The Other Royal Wedding of the 1980s

I actually remember the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York on the 23rd of July 1986 far more clearly than that of Charles and Diana in July 1981. It was a lovely day from what I recall – either adults were less dismissive and cynical about the royal family and, more specifically, their weddings back then or I just never noticed.

I was royal family mad of course. I’d been collecting books, magazines, postcards and oh God EVERYTHING about Princess Diana for years at that point so an actual royal wedding was a bit of a thrill for me. Of course, having red hair myself meant that the thrill palled somewhat after a few months of being called ‘Fergie’ in reference to the royal bride.

The thing I remember the most about the royal wedding of 1986 though is how deliriously happy the couple looked. It’s sad really to recall this but I remember aspiring less to the whole grandiose trappings of an immense royal wedding than to how overjoyed Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson looked on their wedding day. I always hoped that I’d look just as thrilled on my wedding day…

So now of course we have the big question – which 1980s royal wedding dress do you prefer? I am, as you may have noticed, a big fan of Princess Diana’s fairytale princess ensemble but there is a special place in my heart for the Duchess of York’s dress too. What do you think?

It was designed by relatively unknown designer Lindka Cierach, who said later that: ‘I wanted the Duchess of York’s sense of fun and joy to come out in the dress. One day I woke up in the middle of the night and had dreamed it, and that was it‘. I actually think that the dress is more elegant and stately than ‘fun’ but maybe that’s just me.

The Duchess’ gown was made from champagne ivory silk from the famous silk farms at Lullingstone and has a beautiful, fitted almost Renaissance silhouette. The Duchess’ would later be endlessly criticised for what people saw as her terrible dress sense (personally I don’t think she dressed any worse than any other celebrity in the 80s) but I think that she never looked better than she did on her wedding day – simple, elegant lines clearly really suited her and the soft blush of the silk was immensely flattering to her colouring.

The highpoint of the dress, however was the exquisitely gorgeous seed pearl and diamante embroidery that covered the bodice and seventeen and a half foot train. 155,000 sequins and pearls were used to create symbols that were special to the royal couple and their families, including thistles, hearts, bees, anchors and even an ‘A’ for Andrew. It really was a special dress and in fact, the Duchess herself was to say that: ‘there will never be a dress to match it.’

The attention to detail didn’t end there – the Duchess was unusual for wearing a floral headdress when she went up the aisle and then removing it to reveal a tiara ( a present from the Queen – cor, I think my in laws gave us a washer dryer as a wedding present!) after the wedding ceremony was over. This was supposed to symbolise her transition from commoner to princess or as Sarah herself put it: ‘I had stepped up as the country girl; I would walk back as a princess.’

Oh and her shoes were by Manolo Blahnik!

Were you one of the 500 million people who watched the wedding that day? Did you have a ‘Fergie hair bow’ – I had a vast collection of them. Oh don’t look at me like that – don’t you remember the Fergie hair bows? She used to wear over sized silk bows on her hair at the back and they became a bit of a craze here in the UK. She didn’t wear a hair bow on her wedding day (note that she had her hair down, which seems pretty unusual these days), oh no, she had an immense bow on the back of the dress instead as well as little bows on the shoulders.

She also started a brief but intense fashion for Davy Crockett style faux fur hats. Not to mention PEACH bridesmaids dresses after her bridesmaids traipsed up the aisle in peach silk, carrying flower bedecked hoops. Oh, peach silk and hoops. They became a staple part of weddings for the latter half of the eighties thanks to the Duchess of York, for which I am sure that plenty of you curse her…


‘Frothy, light hearted, gorgeous. The perfect summer read.’ Minette, my novel of 17th century posh doom and intrigue is now £2.02 from Amazon UK and $2.99 from Amazon US.

Blood Sisters, my novel of posh doom and iniquity during the French Revolution is just a fiver (offer is UK only sorry!) if you order before the end of August! Just use the clicky box on my blog sidebar to order your copy!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Follow me on Instagram.

Follow me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Melanie Clegg

8 thoughts on “The Other Royal Wedding of the 1980s

  • Maria

    I have never noticed it until I see it in your blog. The dress is actually prettier than the one worn by Lady Diana but my favourite royal wedding gown is the one worn by Lady Sarah Chatto (Armstrong-Jones). Silk chiffon top layer with under layers of crepe drape, satin organza, ghazaar and net. I don’t know the name of the designer. There is a particular kind of British quality in the dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses. A kind of quiet dignity, which had nothing to do with the razzle dazzle of heavy frills and embroidery, pomp, and circumstance, more England on a sunny day in the country when the roses are in full bloom and all seems alright with the world.

  • josy

    Princess Beatrice also got married on 23. July 1885. to Henry of Battenberg. You definitely know about that, I just wanted to mention because it’s cool that they share the wedding date. Bye Melanie,I love your blog !

  • Kerry

    I love Fergie – I know the media think she’s a bit trashy now, but she’s always been one of my favourite royals/royal types. I love how much she doesn’t seem to give a fvck and her weirdo style and all her well-meaning, slightly incompetent charity work. Let’s face it, she would be MILES more fun to hang out and do shots with than anyone else in the royal family, except maybe Princess Margaret.

  • Sandra

    I much preferred Sarah’s dress to Diana’s which I though looked like a meringue and the silk crushed too much. It did nothing for her figure but so long as she liked it. I liked Sarah’s princess line dress – it flattered her figure. I liked the A on the train but not so much the bows or the puffed sleeves although they were very much of their time. And yes I had large hair bows too. And it WAS such a happy wedding. You could feel that.
    My favourite royal wedding dress is still Princess Grace’s and Princess Anne’s is up there too with those medieval sleeves and lines.

  • Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

    I vividly remember getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to watch the wedding and being late for work because I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. I too prefer Fergie’s dress to Diana. Diana’s dress, especially if you’ve seen it up close, it just a gigantic meringue of a dress, while Fergie’s dress is much more classic. I can actually see a royal bride now wearing that sort of dress, where Diana’s dress clearly screams 1980’s Dynasty.

  • Renee

    Fergie, hands down! Her dress was flattering to her figure and timeless; Diana’s was a big, floppy thing that did nothing for her.

  • Lauren

    Though I prefer Di’s dress overall, I have always loved Fergie’s dress for the personal details such as the anchor and the “A” for Andrew. They were so happy that day and I have always felt that she was the most genuine out of the royal lot even with all her faults, hey she is human and on her wedding day she was a gorgeous girl!

Comments are closed.