Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages

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Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Camilla Parker-Bowles, April 9, 2005

Camilla Parker-Bowles was in a unique position when marrying Prince Charles, as this was a second marriage for both of them. As such, instead of wearing a white or ivory gown, Camilla opted for a more understated cream chiffon dress with an oyster coat. "Keeping detailing to the minimum, this contemporary outfit followed the tradition of not wearing ivory or white for a second wedding and instead featured modern styling, including a cream coloured straw hat."

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Princess Alexandra, March 10, 1863

Long before Meghan caught the affections of the British public, Princess Alexandra of Denmark was the foreign bride crowds couldn't wait to see. This is the first ever photograph of a member of the royal family wearing their wedding dress, from her marriage to Queen Victoria's son Edward Albert in 1863. Whybro describes it as "an opulent and highly detailed dress, with an off-the-shoulder neckline and large floral motifs that dominated the design". Adorned with decorative lace depicting Scottish thistles, Irish shamrocks and English roses, plus a 21ft train that took eight women to carry, it was a particularly over-the-top gown.

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Sophie Rhys-Jones, June 19, 1999

Sophie Rhys-Jones' dress was a much simpler affair, when she married Prince Edward. However, Whybro says it echoes another royal gown from the past - Princess Margaret's. "Created from hand-dyed ivory silk organza and crepe, the dress featured minimal pearl and crystal beading around the neck and sleeves, with far less of a full skirt than previous royal gowns," she observes. "Rhys-Jones' gown had a more modern feel, with simple lines."

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Sarah Ferguson, July 23, 1986

Sarah Ferguson had the unenviable position of following Diana's wedding just five years later. "Sarah Ferguson's dress was always going to be compared to Diana's, and was understandably much less elaborate," says Whybro. "The gown was an ivory satin bodice with heavy beading, retaining some of the Eighties elements of Diana's dress in its puff sleeves, yet cut to a three-quarter length." Sure, not as elaborate as Diana's, but it still had a 17ft train.

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Princess Margaret, May 6, 1960

Princess Margaret's dress for her wedding to Lord Snowdon is often described as the simplest royal wedding gown in recent history. Whybro says: "Princess Margaret's dress was in stark contrast to her younger sister's, with the emphasis being on exquisite tailoring and beautiful fabrics. The gown was made from silk organza and featured much less detailing." Although simple, the dress still had a full skirt and was designed to show off the bride's petite frame.

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Princess Anne, November 14, 1973

Princess Anne married Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey, with an estimated global audience of 500 million watching. "Princess Anne's 1973 wedding dress could not be more of the era, in terms of style and silhouette," says Whybro. "A Tudor-style high neck dress with medieval sleeves, this remarkably modern gown was sophisticated, simple and contemporary, while featuring detailing embroidery far removed from that seen on Princess Elizabeth's gown."

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Kate Middleton, April 29, 2011

As with Meghan, there were months of speculation as to who would design Kate's gown, in the run-up to her and Prince William's wedding day. In the end, the honour went to designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, who created an ivory dress with a classic silhouette, covered in delicate lace. Whybro says: "Changing wedding dress fashion for decades to come, in the same way Diana did, Kate's McQueen creation was a combination of tradition and modernity, with a classic shape evoking that of Victorian styling with its narrow waist and hip padding, long lace sleeves and a semi-bustle at the back. The floral motifs echoed Princess Diana's detailing and the full skirt with elegant train touched upon contemporary elements."

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, April 26, 1923

Long before becoming the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon married the Duke of York (later King George VI) in a style that was classic for her 1920s wedding. Whybro contrasts her gown to Princess Alexandra's, saying: "Her dress had a much straighter skirt, created from deep ivory chiffon, moving away from stark white and embroidered with pearls. The gown is very Twenties in design, featuring short cap sleeves with strips of Brussels lace, making it contemporary yet elegant." It was a simple affair, heavily influenced by Coco Chanel.

Memorable royal wedding dresses through the ages
Princess Diana, July 29, 1981

For most people, chances are the words 'royal wedding' conjure the wedding of the century - when Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles. It's thought a whopping one billion tuned in worldwide to witness the fairy-tale event, and Whybro says: "Probably one of the most iconic wedding dresses of modern history, Princess Diana's extravagant ballgown-style dress featured ivory silk taffeta and antique lace, with an opulent 25ft train." The gown, she adds, "set wedding dress trends for years to come, with its large puffed sleeves, narrow waist & meringue style skirt". But having such a dramatic dress did come with its share of problems - too big for her glass carriage, Diana arrived at the ceremony slightly creased.

Let’s face it – the frocks are often the star of the show. As Harry and Meghan’s big day approaches, Prudence Wade leafs through the archives.

With royal wedding fever nearing boiling point, there’s one question on everybody’s lips: What will Meghan wear?

Will she choose an English designer to honour the country she’s marrying into, or will she completely surprise us? Ever since Prince Harry popped the question, anticipation’s been building.

This is nothing new, of course. It’s been the same story for royal weddings throughout history – except fortunately, we now have social media and colour TV to ensure we can all see the big-day action unfold in real time.

Here, with the help of Karen Whybro, owner of designer bridal boutique Rock The Frock (rockthefrockbridal.co.uk), we take a look back at some of the most iconic and memorable royal wedding dresses through the decades, click the gallery above..