PHOTOS: BRITAIN’S ROYAL WEDDING DRESSES, FROM QUEEN VICTORIA TO KATE MIDDLETON

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Another British royal wedding is upon us.

On May 19, Britain’s Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle, an American actress. For many watchers on both sides of the Atlantic—at least those who care—one of the highlights of the event will be the reveal of Markle’s dress.

Royal wedding gowns can be a spectacle in themselves, as they aspire to match the fairytale grandeur of their circumstances. Extravagance isn’t demanded; the dress Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon wore to marry the Duke of York in 1923 was known for its simplicity, even if it was still elaborately embroidered. But a lavish gown is often the choice. These dresses can also set a course for the wedding fashion that follows. The ivory dress Queen Victoria wore for her 1840 union to Prince Albert is credited with helping to make white the standard for wedding looks in the West.

The designer Markle chose to create her look hasn’t yet been revealed. The speculation at the moment is that Britain’s Stella McCartney won the job, though previous odds favored Ralph & Russo—Britain’s only officially-recognized couture label and the one Markle chose for her engagement photos.

Whichever designer has the honor, the dress is sure to be another noteworthy entry in royal fashion history. Here’s a look back at a few of our favorites of the past.

QUEEN VICTORIA, 1840

Photography wasn’t well-developed enough to capture the 1840 ceremony, but Victoria’s silk-and-lace gown has thankfully been preserved.

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 1840 file image, an illustration depicts the wedding of Britain's Queen Victoria, centre right, and to Prince Albert, centre left, in The Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace in London, England. The celebrated silk-and-lace bridal gown worn by Queen Victoria offers some clues about what Kate Middleton will wear when she walks down the aisle April 29, even if much has changed since Victoria's low-key wedding in 1840. Just as Victoria used English lace and silk woven in London to show support for British industry, Middleton faces overwhelming pressure to use a British designer. (AP Photo/File)

 

The ivory silk wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 is displayed and then reflected in mirrors as part of the exhibition "Victoria Revealed" in the building where she was born, Kensington Palace in London, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. Kensington Palace has been transformed following a 12 million pounds ($19 million, 14.4 million euro) restoration project timed to be completed for this summer's Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

The ivory silk wedding dress worn by Queen Victoria in her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 was displayed as part of the exhibition “Victoria Revealed.”

QUEEN MOTHER, 1923

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, later known as Queen Mother, in a very 1920s, loose-fitting gown.

26th April 1923: Future Queen Consort to King George VI, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1900 - 2002) leaving her Bruton Street residence for her wedding to George, Duke Of York. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon leaves her residence on her way to marry King George VI in 1923.

DUCHESS OF WINDSOR, 1937

Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, married the Duke of Windsor in 1937. Their romance was a scandal. Until a few months before, the duke had been King Edward VIII. When he proposed to Simpson, already divorced once and in the process of being divorced a second time, it caused a constitutional crisis that prompted him to abdicate the throne. They were married in a small ceremony in France, and Simpson opted for a relatively modest look.

Edward VIII, former King of England, now Duke of Windsor, and his bride, Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson are seen following the civil and religious ceremonies at the Chateau de Cande, near Tours, France, June 3, 1937. (AP Photo/BIPPA)

AP Photo/BIPPA
Wallis Simpson at their wedding in 1937.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, 1947

Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, wore a gown with a 15-foot train made of transparent ivory silk. It was edged with satin flowers and encrusted with pearls and crystals.

Britain's Princess Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh are seen leaving Westminster Abbey, London, on Nov. 20, 1947, following their wedding service. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
Princess Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, after their wedding in 1947.
Seen from above are the Royal newly-weds, British Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten (Duke of Edinburgh) as they leave Westminster Abbey, London, November 20, 1947. After their marriage, shows the bridal train. The 15-foot long bridal train is of transparent ivory silk, attached to the shoulders and edged with graduated satin flowers, finally forming a deep border encrusted with pearls and crystals. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
Newly-weds Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh.

PRINCESS MARGARET, 1960

The first televised British royal wedding took place between Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. More than 20 million viewers watched, seeing the princess’s bright white silk organza gown. Its designer, Norman Hartnell, deliberately kept the embellishments to a minimum.

Great Britain Princess Margaret with Anthony Armstrong Jones at Buckingham Palace after their wedding in Westminster Abbey on May 6, 1960. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones on their wedding day in 1960.
Anthony Armstrong-Jones holds the hand of his bride, Princess Margaret of Britain May 6, 1960 as they leave London's Westminster Abbey after theIr wedding. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
The bride and groom as they leave Westminster Abbey.

PRINCESS DIANA, 1981

Some dresses distinctly reflect their fashion era. The one Lady Diana Spencer wore to marry Prince Charles was a paragon of 1980s style.

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer are shown on their wedding day at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer during their wedding ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Britain's Prince Charles kisses his bride, the former Diana Spencer, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, after their wedding on July 29, 1981. (AP Photo)

AP Photo
The bride and groom kiss.

