How the Queen’s dressmaker used tea to get the royal christening gown to look just right

By Zach Harper

There are few things more British than the Royal Family and tea, and these two UK institutions came together in 2004 when the Queen’s dressmaker, Angela Kelly, needed to recreate the royal christening gown.

In her new book, The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, Angela writes about how she and fellow dressmaker Barbara Buckfield (aka June) were asked to make a new version of the classic garment. The original was made of Spitalfields silk and Honiton lace in 1841 in the days of Queen Victoria’s reign, and had been worn by the current Queen during her own christening, along with 62 other babies. But it had aged, and was too fragile to use, so a new one had to be created.

Duchess Kate holding Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at their christenings in 2013, 2015 and 2018, respectively. All three are wearing the replica Honiton gown. Photos: © John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images, Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images and Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The result was a nine-month process in which Angela and June travelled to Italy to source lace and then created a replica back in the UK.

“To make sure it looked authentic, we dyed it in Yorkshire tea (the strongest, as we all know),” Angela wrote in the book. Excerpts from the book were recently serialized in Issue 686 of HELLO! Canada.

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“We placed each piece of lace in a small bowl, from the Dressers’ Kitchen, filled with cool water and a tea bag, and left it for about five minutes, checking regularly until the colour was perfect,” Angela continued.

“At each stage of the process, I would show our progress to the Queen: first the bodice, then the sleeves attached to it, then the skirt with the under-layers on, and finally the completed robe. Her Majesty was very interested to see how it was developing. From start to finish, it had taken us, appropriately, nine months.”

We last saw the replica Honiton gown at Archie Harrison’s christening in July. Photo: © Chris Allerton/AFP/Getty Images

The new gown has since been worn by Prince William and Duchess Kate’s three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – along with Archie Harrison and James, Viscount Severn, Prince Edward and Countess Sophie’s son.

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