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Apr 29, 2011

Loved the gown, Kate!


We like to stay up to the minute here at MPB, so I must opine on the dress: it's beautiful.  But then again, I'm a sucker for a lace overlay!

Which provides the perfect segue into the book I just received the other day, Susan Khalje's classic, Bridal Couture.


I'd first heard about Susan Khalje and Bridal Couture from Robin, who attended Susan's week-long Couture Sewing School in March.  Kind Robin even offered to lend me her copy of Bridal Couture, but friends, I like to know I can take a book into the bathtub with me and not worry.  Not that I would ever take my copy into the tub, given that I paid about three times the original price (the book is sadly out of print though a CD copy is available on Susan's website). Since used print copies can go for well over $100 these days, I'm OK with the $79 I paid (a birthday present to myself).  Still, for me, that's a sewing machine. 

I'm going to be honest here: when I opened my mailbox to find the book folded inside and realized this was a softcover book, and not a particularly thick one at that, my heart sank.  Then I opened the book.  Friends, I love Bridal Couture -- and I'm not even getting married any time soon! 







Bridal Couture is so clearly written, so well organized, so beautifully illustrated -- it's a must for anyone interested in sewing evening wear, and not just wedding gowns, though that's obviously its primary focus.

Would I have preferred if it had been a how-to guide to recreating Rita Hayworth's wardrobe from You Were Never Lovelier?  Absolutely!  But I don't think the techniques are dramatically different.


It pains me when something so worthwhile is currently so expensive, though again, a CD copy can be had for much less.  I've posted more pics from Bridal Couture here and am even thinking of attending Susan's next workshop in Baltimore in the fall, though I'm not sure what I'd make.  Something to think about...

I have more great news, patient readers -- my Featherweight is working at last!



You may recall that after I replaced the missing loop guard screw, Rain discovered that the original hook had tiny burrs that were snagging the thread, burrs he lacked the tools to remove.  Fortunately I was able to find a full hook assembly for sale on eBay for what seemed like a reasonable amount ($38 with shipping) given the original cost of the machine (about $225 with shipping).  This meant the whole loop guard screw replacement drama was totally unnecessary, of course, but that's life.

In addition to my original damaged hook, Rain had taken my bobbin case and bobbin back home with him to test and clean, so to make the machine work I needed to pick these up and it didn't seem fair to make Rain come to my place yet again.  I also wanted Rain to install the hook assembly.

Now I know you're curious -- I was -- so I will share that Rain lives in a huge, semi-industrial space (whose location I cannot reveal) bursting with vintage Singer sewing machines in various stages of restoration -- mainly 221's (Featherweights), 201's, and assorted 15 models.  There must have been five different workstations set up for him to work on his machines.  I even got to revisit my 15-90, which Rain has already converted to a hand crank. This guy is something else.

Anyway, the Featherweight now stitches beautifully; I still have to polish her up a bit.





Like Bridal Couture, this is another item that consistently receives raves so effusive, it almost made me not want to like it.  But I do, and I totally get why so many people collect Featherweights with a passion.

Finally, readers, even more good news!

After I-don't-even-remember-how-many months, I finally emptied the cat litter out of my stinky vintage American Tourister luggage set (not including the cosmetic case, which still needs help) and vacuumed the insides.



I let them air out on the balcony for a few more days and I can say that 90% of the smell is gone.  I made lavender sachets to tuck inside and am now using the luggage to store fabric as well as some of Cathy's endless accessories. 





Don't you love a happy ending?

Speaking of Cathy, I should also tell you that my poor cousin was unable to attend the show and party last night (for which I originally was going to make her another taffeta cocktail dress) and I went in her place.  Cathy had been looking forward to it and was going to wear her Twenties flapper dress, but pooped out at the last minute.  It's just as well: we could take the subway (Cathy insists on cabs) and save ourselves some cash.

Friends, that's it!  Believe me when I tell you that the only royal wedding I care about is the MGM one with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell (and even that's a bit of a yawn), but you have to admit, a lace overlay gown is tops.


I'd love to get your initial impressions.  How do you think it compares to this?



Maybe it's the times but, lovely as it is, Kate's dress is rather sober-looking in comparison to Diana's.   Thoughts?

Happy Friday, everybody!

46 comments:

  1. I didn't like Diana's gown, even back then. Too frou-frou for my taste. But I love Kate's gown. I think it's beautifully sophisticated.

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  2. LOVED Kate's dress...the lace overlay, the neckline and you got a good photo of the adorable sleeve buttons!! That book looks amazing...I'm going to go check out your extra photos pronto!

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  3. I would say (to me, I was born in 1984) Diana's gown looks really froofy, and spawned a decade of pouffy over the top wedding gowns.

    I like Kate's obvious nod to another glamorous commoner who married a prince- Grace Kelly. It's almost an exact replica, though it shows a little more neck and the skirt is more structured. Alexander McQueen is something of an "edgy-mainstream" kind of choice. It's not like she went with an unknown designer or a particularly startling new gown.... And is she wearing a bullet shaped bra? A modern bullet? Very interesting. I wish I could get a peek at her underwear without being a total weirdo.

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  4. I suspect that Catherine's dress will improve on closer inspection. I thought it wasn't made to be televised, and the reported hand made lace that covers it didn't really show up in the video I saw. I immediately thought of Grace Kelly's dress, and feel that designers won't have to knock off a copy of her dress, as they already have it in their line. I do hope that sleeves might reappear in bridal clothing as a result of her dress, but I don't expect that to happen really. Camilla was best dressed of everyone on the balcony.

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  5. I love the new gown. Princess Diana's gown looked like she was wearing the cake. It reminded me of a gown I tried on in 1964! that looked like I'd been buried in a snow bank.

    To me, Princess Catherine's dress held no
    elements of courtship, but rather was a fitting beginning of her new role as wife., as in "keep thee only unto him".

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  6. Oh dear, are we supposed to call her Princess Catherine now? My bad.

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  7. Kate's dress is much more elegant than Diana's.

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  8. I actually see the royal gown for the first time right now! I'm sure we've all been a lot more wowed looking at wedding gowns.

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  9. I don't really think it is fair to compare the two gowns. When Diana was married she was a young virgin and everything was thrust upon her. She was not even 20 when they became engaged. She didn't have her own personal sense of style and was thrust rather immediately into the Royal life with likely not much of a say in anything. In addition the 1908's were a boom time- excess - even Nancy Reagan attended that wedding (Imagine the horror if Mrs. Obama attended the wedding). Contrast that with the 29 year old Kate Middleton, who had been dating Prince William for quite some time, in a Royal Family changed drastically by Diana. It really isn't a fair comparison.

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  10. Apparently even Diana didn't like her dress (after the fact), it was too large, too wrinkly, too ruffly, the train was ridiculous. IMO Diana's dress was that of a young girl, Kate's is the dress of a young woman, sophisticated, elegant, restrained. I don't think she could have done better. I really liked Kate's bouquet, the size was perfect, it didn't look like she purchased the contents of a flower shop to carry down the aisle. I think Carol Middleton and Queen Elizabeth both looked lovely.

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  11. "Friends, I love Bridal Couture -- and I'm not even getting married any time soon!"

    Oh Peter, I think we would all love to see you take on a tuxedo project (or if Cathy ever found a partner to keep up with her, a bridal gown!)

    ;)

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  12. We're supposed to call them the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, now, actually. Once married, he's no longer called the Prince!

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  13. I think the two dresses are real signs of the times. Diana's was huge and the fabric was so puffy and extravagant yet demure, and, as another reader commented, girl-like. Maybe it reflected the excesses of the late 80's, and hope that real life could have a fairy-tale ending.

    And Kate's dress? As you say it is more sober and sophisticated. There is a lot less fabric so the woman inside is more obvious. And as Steph commented, what's with the foundation garment? Are bullet boobs coming back? It seems to reflect a more mature and thoughtful, but perhaps less buoyant mood ?

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  14. I loved Diana's gown back in the 80's - it was just so 80' and over the top, like the rest of fashion during that decade. But Kate's dress is so chic... classy... understated and beautiful. It's so "kate" - quietly elegant and confident.

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  15. Well, first, Susan's book. I love it. I use it often, and it has been an incredible help in drafting sleeves, adding sleeve loops, and all the internal structure issues. I guess I am lucky to have bought it a few years back.

    I was a bit underwhelmed by Kate's dress, from a fashion standpoint, but it was spot-on, with regards to her role as a public figure. She was beautiful, and looked every inch a modern, confident princess. I can't see sleeves coming back in bridal wear either, but it would be nice. I am so sick of the cookie-cutter strapless look!

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  16. I didn't watch the wedding (zero interest) but thank you for posting the pictures. I love the dress, especially the neckline. I think that Kate's dress is pretty and flattering, unlike Diana's (over the top and frumpy, although at the time it was probably the height of fashion). The groom isn't much better looking than his father.