PRINCESS KATE, 2011

The wedding of Kate Middleton to Prince William was a huge event, and the Alexander McQueen dress she wore lived up to the occasion. The New York Times has called it “the wedding dress of the decade.” We’ll see if it retains the title, or at least has some company, once Meghan Markle’s dress is revealed.

Maid of Honour, Pippa Middleton (L) holds the wedding dress of her sister Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, after her she married Britain's Prince William at Westminster Abbey, in central London April 29, 2011. Prince William married his fiancee, Kate Middleton, in Westminster Abbey on Friday. (ROYAL WEDDING/SERVICE) RREUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY ROYALS) - LR2E74T172DAA

Reuters/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, marries Prince William in 2011.
Exhibition curator, Caroline de Guitaut, adjusts the wedding dress of Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, at Buckingham Palace in London July 20, 2011. Buckingham Palace expects record crowds this summer as up to 650,000 people are set to file into Queen Elizabeth's London residence and past the dress worn by Kate Middleton at her royal wedding to Prince William. The ivory and white garment, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, won over the fashion press and public when Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge and a future queen, walked up the aisle of Westminster Abbey in April. Picture taken July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Lewis Whyld/Pool (BRITAIN - Tags: ROYALS TRAVEL SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT) - GM1E77M067A01

Reuters/Lewis Whyld
Kate Middleton’s Alexander McQueen gown holds the floor at an exhibition.

Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

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Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

Darlington College staff and students help St T’s with marketing photography for its cache of donated wedding dresses

Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

 

Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

 

Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

 

 

As the country is gripped by royal wedding fever, Ian Lamming discovers it has spread to one of the region’s most popular charity stores thanks to the generosity of a local business

AS a charity shop, St T’s is well versed in unusual donations. But staff could have been forgiven for thinking they were being led down the aisle when the offer of 72 wedding dresses came in.

Periodically, Bexbrides of Hurworth, near Darlington, has surplus stock and rather than stick it on eBay or into the trade, owner Rebecca (Bex) Lombard-Earl donates it to a worthy cause. St T’s is the chain of charity shops and a superstore operated by St Teresa’s Hospice, which provides services to patients and their families in Darlington, South Durham and North Yorkshire.

Fashion: Local business donates wedding dresses to St Teresa’s

Darlington College staff and students help St T’s with marketing photography for its cache of donated wedding dresses

Prince Charles avoids wedding chatter to talk sustainable fashion

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When Prince Charles met British fashion designers, retailers and editors on Wednesday, he succeeded in steering conversation away from wedding dresses and on to clothes made from salvaged plastics and the prospects for reviving Scottish wool production.

The royal has long been a connoisseur and patron of traditional British menswear, but his interest in sustainability aligns him with the more hipster end of the fashion spectrum.

This visit was in support of the work of the Positive Fashion initiative, which promotes sustainability, best social and environmental practice, equality and local production.

Over sandwiches and mini Victoria sponge cakes at this spring’s most fashionable new London venue, the new White City outpost of the members’ club empire Soho House, the prince declined the modish cocktails made with Seedlip non-alcoholic “gin” and cucumber in favour of a cup of tea.

Prince Charles
 Prince Charles is accompanied by the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group CEO, Federico Marchetti, in White City, west London. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

He admitted he was looking forward to the wedding on Saturday but preferred to discuss offering the use of his nettles (“I’ve got lots of those”) to Vin and Omi, a “responsible luxury” brand that produces organic fabric from plants from the Cotswolds and plastic bottles salvaged from cleanup projects.

The prince discussed how to bolster the British wool industry with Amy Powney, who has invested the prize money she was awarded last year by the prestigious British Fashion Council/Vogue Fashion Fund in making her east London label, Mother of Pearl, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

He also met Bethany Williams, a young designer using clothes to support women’s rehabilitation. For her latest collection, waste materials were woven into fabric by women at a drug rehab facility in Italy, before being constructed by prisoners at HMP Downview in Sutton in a scheme designed to teach women workplace skills.

The Prince of Wales is shown sustainable clothing.
 The Prince of Wales is shown sustainable clothing. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

The prince’s look was pure Savile Row – double-breasted suit tailored by the 112-year-old house Anderson & Sheppard, silk tie with a miniature elephant motif, striped Turnbull & Asser shirt – but the message was in tune with the mood of modernity and diversity being championed by a royal family who, from Saturday, will include a mixed-race woman with a successful career, a previous marriage and clear political views as a (de facto) princess.

Coming soon after the Queen’s surprise front row turn at London fashion week in February, it appears to signal a change in direction from the palace. Royal strategists have latched on to the fashion industry as a public platform because it is seen as modern and dynamic – and less likely to stir up any fractiousness between royals and the media.

In a pre-wedding week dominated by publicity around Thomas Markle Sr’s staged paparazzi photos, the White City event, in support of an industry that contributes £29.7bn in GDP to the UK economy and supports 850,000 jobs, hit a welcome positive note.