When Queen Elizabeth II’s assistant and dressmaker Angela Kelly was tasked with replacing an aging christening gown – which had been used for royal baptisms since 1841 – it began an odyssey that took her to Italy and back and an expert team of craftspeople about a month to create.
Kelly, who is said to be one of the Queen’s closest personal aides, wanted to ensure the material used for the dress would match the original as closely as possible.
So, she enlisted London company Joel & Son Fabrics, which traditionally supplies cloth to the Queen and her household – and they worked with a company in Italy to create the Honiton lace lined with white satin material for her and the dressmakers to make the robe.
Situated in the Como area of northern Italy, Kelly and one of her dressmaking colleagues, sat for hours over two or three days as the painstaking work of sketching out the designs to match the original, which was commissioned by Queen Victoria for her eldest daughter, Victoria, Princess Royal, as closely as possible began.
Kelly and her palace colleague, the craftsmen and women from Joel & Son and the Italian counterparts were trying recreate the details from the design, an insider tells PEOPLE.
“It was recreated in exactly the same way. Even though there was modern machinery, they had to go back to doing a lot of it by hand so there was a mix between by hand and machinery.”
The designers wanted to make as exact a copy as possible. “It was made from scratch, from sketching it out, to embroidering the lace on a special silk-based tulle,” says the insider.
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Once the groundwork was done on the tulle it was then embroidered by Kelly and her team. It was hand-cut and hand-finished.
Basing the newer one on the Victorian gown “was a challenge for all the people involved,” the source adds.
The original had been worn by around 60 different royal babies and was created from Honiton lace. After each wearing it was reportedly washed in spring water and then carefully stored, in more recent times, by Kelly and her team back at Buckingham Palace.
The newer version was first worn in 2008 by Viscount Severn and Prince George had his turn in it on his big day in October 2103. It’s expected his sister Charlotte will be paraded in it at her special service Sunday.
And, the source adds, there’s enough for more. The creators ensured there was enough of the material for two robes, raising the prospect of a back-up, or even maybe another gown if any future royal parent has twins!