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  17. I hope the bullet bra comes back! My waist is itty bitty in a bullet bra, todays bras make you flat with cleavage to your chin. That dress really was to die for, I adore the sleeves. So inspiring after years of the same strapless full skirt dress.

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  18. Kate's dress is beautiful. I didn't like Diana's.

    I think I'll order that bridal couture CD.

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  19. I would LOVE a hard copy of this book. It would be great to have all that knowledge in one place and not scarred through many volumes!
    I've made two and I want to get way better!!

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  20. Wish I could visit Rain's studio, it sounds amazing. Glad to see you're using the 221; I love mine.

    As for the gowns, Kate is most definitely wearing her gown, but Diana's gown was wearing her.

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  21. I just got the bridal couture CD...

    Loved the dress. It's elegant and sophisticated, unlike Diana's immature "poofy monstrosity," as someone called it.

    Also, as Gertie noted, the official wedding site has information on how the gown was constructed (fabric, lace, etc.) that is catnip to us sewists.

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  22. Sober is good. As in won't turn into a raving nutcase like that poofy predecessor of hers... So yes, this gown was grand enough for the occasion, but sober in feeling, and that's perfect as far as I'm concerned.
    Congrats on the featherweight. I'm sure you could sew something grandly couture too, although I don't really know why you'd want to, short of getting married :-). If you do, I'd be glad to contribute a bow tie or something.

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  23. I doubt Kate is wearing a bullet bra. Her dress has a built in corset that provides all the support she needs.

    The dress is appropriate to the wearer and the occasion but does nothing for me. I do think it reflects Kate's tastes and suits her well. But I find it, like her, rather boring. (Though I can appreciate all the work and craftsmanship that went into it.)

    Princess Grace's dress was done by the MGM wardrobe department. You can't beat Hollywood. I'd take Princess Grace's dress over Kate's any day.

    However, keep in mind that Princess Grace was trying to shed her sex symbol status and look matronly from the moment she got married. So take that into account when considering and comparing these two dresses. .

    I loved Princes Di's dress. It was also appropriate to the era and reflected the wearer (a virgin princess). Di's dress could not possibly reflect the "excesses of the late 80s" since she was not married in the late '80s. (Do the math: Her son, married today, is 30 years old.) Though I would never wear a dress like Di's (not even in the 80s) and don't wear frilly clothes, I do think it was stunning. Since it was original and the first of its kind, I don't see Di's dress as "dated." It simply set the standard for the time, which was later copied and over done. Those copies became tired and soon dated. But the original is iconic.

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  24. I have to agree with the commenter who said that "Diana's dress wore her," but that dress had such a WOW factor--that's why it set the standard for wedding dresses for a decade. Kate's dress is sophisticated and she looked great, but it is not a "wow" dress-it's not memorable and thus my guess is it won't have much of an impact on wedding dress fashion. At least it wasn't strapless. If the "Diana frou-frou" dress fashion lasted 10 years, the strapless wedding dress must have been around for at least 15 years, and it is so time for that to be OVER.

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  25. I feel that Diana's dress was that of an innocent girl. It reminds me of a little girl's fancy dress. It is lovely, but appropriate for a very young bride. The world didn't really know Diana at that point. She needed to make a statement. And it's likely that she was influenced in many of her wedding choices.

    Kate's dress was sophisticated and elegant. It was the gown of a confident woman. She has been highly visible for several years. She didn't really have anything to prove beyond good taste. I think her dress is memorable for it's simplicity.

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  26. I have always hated the Diana dress. I thought Diana looked lovely in absolutely every picture I have seen of her, except her wedding photos. I hated the sleeves, the ruffle, all of it. It never looked like it fit her very well; it looked like she borrowed someone's (much too large) dress.

    The Lady Catherine dress I adore. I too am a sucker for the lace, and I thought the neckline and sleeves were amazing. The dress fit her and she looked comfortable and relaxed. I loved the elegant simplicity of the gown and thought it had just enough detail to prevent it from being boring.

    I do agree that it might not be fair to compare the dresses though - the Diana dress celebrated royal extravagance, but if Catherine had worn such an over the top gown I am sure she would have been criticized for it today. The entire wedding was about striking a perfect balance - enough grandeur for royalty, but not so much as to offend the people who are struggling what with the tough times and slow economy. A nod to historical traditions while maintaining a modern relaxed air to the ceremony. Giving enough fantasy to the public without alienating them. The gowns were each a sign of the times, and yet I feel like the Catherine gown will still look elegant in thirty years, where the Diana dress just looks sort of frumpy.

