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Kate wears timeless Sarah Burton dress to marry her prince

By Laura Allsop for CNN
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Catherine shows off her dress
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Catherine Middleton's wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton
  • Royal bride wears V-neck, floor-length, ivory and white satin gown
  • British Vogue fashion editor says choice of dress accurately reflects Catherine's style
  • Burton of Alexander McQueen was frontrunner for dress designer

London (CNN) -- She arrived at Westminster Abbey as Kate Middleton and left the Duchess of Cambridge -- and her dress for the occasion couldn't have been more fitting.

Kate walked down the aisle to meet her prince in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen designed dress. Befitting her signature elegant, timeless style, the floor-length, ivory and white satin gazar gown featured a heart-shaped-neck, demure, long sleeves, and a full skirt with train that measured 2 meters and 70 cm, and a veil.

The bodice, meanwhile, was made from ivory satin, and drew from Victorian traditions of corsetry -- a hallmark of the late Lee Alexander McQueen's designs that brand Creative Director Sarah Burton continues to pay tribute to.

Burton was the frontrunner for some time for the much-speculated-about dress and is known for her exceptional tailoring and for the softer, more feminine approach she brings to the late McQueen's celebrated, avant-garde label.

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"It has been the experience of a lifetime to work with Catherine Middleton to create her wedding dress, and I have enjoyed every moment of it," said Burton in a press statement.

"The last few months have been very exciting and an incredible experience for my team and I as we have worked closely with Catherine to create this dress under conditions of the strictest secrecy," Burton continued.

Click here to see images of Catherine's dress

Calgary Avansino, executive fashion editor at British Vogue, said the choice of dress accurately reflects Catherine's style and shows a blossoming fashion sense likely to mature as she settles into her new role.

"I think initially when it started leaking out, that Sarah Burton would be designing the dress, I was a little bit surprised," Avansino said.

"I think the only fear people had with a McQueen dress was that it would be overly-dramatic and theatrical for her and how she dresses, but Sarah's done it brilliantly," she said, adding that it looked very much as though the bride had the final say on what she wore.

Premier bridal designer Vera Wang agreed, saying the design of a wedding dress "is always a collaborative piece of work."

The beautiful and understated dress was made with hand-cut English lace while French Chantilly lace was used throughout the bodice and skirt. Kate complemented the look with a veil and Cartier tiara that once belonged to the late Queen Mother.

McQueen is of the newer crop, it's edgier and it shows she's going to carve her own fashion path
--James Fallon, Editor, Women's Wear Daily

The now Duchess of Cambridge was successful throughout her engagement in keeping the choice of dress a secret, despite intense media scrutiny and a leak that Burton would be designing it.

Burton denied rumors, throwing many off the scent and prompting speculation that it would be designed by one-time McQueen employee Sophie Cranston. But she was spotted on the morning of the wedding entering the Goring Hotel, where the bride was staying.

Burton also created the dress of Philippa Middleton, Catherine's sister and maid of honor. Befitting her more relaxed but nonetheless elegant style, Philippa wore a slim-line, ivory satin-based crepe dress with cowl neck and cap sleeves. The four bridesmaids wore sweet dresses with full skirts and bows at the back by children's-wear designer Nicki Macfarlane.

It is the first time that the new Duchess of Cambridge has stepped out in Alexander McQueen and according to James Fallon, editor of indispensable U.S. fashion trade journal Women's Wear Daily, the choice makes a bold statement about where her fashion sense may be headed.

I think the only fear people had with a McQueen dress was that it would be overly-dramatic and theatrical for her and how she dresses, but Sarah's done it brilliantly
--Calgary Avansino, Executive Fashion Editor, British Vogue
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"It shows that Kate isn't afraid of taking a modern route. There was all the speculation about designers such as Bruce Oldfield or Catherine Walker, who are excellent designers, but in a more traditional sense," he said.

"McQueen is of the newer crop, it's edgier and it shows she's going to carve her own fashion path," he continued.

The choice will likely change Burton's career forever, according to Elizabeth Emanuel, who alongside husband David designed Princess Diana's meringue dress for her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981.

"It was just something that was incredible for us, it changed out lives, literally," Emanuel has said of the experience.

Fallon said that the choice of dress will have larger repercussions on the wider fashion industry, not just on the life of the lucky designer.

"There will be seamstresses sewing away like mad as we speak, trying to copy the dress and there are going to be a lot of interpretations of it at all price points," he told CNN.

But Tony Glenville, creative director at the prestigious London College of Fashion, said that while cheap knock-offs will doubtless start making the rounds, the dress is actually very hard to copy successfully.

What is special about the dress, he said, is the way it distills a particularly British sense of style and the way it celebrates home-grown craftmanship.

"It strengthens us for what we do really well, which is grand occasion wear," he said.

"What's beautiful about the dress is that from a distance it's a superb, strong silhouette, in that very big space, but in huge close-up on camera, there's exquisite detail from the Royal College of Needlework," he continued.

Catherine Middleton's style has been pored over ever since her engagement to Prince William was announced in November, and been a subject of some debate among fashion journalists, with some applauding her relaxed but chic manner of dressing while others have labeled it conservative and even dull.

Both Fallon and Avansino agreed that the appointment will be a huge boost to the Alexander McQueen label and a great boost to Burton's profile, who has so far only designed two collections since Lee Alexander McQueen tragically took his own life last year.

"It's especially important for Sarah, McQueen is well known and after his death she had to take over and prove that she could do as well as he had and I think this really showcases that," Avansino said.

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