If you've been following media reports regarding the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, this advice will sound familiar. For women attending a royal wedding, "hats are required, and there will be lots of big brims and fitted toques...many will wear long gloves with their short sleeves. Men should be in morning coats [or] dress uniforms."1 This advice is nearly identical to that given on a recent ABC News segment, Royal Wedding Style Guide for Guests. You might be surprised to learn that the advice referenced above actually dates from a previous royal wedding, that of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in July 1981. Though 30 years apart, the dress code specified on the invitations for both royal weddings is nearly identical.
It's interesting that neither invitation specifies appropriate feminine dress; only male attire is referenced directly. Are women expected to somehow intuit suitable dress for historic and formal weddings? The 1981 article referenced above also noted that women shouldn't wear full-length dresses (too formal) or pants (too casual). Worn by Betsy Bloomingdale to the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, this silk day dress fits the bill--neither too long nor too short, it was entirely appropriate for the occasion.
Despite the fact that nobody from the FIDM Museum was invited to the royal wedding, we've spent some time speculating about what we would wear, if invited. Though we'd never wear or try on anything in our collection, it does offer a wealth of suggestions and possibilities. Our selections are below. How about you? What would you wear to a royal wedding?
Meghan chose this late '30s crepe day dress. It was worn as a wedding dress by the donor's sister in 1939. The bride couldn't afford to purchase a single occasion dress so chose a blue dress that could be worn again.
Carolyn also selected a blue dress, dating from the early 1930s. Carolyn's selection was featured in our recent exhibition, Re-Designing History: FIDM Museum Study Collection, 1850-2000.
My selection is a floral pink 1920s dress, discussed in our post on the 1920s silhouette.
1 Hyde, Nina. "Fashion Notes." The Washington Post 31 May 1981: F2.
2 Bumiller, Elizabeth. "The First Visit: Nancy Reagan Goes to London." The Washington Post 24 July 1981: D1.