It was a lovely visit with a personal touch when the Duchess of Cambridge visited the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace, on the outskirts of London, Tuesday.
There she was able to meet and thank some of the embroiderers who worked in secret on the magnificent ivory-and-white satin gown that she wore at her April 29, 2011, wedding.
A spokeswoman at Kate’s office tells PEOPLE of the visit: “She wanted to personally thank them for their work on the wedding dress. She also wanted to see their work and learn more about what they do there.”
To hand-make the bodice and skirt and veil and shoes for the wedding ensemble, which complemented the gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the school’s key staff, graduates and ex-tutors and students (one as young as 19) worked with the designer to stitch the intricate motifs.
The embroiderers, who used new needles every three hours, also had to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep the threads and lace “pristine.”
As Kate, 30, was shown around the workplace, she met with students and chief executive Susan Kay-Williams, who told the Daily Telegraph., “It was lovely to meet the Duchess and show her what the Royal School of Needlework does.”
The dress is currently in storage run by the Royal Collection. That organization has the expertise in caring for historic gowns and furniture and official artifacts, including the Queen’s art collection.
For more details on Kate’s recent style choices and her solo royal outings while Prince William is deployed, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday