14 September 2011

Wedding Wednesday: Princess Letizia's Gown

  HRH The Prince of Asturias and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano
May 22, 2004
Madrid, Spain

I have been slowly working my way through the most notable wedding gowns in royal history since this site began, but there are still some massive holes in our coverage. One very notable omission: Princess Letizia's wedding dress. Her birthday is this week so let's just take care of that, shall we?
Personally, I think this wedding is memorable more for factors beyond the couple's control than for anything else. There was the terrorist attack two months beforehand that killed nearly 200 people, and all the talk of bulletproof cars and snipers on the procession route. Some criticized this wedding for what they felt was a rather business-like tone, but it must have been difficult to get the spirit right: a joyous day for the bride and groom, in front of a country on the mend. Then you have the rain, which came pouring down just as Letizia was set to arrive. Poor Felipe was stranded at the altar as they figured out the logistics of getting the bride to the church without drenching her. And of course there was the other wedding: they married just a week after Crown Prince Frederik married Mary Donaldson in Denmark, spawning inevitable comparisons between the two (both the weddings and the ladies - not fair on either count).
But all of that is beyond today's topic: the wedding gown. Letizia followed the advice of her future mother-in-law and sought out couturier Manuel Pertegaz for the job. Pertegaz, well into his 80s at the time, designed a dress that appears quite simple but is in reality a pattern-making wonder. He took bespoke natural silk woven with silver thread by a Valencian firm and cut it continuously from shoulder to floor, creating a gown that is slim in front and flows out into a large round train (4.5 meters, or nearly 15 feet, long) in the back.
Silver and gold threads are embroidered in shapes of fleur de lys (a symbol of the Prince of Asturias) and fleur de lys flowers, clovers, strawberry tree fruits, and ears of wheat around the sleeves and the base of the dress and train. The high collar is embroidered on both sides. The embroidery is intricate, but used sparingly, so it doesn't overpower the dress.
This gown has all the components of my favorite wedding gowns. I love a high collar, and I love the length; it's such a great match to the scale of the cathedral. Most of all, I love that there's no detachable train here, it all just flows together beautifully, and it creates an interesting train shape for a change. (I'm not a big fan of long pieces of fabric just slapped on to the back of the gown as you see sometimes.) However, what I love the most also happens to give this gown the one thing that kicks it off any list of favorite gowns for me.
Because the train isn't detachable, it pulls on the front of her skirt as she moves (she starts her walk down the aisle at about 3:17 in the video above). You can really see the effort involved with walking here; the bride, such a tiny thing to start with, looks like she's wading through a flood of fabric to get to her groom.
The accessories nearly make up for my small complaint: the Prussian Diamond Tiara on loan from Queen Sofia paired with diamond earrings that were a gift from the King and Queen, and custom shoes by Pura López. She also had at her disposal a handkerchief embroidered with the arms of her beloved and an antique fan dating from the end of the 19th century that once belonged to Princess Isabel of Bourbon.
Her veil, a gift from Felipe, topped the whole thing perfectly: three meters long and two meters wide, it was cut to echo the shape of the train. Made of off-white silk tulle, it was hand-embroidered with garlands, ears of wheat, and fleur de lys. Perhaps not an all-time favorite for me, but a memory with a smile at the least.

What did you think of Letizia's wedding gown?

Photos: Publiboda/Terra/Hola/Getty Images/AFP