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- Going in!
- The rear of Buckingham Palace, facing the gardens, where there's a Garden Cafe open to visitors.
- A view of the palace from back in the Gardens.
- Yes, the Buckingham Palace gift shop sells a 35 GBP replica of Kate's engagement ring.
- The pile of Royal Wedding souvenirs in the Palace's gift shop. Those white things are fruit cakes and the rest is pretty much mugs and plates.
- Price list for the range of official Royal Wedding souvenirs.
It's been three months since Wills and Kate tied the royal knot, and one week since the new Duchess of Cambridge's $405,000 Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding dress went on display to the public at Buckingham Palace, with a presentation the Queen herself called "horrid." Well, the Queen has hit the road to her other palaces and the Summer Opening of the Palace means anyone can come see the gown, the shoes, the tiara, the earrings, the bouquet and the cake. We did...and survived. So what's it like?
To reach the dress, you must first tolerate a slow walk through the State Rooms of the Palace. We can think of worse things to be doing, so chillax. The gown sits in the very center of the ballroom, and it's definitely more light in there than the preview pics make it seem. The viewing is relaxed; you can either sit to watch a 15-minute video of Sarah Burton describing the production of the gown in technical terms (be prepared to hear "satin gazar" a jillion times) or continue around to get within 5 feet of the fabric itself.
No pictures are allowed inside, and an annoying black net forms a perimeter around the gown, though we understand that it wouldn't be great for a thousand tourist sneezes to give the dress a fine glazing.
Getting right up in front of the dress to space out (as we did) is easy; it's admiring the shoes that presents a challenge. The case for the earrings, bouquet and heels are the same and it's the smallest display in the place. Thus, the crowds can be four people deep. Have patience. The cake gets its own room; no rush there.
So how would we describe the dress? Not "horrid," dear Queen, but something closer to ethereal. It feels as though you're gazing upon some fairy raiment--a gown given mystery by a sprinkling of pixie dust, not by a mortal woman wearing it once. The teeny-tiny waist size just backs this up; seeing it in person gives not only gives a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship of such a garment, but also for Kate's svelte silhouette.
What to Wear to see "The Dress":
· There's no need to get gussied up. You're going to be guided around amongst hundreds of tourists, resplendent in their fannypack style and safari vests. Dress comfortably, but nice enough that you feel confident and pretty. There will be moments of walking up or down grand staircases, and through gilded rooms; don't neglect to feel those moments for yourself. We recommend a simple jersey maxi dress or flowing sundress.
· This isn't the Vatican. You have a right to bare arms and don shorts here; just don't put the "uck" in Buckingham Palace by going skimpy.
· Leave the high heels home. This palace has some damned thick carpeting. You will wobble. Low heels should be fine, and wedges most definitely, but it's really the perfect time to break out those Louboutin flats, the scarlet soles of which you're paranoid of scuffing.
· Please god, no fascinators. No one else will be wearing them, and you will look like a proper wackjob and/or part of a hen party.
Key Details to Know:
· The Royal Wedding dress is not its own exhibit; it's a highlight towards the end of a tour through the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. Thus, be sure to purchase the correct tickets: to the State Rooms, not the Royal Mews and not the Queen's Gallery.
· Tickets be 'spensive! Be ready to plop down some pounds for the privilege of hanging out in royal quarters. Adults are £17.50 plus £1.25 booking fee, for a total of £18.75. That equals $30.80. The dress supposedly cost $405,000. How many days will it take the palace to make that back in ticket sales?
· Go on your own, as in not part of a group tour or bus trip. If you buy the tickets yourself straight from The Royal Collection, a guard will stamp it as you exit. With this date stamp, you can use the same ticket to re-enter the State Rooms for one whole year (that is, when they are open to the public). No passing amongst friends though; the re-entry requires ID verification.
· The free audio tour is surprisingly awesome and non-annoying. The fact that everyone else is tuned into their gizmos also makes for a very quiet, reverent experience inside.
Pro Tip: The entirety of the State Rooms will appeal to fashion lovers. Note how the lamp electrical outlets and frame chains for paintings are dyed to as closely match the silk walls as possible, and how the palace feels more alive because furniture is actually placed to be used instead of simply admired.
· Close-ups of Kate Middleton's Alexander McQueen Wedding Gown [Racked National]
· Kate Middleton's Wedding Gown and Accessories on Display at Buckingham Palace This Summer [Racked National]