When Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in an intimate ceremony last month, she chose to wear a beautiful vintage gown, which originally belonged to her grandma, the Queen.
The Norman Hartness dress was first worn by Beatrice’s granny in 1961 at a state dinner, then again at the 1966 State Opening of Parliament.
Beatrice had the dress specially fitted, and small sleeves added. She also wore the same tiara the Queen wore on her own wedding day. It was a clear nod to her close relationship with her grandma, and friends say the choice of outfit was “touching for both of them.”
It’s something that isn’t uncommon for people to do at home, repurposing their grandmothers’ stunning vintage gowns for their own special day, but what makes it so popular?
We asked two women who wore their grandmother’s wedding dresses why saying “I do” in a family heirloom meant so much.
Skye married Kevin in 2016, wearing the dress her grandma wore in 1948
“I always knew I wanted to wear my grandma’s wedding dress. There had been a picture of her on her wedding day hanging above the piano in her house for as long as I could remember. My family and I often joked that I had my wedding planned…all I needed was a groom!”
“My great aunt bought the material from the dress when she was in England, just after the war. She used ration coupons to buy it and made it herself for my grandma.
I”t’s a cream patterned silk with a lace collar and a chapel train – which was one of the parts I always loved the most about it.”
“In fact, the women in my family all loved it so much that it’s been worn a few times – by my Grandma’s sister, my mum, my auntie and my cousin! Remarkably, it only has a few age spots and dry cleaning the dress before I wore it meant you couldn’t see them at all.”
“I did very few alterations to the dress. We sewed in a cream silk panel down the back so the buttons weren’t ‘stressed’, and I wore an underskirt too.
I was so happy when I put it on – it was really the one thing I was always so sure about for my wedding day. Everyone who had worn the dress before me was there on the day too, which was very special. I was very proud to wear it.”
“Now the dress is stored at my mum’s house. I have a six-month old son, so if the dress isn’t worn again, I hope he might want to use some other precious things from our wedding such as our silk flowers or cake topper.
“If the dress is worn again, all I can hope is that whoever it is passed on to has it tastefully altered and doesn’t cut it up – that would be devastating.”
Julia married Lance in 2016, wearing the dress her grandma wore in 1953
“Years before I got married, my mother and I were cleaning out my grandmother’s attic, and we found the dress.
“It was such a stained mess that she didn’t even recognise it, even though she had also worn it to marry my dad in 1983. She literally threw it down the stairs to me and told me to try it on as a joke.”
My grandpa walked past and said: “I see you’ve found your dress!”
“I took it home so that when I got married one day I could repurpose a bit of the lace into a ring pillow or something. When I was in college we started half-joking about upcycling the dress to save some money, and after Lance proposed, I decided to try the dress on.”
“It was very damaged, an unflattering fit, but by then I loved the idea of wearing a family dress to my wedding. My grandmother and father had both passed away before I met Lance, so I felt that including details from their wedding days would make my day extra special.”
“The original dress was gorgeous with a long-sleeved removable jacket, but it was damaged beyond repair.
We used what was salvageable to create a V-neck top with ruched straps over the original sweetheart bodice, which was also damaged.
A new satin waistband helped blend the repaired top into the skirt and made it fit properly. I also wore a crinoline underskirt for added volume; my grandmother had used a hoop underneath.”
“I loved the process of restoring and redesigning the dress with my mother, we had so much fun doing it together.
“On my wedding day, my grandfather Harold walked me down the aisle – I was the third woman he had walked with in this dress, so a very special moment.”
“Today, the dress is hanging in a spare cupboard, looking for a new home as I rearrange the house to make room for a nursery. We’re expecting our daughter in a few months’ time, and while I’d be tickled pink if she wanted to wear the dress, I’m not sure the fabric could handle one more dance, let alone another round of alterations.
“But I’ll have it ready for her if she ever wants it.”