It took just a glimpse of her as she stepped out of the Goring Hotel and into the waiting Rolls-Royce Phantom to confirm that Catherine Middleton had lived up to the world's great expectations. No fashion moment in recent memory has carried more suspense than the newlywed's choice of wedding dress, and her gown, created by Sarah Burton, who assumed the reins of Alexander McQueen's eponymous label after the designer's death last year, was met with instant accolades.
Burton had long been among the front-runners rumoured to be designing the dress, and with a deep-cut lace appliqué overlay atop a structured, corseted bodice, the gown came across as romantically feminine and certainly modern. The bride may have inherited Princess Diana's engagement ring, but in no way did she channel the unforgettable pouf from 30 years ago (her train was considerably shorter, too; just under 9 feet compared to Diana's 25).
"The dress they produced is sublime - worthy of a historic occasion," Vogue's editor-at-large Hamish Bowles declared to CNN.
Indeed, it boasted exceptional details: lace flowers hand-cut and hand-engineered onto the silk ivory tulle, gentle padding at the hips to evoke a Victorian silhouette (a McQueen signature), arches and pleats to give the skirt the volume suggesting a flower in bloom. From the back, it was equally impressive; the 58 organza-covered buttons, bustle and train showed a couture sensibility without the excess. The Cartier "halo tiara," lent to the bride by the Queen, was held in place by a whispery silk-tulle veil, which fell softly across her face.
Some style observers might suggest that the ivory and white silk-gazar dress could have been more daring - even more original. When Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco 55 years ago, she also wore a gown featuring long lace sleeves over a similarly shaped bodice that gave way to a full skirt.
But the nod to tradition and to McQueen, one of the great fashion geniuses of our time, suggests that the Duchess put much consideration into the message her gown would make. Like all her previous wardrobe choices, she remains thoughtful yet eschews risk. Her dress was one for the ages and bodes well for her as a future style icon.