In excerpts from her new book, Angela Kelly, dressmaker and confidant to the Queen, reveals how she painstakingly recreated the royal heirloom using Yorkshire tea

By Monique Jessen
October 28, 2019 10:52 AM
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When it came to recreating the royal christening gown, Queen Elizabeth’s dressmaker used an old-fashioned form of dye for the secret project — a tea bag!

“To make sure it looked authentic we dyed it in Yorkshire tea (the strongest, as we all know),” reveals Angela Kelly, the Queen’s longtime dressmaker in her new book. “We placed each piece of lace in a small bowl, from the Dressers’ Kitchen, filled with cool water and a tea bag, and left it for about five minutes, checking regularly until the colour was perfect.”

In Hello!’s excerpts of the book, titled The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser and the Wardrobe, Kelly revealed that the 2004 project, which took nine long months to complete, was undertaken by herself and another dressmaker, Barbara Buckfield. Kelly traveled to Italy to find just the right lace, carrying the miniature gown in a large handbag, before bringing in back to the U.K. to hand dye it.

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Kate Middleton and Prince Louis
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The replica was commissioned by the Queen after the original, made in 1841 was deemed too fragile for use. Worn by 62 royal babies, including the Queen herself, the original was made of Spitalfields silk and Honiton lace and was last worn by Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex’s daughter, Lady Louise Windsor, in 2004.

Since then Kelly’s replica has been worn for all royal christenings, including those of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis and most recently for the christening of Archie, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son.

The project was also overseen closely by the Queen, says Kelly, who has worked for the Queen since 1994, first as a personal assistant and later as a dresser.

Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte
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Kate middleton and Prince George
| Credit: John Stillwell - WPA Pool /Getty Images

“At each stage of the process, I would show our progress to the Queen: first the bodice, then the sleeves attached to it, then the skirt with the under-layers on, and finally the completed robe,” reveals Kelly, who was born and raised in Liverpool. “Her Majesty was very interested to see how it was developing.”

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The christening gown also formed part of a 2016 exhibition to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. ‘Fashioning A Reign: 90 Years of Style From the Queen’s Wardrobe’ at Windsor Castle was the largest exhibition of the Queen’s wardrobe to date.