designed the skirt to look like an opening bud, and the full skirt underneath the train utilized box pleats.

Something borrowed

Another way Kate's wedding look put a new spin on tradition was through her choice to wear a tiara borrowed from the queen. The Cartier halo tiara from 1936 is formed in the shape of 16 graduated scrolls set with 739 brilliants and 149 baton diamonds, according to the Royal Collection Trust.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on route to Buckingham Palace in the 1902 State Landau horse drawn carriage following her wedding to Prince William.Max Mumby/Indigo / Getty Images

"It was this huge hoopla at the time because Kate wasn't royal," Rassi recalled. "(But she's) the future queen. There was this modernity to it, like maybe it's time to just embrace the future and not look back so much, and having this rich piece of history worn on the wedding day is more important than the old-fashion rules."

Something blue

It's rumored that a small blue ribbon was stitched into Kate's wedding dress to be her "something blue" and serve as a tribute to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana. Rassi said she's heard people say that Diana also had a small blue ribbon stitched inside her famous gown, and Kate wanted to continue this tradition. Some have even said that Kate used the same ribbon that was in Diana's dress, but Rassi said she's not sure if that's true.


The diamond earrings Kate wore on her big day were commissioned by her parents and inspired by the Middleton family's coat of arms, Rassi said. "Usually, (she) would wear royal. They've got all these ... jewels to choose from, but they decided to do this for their daughter's wedding. They wanted to be part of the day in a special way."

The earrings the Duchess of Cambridge wore on her wedding day are inspired by an oak leaf, part of her family's coat of arms.Ben Stansall / AFP via Getty Images

She added that integrating the coat of arms shows it's "important (to Kate) to uphold and continue her family's traditions, which can easily be lost when marrying into royalty." The earrings included stylized oak leaves, a pear-shaped diamond set drop and pave set diamond acorn, according to the Royal Collection Trust.

The earrings were designed by a small shop in London called Robinson Pelham. "The idea that they commissioned someone who was an unknown name to wear them on such a big global stage on such a huge day was very touching," Rassi said.


The bouquet was unusual for its small size and being almost entirely white, save for the pops of green from the leaves of the flowers. This aspect of the look was once again imbued with symbolism. It included lily of the valley, hyacinth, Sweet William, myrtle and ivory, which represent happiness, love, fidelity, friendship and steady matrimony.

Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wave on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London following their wedding.John Stillwell / AFP - Getty Images

"Every bride in the world wants a bouquet like that, right?" Rassi quipped. "It's so striking."

The shoes

While the shoes didn't make a public appearance on the actual wedding day, they were later revealed to be duchess ivory heels with hand-stitched lace appliqué also designed by Sarah Burton. Rassi said the shape of the shoe, the round toe in particular, is reminiscent of the nude L.K. Bennett pumps that Kate would often wear when she first entered the public eye.

The former Kate Middleton's wedding shoes are duchesse ivory pumps with lace embroidery.Royal Collection Trust

"They were exactly the same silhouette of her favorite pump, which to me, means she went with the most comfortable shoe she could possibly wear for that day," Rassi added.

The bonus look

For the evening reception at Buckingham Palace, Kate wore another Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown made of white satin. It was even simpler than the day dress so that the newly minted duchess could move around more easily, and she paired the strapless sweetheart neckline with an angora cardigan to stay "demure and respectful" and avoid showing off too much skin, Rassi explained.

Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, leaves Clarence House to travel to Buckingham Palace for the evening wedding celebrations.John Stillwell / AFP via Getty Images

Despited the otherwise pared back nature of the look, the dress still shined thanks to the "exquisite belt detail," which Rassi said served as a reminder that the event was still a royal wedding.

"It's show-stopping, but again, in a very subdued way, which sums her up," she added.