Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress - On Show at Kensington Palace, London

by KathleenDuffy

Like all weddings, the bridal gown is the main focus of public attention. Queen Victoria's wedding dress, trimmed with Honiton lace, was no exception.

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress is now on display at Kensington Palace, having undergone extensive conservation work. This beautiful dress, which has links to the once thriving Devon lace industry, is now part of the 'Victoria Revealed' exhibition. This superb exhibition is the central attraction at Kensington Palace, which opened in March 2012 after a massive refurbishment.

This Kensington Palace exhibition will be an opportunity for the public to have a close-up of a unique royal wedding gown and for brides-to-be to find inspiration!

Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress - A Dream in Silk and Lace

Queen Victoria in Her Wedding Dress
Queen Victoria in Her Wedding Dress

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married on Monday, 10th February 1840 in the Chapel Royal, St James Palace. In their book, Queen Victoria’s Wedding Dress and Lace  Kay Staniland and Santina Levey give a detailed description of the royal wedding dress.

The material used is a creamy coloured, silk satin woven at Spitalfields. After the fashion of the day, the design is simple.

I'll go into some detail here for those who find vintage dress construction fascinating!

The bodice is made up of eight pieces, consisting of a low, wide neckline. The bodice seams are boned. The pointed waist rests on the natural waistline and there are full double puffed sleeves and a separately-made, attached skirt consisting of seven widths of material. The fullness of the waist is captured in wide pleats. The waistband measures 25” (63.50cms) (yes - 25" waist!) and the circumference of the hem is 139” (353 cm).

 The dress is lined with white silk and the neck, sleeves and waist edges are finished with piping and hooks with bars are positioned on the centre-back fastening.

Sew a Beautiful Wedding!

Sew a Beautiful Wedding

Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress - Honiton Lance

Queen Victoria & Prince Albert

There are four pieces of original Honiton lace remaining on the dress. The neck edge has a 1¾” (4.5cm) band of lace. The Bertha collar (a wide collar made from lace or fine fabric) is 5½” (14cm) deep at the centre-front, eventually reaching the sleeves to a length of 7½” (19cm). The sleeves have frills of 2½” (6.3cm) to the front which lengthen just below the elbow to 8 5/8” (21.8cm). These frills are repeated, but on a smaller scale, on the veil and skirt flounce (a very wide ruffle at the hem).

Honiton LaceNearly done!

The flounce itself if 25 ½” (65cm) deep with a circumference of four yards (366 cm). It has an intricate design of stems supporting exotic flowers and leaves. The flounce is then backed with machine made cotton net.

I am exhausted just reading about the construction of this dress - we have to admire the ladies of Devon who worked so hard to make such delicate lacework.

An interesting diversion - if you like the Pre-Raphaelites - , whilst researching their book, Stansted and Levy discovered that the designer of the intricate flounce lace was the Pre-Raphaelite painter, William Dyce. Dyce was an influential artist yet had always been keenly interested and absorbed by design, in particular the French school)

We mustn't forget the veil!

The veil is a square of the same matching cotton net measuring 55½” (141cm). The pattern is along the borders only and is of an open pattern.

Queen Victoria on her Wedding Day

According to authors Staniland and Levey the main pattern pieces of the high quality bobbin lace are worked with fine cotton thread and comprise:

  • Fine dense cloth work
  • Delicate half stitch  shading
  • Raised work
  • Decorative fillings –  ncluding vrai drochel, leaf, star and  circle motifs sometimes linked by narrow leadwork or pearl bars.

The Honiton Lace Industry in Devon

 

Here's some information about the Honitan lace  industry in Devon that played such a crucial part in Queen Victoria's wedding dress design.

The Honiton lace on Queen Victoria’s wedding dress was a boost for the Devon lace industry. At the time of this commission Devon lacemakers were in dire straits. The most popular lace for brides of this period was Brussels point lace. Therefore, when the Queen commissioned Honiton lace from Devon in 1837, the two hundred lace workers who worked the lace were extremely grateful to the Queen. In fact, the lace was worked a few miles from Honiton itself, in the village of Beer.

Charles DickensStansted and Levy  suggest that Queen Victoria learned much about the lives of her subjects through reading the novels of Charles Dickens. This may well have influenced her decision to support the ailing Devon lace industry.

The woman responsible for the superintending and production of the lace was Miss Jane Bidney, a native of Beer. According to family tradition, when Miss Bidney was waiting to see the Queen in order to formally receive the Royal Commission, this poor woman was so nervous that she passed out!

 

 

Satin Lace Pearl Bridal Gloves

Beaded Lace Ivory Satin Bridal Gloves

A Simple Royal Wedding Dress with Public Approval

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress followed the fashion of the day which favoured simplicity of design and antique lace embellishment. Even the train of the dress, which was six yards long, replaced the traditional robes of state. It was a delicate, white satin trimmed with orange blossom.

Public interest in the royal wedding was so intense that a special edition of The Times of 11th February sold 30,000 copies, and Madam Tussaud’s Waxworks displayed models of the bridal group for months after the event.

Public interest in the royal wedding dress and the resulting royal wedding fever is certainly nothing new!

Source:

Queen Victoria's Wedding Dress and Lace by Kay Staniland and Santina M. Levey (Museum of London)

To see the dress in all its glory at the Victoria Revealed exhibition,  visit Kensington Palace.  Here is their website with times, entrance fee, etc.

 

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Updated: on 07/13/2013, KathleenDuffy
 
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KathleenDuffy on 04/30/2013

Yes - I think the silk was woven in Spitalfields, East London. There is the tradition there of Huguenot silk weaver immigrants fleeing from France and settling there in 17th/18th centuries. Spitalfields is a fascinating place!

2uesday on 04/30/2013

I think the silk used in Victoria's dress was produced in Englan.. This tradition for the royal family continued and Diana's wedding gown was produced using English silk, but that it was not available to use for Katherine's wedding dress.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were good at promoting English design, by their own use and encouragement of the products of the day including her influence on fashion as a young woman.

KathleenDuffy on 04/30/2013

Thanks Ruby - Yes - it's a great combination.

RubyHelenRose on 04/30/2013

satin and lace, my favorite, great historical information!

KathleenDuffy on 04/28/2013

Yes - the attention to detail is incredible! The book that I used for the article has lots of close up pics of the detailed work, but unfortunately I couldn't use them due to copyright restrictions. Thanks for your post Dustytoes.

Dustytoes on 04/28/2013

It's really amazing all the work that goes into making a wedding gown! And then there's the veil...



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