How Duchess Kate's classic wedding dress completely changed bridal trends

By Heather Cichowski

No one will forget the incredible dress Duchess Kate wore when she married Prince William at Westminster Abbey in London on April 29, 2011. She was wearing a custom Alexander McQueen gown, which was designed by the house's Creative Director, Sarah Burton. It was a standout moment in the history of the Royal Family, and Kate's dress became an instant classic.

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge mark their 10th wedding anniversary in 2021, Kate's bridal fashion remains the pinnacle for many brides to be.

"She personified what a modern day princess should look like on her wedding day, the Kate effect was instant," Andrea Anastasiou, owner of WHITE TORONTO and WHITE MONTREAL said, adding the gown was "a somewhat edgier choice for a royal wedding" at the time.

"[The dress] was a bit low in the front, and sheer to show off the needle point lace. Classic, but with youthfulness."

The Duchess of Cambridge's breathtakingly beautiful wedding gown featured a boned bodice with sweetheart neckline and a fitted waist. The style boasted slightly padded hips and a full skirt. The bodice, skirt and underskirt featured trim that was crafted out of English and French Chantilly lace. There were hand-cut flowers embellished onto the ivory silk tulle using a Carrickmacross lace technique.

Kate's dress remains as iconic today as it did in April 2011. Photo: © Chris Jackson/Getty Images

MORE: The special details you may have missed from these royal brides' wedding day looks

Bridal expert Jennifer Dang of Ferré Sposa Bridal Boutique in Toronto said prior to Kate and William's 2011 royal wedding, popular bridal styles included cap sleeves, strapless designs, drop waists and keyhole backs. She noted layers of lace, chiffon and tulle were popular fabrics at the time, but satin was not on trend. Sheer styles were also not in vogue.

The Duchess of Cambridge has influenced bridal trends over the last decade. Photo: © Getty Images

After Kate graced Westminster Abbey in her bespoke dress, these trends notably began to change, even though the Duchess of Cambridge's gown was crafted with timelessness in mind.

"The royals define what a 'classic' wedding dress is; they are always a marker for this," Jennifer explained. "Following their wedding, we had an increase in request for simpler lace detailing."

Andrea agreed.

"Brides were definitely inspired by this, asking for more sleeves, V-necklines, fuller A-line skirts," she added.

"We noticed many brides shopping for traditional wedding dresses similar to Kate’s. The biggest request was sleeves," said Kleinfeld Co-Owner Mara Urshel. "Immediately following the wedding, we had a limited selection of sleeves but we were able to accommodate brides by building a custom sleeve or offering them the option of a bolero or shrug."

Duchess Kate's wedding look also caused bridal designers to shift what they were doing.

"All the bridal designers were also inspired by her choice at the time, and to some degree we can still see influences today with more long sleeves," said Andrea to HELLO! Canada.

"Bridal fashion in 2011 was just mainly still strapless, there was a nod to short gowns with overskirts, the slit was just starting to become a thing, the vintage 20s influence was still being seen – still two years before Great Gatsby, but we had a strong push in the Art Deco direction.

"Then along came Kate with long lace sleeves and A-line ballgown. It did inspire so many women to think more regal, more classic and more covered up," explained Andrea. "We definitely saw a push to long sleeves and full skirts. We had many brides asking for that 'look'... it was requested on the daily!"

"After Kate’s wedding, many bridal designers were scrambling to create designs influenced by her dress. About six months later, the market was flooded with long sleeve lace dresses to choose from," said Mara. "As our Merchandising team carefully selected the best of the best in the market, those gowns arrived in-store an additional many months later. By Kate’s one year wedding anniversary, we had a very large selection of dresses influenced by her."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony at Buckingham Palace following their wedding at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011 in London. Photo: © Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images

The "Kate Effect" in bridalwear remains prevalent today.

According to HELLO! UK, Pinterest revealed earlier this week that searches for "Kate Middleton Wedding Dress" have increased by a whopping 70 per cent in the weeks leading up to her and William's milestone 10th anniversary and compared to last year in the U.K. Similarly, between April 2020 and April 2021, "long sleeved lace wedding dress" searches have doubled in popularity. In Canada, "Kate Middleton" searches doubled during the period and "simple long sleeve wedding dress" went up by 42 per cent.

Pinterest has noted even with the coronavirus pandemic causing vast changes to weddings, there is still an interest in royal wedding inspiration. For example, the website has seen a 55 per cent year-on-year increase in "princess wedding dress" searches.

"Today, the traditional bride will always go for a similar style – or play off – what Kate did," continued Jennifer. "Now, every year, I see several designers coming out with a design that is a playoff of Kate’s dress.

"It took a few years, as trends always take to hit the main market, for satin to return as the on trend fabric – which it is today! Bridal trends almost have a 10-year cycle and we’re overdue!

"Long sleeves are definitely on trend today, they were appearing as a trend over the last couple of years but today, we have more options than we ever had – I definitely think this is a result of Kate’s influence 10 years ago."

Andrea said the brides of today are inspired by the red carpet and their social communities at large, but the Duchess of Cambridge is still in their minds.

"Now we can say that the 'Kate Effect' is having a quieter moment. Still referenced for a classic approach to bridal dressing, or regal approach," she said.

"Ten years later, Kate’s wedding ceremony and reception dresses still influence what 2021 brides are seeking – not a replica gown, per se (although elegance and simplicity will never be out of style) – but the aura her style depicted," said Brittany Roe, owner of Union Bridal in Vancouver.

She continued, "From the romantic lace long sleeve and A-line ceremony dress to the classic satin strapless reception gown, Kate Middleton’s wedding fashion will continue to influence our industry in the same iconic way Princess Diana’s dress has. Traditional with flair and timeless."

"Kate Middleton’s dress has left a long-lasting impression on brides-to-be. Presently, we are still selling lots of dresses with lace and sleeves but with a more modern approach," says Mara about Kleinfeld brides. "Those two design attributes (lace and sleeves) are also still the most popular categories searched on our website."

"On a daily basis immediately after the royal wedding, we would get calls and emails from brides requesting her style," revealed Jennifer. "We definitely still get those calls now."

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