A Brief History of Royal Wedding Dresses

On Friday, Princess Eugenie wed Jack Brooksbank in a chic, open-back wedding dress by the British designer Peter Pilotto. She follows in the footsteps of another royal bride, Meghan Markle, who opted for a simple boatneck dress by another British designer, Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller. While the royal wedding dress pendulum has swung recently to more minimal designs, Princess Diana’s epic wedding dress, and that of Sarah, Duchess of York, will still be favorites even if the styles were very ’80s. Both Princess Anne and Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, wore wedding dresses that were very in tune with their times; Princess Anne wore a ’70s style dress with dramatic sleeves, and the Queen Mother wore a very roaring ’20s beaded gown. Alas, our favorite may still be Kate Middleton‘s wedding dress—it was about as Princess Bride as one could have hoped for. See below for nearly 100 years worth of elegant royal wedding dresses.

Princess Eugenie

Notably, for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank on October 12, 2018, Princess Eugenie chose to wear a dress by Peter Pilotto that specifically showed off the long scar down her back. The scar was from a major back surgery she underwent as a 12 year old, to cure scoliosis. Today, Princess Eugenie is the patron of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, the hospital that did her surgery. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

At her wedding in May 2018, Meghan Markle wore a gown by British designer Clare Waight Keller. Her veil featured embroidery of flora representing all 53 Commonwealth countries, as well as a poppy, the flower of Markle’s home state of California. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

Kate Middleton wore a custom gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, made in English and Chantilly lace and satin gazar, for her wedding to Prince William on April 29, 2011. The dress featured roses, lily, and shamrocks and was made using 19-century needlework techniques. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall wore an overcoat and dress designed by Antonia Robinson and Anna Valentine, with shoes by L.K. Bennett, for her wedding to Charles, the Prince of Wales, on April 9, 2005. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

Photo courtesy of Getty Images. Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, wore a design by Samantha Shaw, and was able to take of the coat-like layer to reveal and evening gown for revelry after the official ceremony on June 19, 1999.

Sarah, Duchess of York

For wedding to Prince Andrew, Duke of York, on July 23, 1986, Sarah Ferguson wore a dress by Lindka Cierach, which was beaded with heart and anchor symbols. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana wore a silk taffeta gown with a 25-foot train, and a 153-yard long veil by David and Elizabeth Emanuel for her wedding to Prince Charles on July 29, 1981. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Princess Anne

For Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips ceremony in 1973, the princess wore a dress designed by Maureen Baker for Susan Small, and featured elegant draped sleeves. It was quite close to the wedding dress trends of the time.

Queen Elizabeth II

A look at Princess Elizabeth, future Queen Elizabeth II, on her wedding day to Prince Philip on November 20, 1947. The fabric for the wedding dress had to be purchased using ration stamps, as in 1947, the British government was still rationing many products. The designer, Norman Hartnell, embroidered jasmine, lilac, and other flowers on the dress, whose design was said to be inspired by the Botticelli’s Primavera. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

Inspired by the drop waist style ushered in by Coco Chanel, the embroidered gown was created by Queen Mary’s court dressmaker, Madame Handley Seymour, for Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon for her wedding to the Duke of York (and later George VI) on April 26, 1923. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.