Guests, celebrities and a handful of enthusiastic royalists descended on Windsor on Friday for the second royal wedding in the town this year, that of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank.
And just like Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, who managed to keep the designer behind her wedding dress a secret until she arrived on the steps of St. George’s Chapel in May, Eugenie, 28, kept onlookers guessing until the very last minute. However, the younger daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, ninth in line to the British throne, had offered several hints as to her brand of choice in the months before her big day.
“I’m not telling anyone who is making it, but I can say it is a British-based designer,” the princess told British Vogue this summer. The dress, she said, “is the one thing that I was really decisive about. As soon as we announced the wedding, I knew the designer, and the look, straight away.”
On a blustery autumn morning where guests quite literally had to hold onto their hats, the grand reveal finally arrived. The princess had chosen Peter Pilotto, a London-based fashion house with two creative directors, Pilotto and his partner, Christopher de Vos, to create a showstopping silk-jacquard gown that felt like a perfect choice for a modern-day princess.
The dress was simple and elegant: white, pure and sculptural with long sleeves, a portrait neckline that folded around her shoulders, and a specially designed sweeping back that showed off the bride’s scars from an operation to straighten her spine. In a television interview this week, the princess had hinted that she wanted her wedding gown to showcase the scars as she paid tribute to the hospital and doctors that had performed her surgery in 2002 following a diagnosis of scoliosis.
In a break with tradition, the bride did not wear a veil. She did, however, wear the dazzling Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara, lent to her by her grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Created by the French jewellery house Boucheron in 1921, the tiara is made of brilliant- and rose-cut diamond pave set in platinum, with six emeralds on either side of the main stone. It was bequeathed by Dame Margaret Greville to Queen Elizabeth in 1942. And in another royal touch, Pilotto and de Vos had created the dress from a bespoke jacquard fabric that featured symbols meaningful to the bride as motifs. A thistle representing Scotland is a tribute to the royal couple’s beloved Balmoral, the queen’s estate in Scotland, for example, while the Irish shamrock a nod to Eugenie’s Ferguson family.
The bride also wore Charlotte Olympia shoes, and a pair of diamond and emerald drop earrings, a wedding day gift from Brooksbank, whom she dated for eight years after meeting him on a skiing holiday in Verbier, Switzerland.
Pilotto and de Vos, who first met while studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, are best known for their colourful and graphic aesthetic, which was on display at their most recent runway show at London Fashion Week last month.
But unlike Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen and Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy, the designers who created the wedding gowns of the Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex, neither Pilotto nor de Vos are actually British, making Eugenie’s choice, whether consciously or not, a prime example of the potential complications and consequences of the looming Brexit, and what “Britishness” actually means.
The designers are, rather, Austrian-Italian (Pilotto) and Belgian-Peruvian (de Vos). Despite being based in London since the launch of his namesake brand in 2007, Pilotto has also said that with 70 per cent of his team born outside Britain (including himself and de Vos), depending on the terms negotiated as part of Britain’s exit from the European Union “people will have to migrate again.”