Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz and HRH Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant
December 4, 1999
Every wedding I've been to in the last several years has featured the bride in a strapless dress. If it's not strapless, then it's at least something that shows off some cleavage, or has a form-fitting shape to make her feel sexy on her big day. Emphasis on religion and regal behavior make royal weddings no place for these kinds of trends.
Of course, just as there are bridal trends that you'll never see at a royal wedding, there are royal wedding trends that you'll never see elsewhere: gargantuan trains and veils, for example. Unless you're Mariah Carey, there's no way you're tacking a 25-foot train and veil to your dress without a genuine tiara on your head.
With such a difference between "regular" bridal fashion and royal bridal fashion, you have to wonder if the royal brides ever feel trapped. What if a royal wedding dress just isn't your style?
Enter the coat/dress combo. Instead of just sucking it up and putting your giant dress on, a wedding coat allows the royal bride to have, in effect, two dresses: one nice and covered up with the requisite giant train for the cathedral ceremony, and underneath, whatever kind of dress her heart desires.
The best example of this smart bridal solution has to be Princess Mathilde, future Queen of the Belgians.
When Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz married HRH Prince Philippe, Duke of Brabant and heir apparent to the Belgian throne, she got no say in how long her veil would be. She would be wearing an antique veil, first worn on 1877 and passed down in Queen Paola's family ever since. I suppose she could have rebelled, but is that really how you want to kick things off with your mother-in-law? Especially when she holds the keys to the family jewel vault?
The veil alone was 3 meters long - nearly 10 feet.
Another challenge facing Mathilde was the weather - this was a December wedding. Royal brides don't get the luxury of running from a warm car to a warm building and back; no, there is waving to be done, pictures to be posed for, balconies begging to be kissed upon. Good thing we have coat dresses, huh?
The flared collar is what's taking the dress into extraordinary territory. An excellent move by designer Edouard Vermeulen of NATAN. Also magnificent: the tiara.
Nothing says "I'm a princess, damn it!" like erecting a wall of diamonds on your head. She borrowed this one from the Queen. (See, don't upset your new mama! Of course, she hasn't been allowed to borrow it again since the wedding, so....) The placement of the tiara with the veil and the hairstyle underneath is perfection.
I've never seen a picture of the dress underneath, but have read that it was a rather simple, sleeveless sheath dress, which sounds right up Mathilde's aisle. Well played, Your Royal Highness.
Honorable mention goes to Princess Märtha Louise of Norway, whose coat dress was nearly a tie with this one, and would have certainly made the Top 11!
Click here to see the complete Top 10 list!
Photos: Allover Press/Fotomarktplazt.de/Polfoto/RTBF/Olycom/Corbis