Royal wedding: Dress embroiderers were kept in the dark

Images showing the Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress as stepped out of Westminster Abbey The embroiderers washed their hands every 30 minutes to keep the lace pristine

Who designed the most anticipated dress of the century was the secret that everyone wanted to know - including the people making it.

It has emerged that the embroiderers who beautifully hand crafted Kate Middleton's dress did not know the designer's identity until shortly before the public announcement.

The embroiderers said they were thrilled the dress - designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen - received a rapturous reception when it was finally revealed.

Anne Butcher, 44, from Sandhurst, Berkshire, said: "We've all enjoyed the experience. It's a once in a lifetime chance. We've worked as a team and we are pleased with the response to the dress."

Jenny Adin-Christie, 33, from Chessington, Surrey, said: "It makes it worth all the years of training as an embroiderer."

Hand washing

While Amanda Ewing, 36, from Workington, Cumbria, simply said: "It was an amazing experience."

Close-up of embroidery technique used to make the royal wedding dress Jenny Adin-Christie, 33, an embroiderer from Chessington, helped to create the Duchess's dress

They all hope the Duchess of Cambridge will come to see them some time.

Lace featured heavily in the dress, with it having a lace applique bodice and skirt, and veil.

The lace work was carried out at the studios of the Royal School of Needlework (RSN), at Hampton Court Palace by embroiderers aged from 19 to in their 70s.

They had to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the lace and threads pristine, and the needles were renewed every three hours, to keep them sharp and clean.

International effort

The dress had a series of lace motifs including a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The dress in detail

Duchess of Cambridge
  • 1. The 1936 Cartier "halo" tiara was lent to the bride by the Queen
  • 2. The veil is made of layers of soft, ivory silk tulle with a trim of hand-embroidered flowers
  • 3. The bodice, narrowed at the waist and padded at the hips, is a hallmark of McQueen's designs
  • 4. For the dress, individual flowers were hand-cut from lace and sewn onto ivory silk tulle
  • 5. The train measures 2m 70cm
  • 6. The shoes (hidden), made of satin with hand-embroidered lace, were also Alexander McQueen

Each motif, some as small as a five pence piece, was applied with minute stitches every two to three millimetres.

The design and process was influenced by traditional Carrickmacross lace which originated in Ireland in the 1820s.

The lace is worked by applying organdie fabric to a delicate net background and edging each motif with fine cord-like thread.

The multi-national team, who mainly worked part time, comprised RSN studio staff, former staff, tutors, graduates and current students from its educational programmes.

It included British, Japanese, American, Chinese, Swiss, Dutch, Thai, German and Slovakian students.

RSN chief executive Susan Kay-Williams said: "We didn't know who the designer was until shortly before the public was told. That seemed appropriate.

"We understand that the duchess had a great part to play in it and we would love it if she would come to see our work some time, accompanied by the duke of course."

And although the dress has been seen by millions of people around the world, it is still shrouded in secrecy as Dr Kay-Williams declined to say how many people had worked on the project or when it started or finished.

Ms Burton said designing the royal wedding dress had been the "experience of a lifetime".

She said she was incredibly honoured to be asked to create the historic dress, saying she had "enjoyed every moment of it" and the bride had looked "stunning".

The designer joined Alexander McQueen's studio in 1996 as an intern, working alongside him on his collections for 12 years before he took his own life in February 2010.

She was named creative director of the Alexander McQueen label the following May.

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