By Neil Cunningham
I had been dressing Darcey Bussell for special engagements for about a year when she asked me to design her bridal trousseau. It was a natural development of our relationship but it was still quite an honour, as several of the more established couturiers – including Dior – were clamouring to create a wedding dress for the young star of the Royal Ballet, who was then being hailed as the new Fonteyn.
Darcey’s gown of pure white silk organza drew inspiration from the costume designs of Cecil Beaton but it has to be said that pie-crust ruffles at the neck and cuffs are a look that can only be carried off if you have a figure and face like Audrey Hepburn, Leslie Caron – or Margot Fonteyn.
The full-skirted gown (flat at the front and full at the back) was strewn with tiny vintage cotton daisies we found in an old haberdashery shop. We embroidered the daisy centres with lemon silk thread, and a clear Swarovski crystal was added to each, to make them twinkle with ‘dew’. To achieve the exact frosty lemon shade for the sash we placed white organza over a very sunny yellow shade of silk satin – plain lemon satin just looked too flat – and the dress was fastened with ‘mint imperial’ ball buttons.
Ballet dancers are never full chested and simply cannot wear plunging décolletage or strapless gowns but we were actually able to give Darcey a daringly lower front and back neckline because of the organza overlay. The trickiest job was keeping the collar upright; pie-crust collar ruffles are usually short, frilly and naturally point north whereas our double-layered organza circles – larger and more dramatic – were prone to flop. Our solution: we used thin strands of synthetic corsetry boning (fine and transparent) to hold the frills in shape. The result was a kind of grown-up girlishness – stately but youthful – like the young Gigi moving into womanhood, and very Darcey.
Visit the The Iconic Wedding Dress Exhibition, October 11-13th 2013 at Battersea Evolution to see Darcey Bussell’s wedding dress; and others that have been worn by royal brides, fashion designers, singers, actresses, models and TV personalities.
“Pie-crust ruffles at the neck and cuffs are a look that can only be carried off if you have a figure and face like Audrey Hepburn, Leslie Caron – or Margot Fonteyn.”