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  27. OMG the LACE! I loved it. And very nice that she chose to look sophisticated and adult. But I guess there are some out there who prefer the "Bo-Peep Chic" look of Diana's gown...

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  28. I liked Kate's dress for her, but I can't see it becoming hugely popular. You need a certain kind of slim, patrician look to carry off that kind of gown. I do think it worked well for the occasion and I'm hoping -- like others -- that it will bring back the fashion of sleeves on wedding gowns, even if they're lace sleeves. I actually like short sleeves on wedding gowns, but even spaghetti straps would be an improvement on the "tug and shimmy." If I NEVER have to see that particular dance in public again, it will be too soon.

    I'm old enough (just barely) to remember Diana's wedding dress in the original, and it didn't seem overly large or odd to me. As a little girl, I had some special occasion taffeta and satin dresses with similarly large puffed sleeves. I really do think the gown was reflective of the era.

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  29. The dress is gorgeous. At the time, Diana's reflected the fashion and the big comment was not how it was too much but that it was so creased. As with most eighties' fashion, from whatever part of the decade, it now looks terrible. I don't think now is the time to judge it, give it another 50 years for a bit of perspective. Having said that, I think Kate's dress is such an elegant style, it won't date as Diana's has.

    Kate isn't Princess Catherine, as she has no claim to the title in her own right. (Strictly speaking, Diana was never Princess Diana either.) It reflects an outdated institution that we Brits can't think of a good enough reason to change! She is either Princess William or the Duchess of Cambridge. I think the dukedom is less about having to call William the Duke of Cambridge and more about not having to call Catherine Princess William

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  30. Princess William? That sounds like a schoolyard taunt. LOL

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  31. What first struck me about Kate's dress was that it was very appropriate to the solemnity of the occasion. A marriage is a church service. I honestly think strapless in Westminster Abbey would have been inappropriate.(I have an issue with strapless at church unless you cover up with a little cardigan or something - my personal taste.)

    I remember loving Diana's dress, but as a pre-teen girl, I was in love with the fluff and the excess of it. It wasn't timeless. Kate's is very timeless and lovely. She looked mature and confident and like a woman who could be a true partner to her spouse. Diana never had that with Charles, which is sad.

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  32. I LOVE the dress worn by the new Duchess of Cambridge--perfect for her, the medieval setting of the historic abbey, and draping elegantly to show off her figure and the lace. I also liked that her face was visible--Diana's bangs smashed against her forehead added to the overdone effect of her dress. Catherine's sister also looked lovely in a dress that complemented the bridal gown. Hooray for lace, simple elegance, and covered arms. I hope to never see another bride falling out of her dress from the top, a tacky effect made even worse by the pretense of a church wedding, where modesty is in better taste. I wish the TV cameras had showed us more of the guests' dresses, tho the men looked splendid too. Sigh. A wonderful show for fabric fans! K in Ohio

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  33. He is a prince, as well as a duke, but she is only a duchess, not a princess. They are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

    Queen Elizabeth, as reigning monarch, determines whether or not Catherine is a princess, and, by proffering the Cambridge titles she, in effect, said "no".

    If William had declined the title, Catherine would have become HRH [Her Royal Highness] Princess William of Wales or Princess Catherine. But he didn't, so she's not.

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  34. Anonymous again here! There is a Princess Michael of Kent (wife of a cousin of the Queen) whose name always caused both confusion and hilarity! The naming system hails back to the bad old days when a married woman was Mrs John Smith rather than Mrs Mary Smith. I'm old enough (just) to remember those days which is one of the reasons I never got married, despite having a long-term partner and a daughter.

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  35. I loved the wedding dress, but really I love any dress that makes a bride happy.

    The book "Bridal Couture" is a very helpful one. It has a good section about how to sew with lace of different types. I bought it years ago to help me make a wedding dress for a special family member and this section alone made the garment come out perfect. The dress I made was nothing like any of the photos so it shows that the technical information applies to many styles.

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  36. Thanks so much for posting pics from the Bridal Couture book. Just had to mention that in photo #10 (the double spread of laces on the washing line) the lace that's on the right-hand page on the top left is what MY dress was made from, 20 years ago!

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  37. Loved the wedding dress because it was her, and she looked elegant and regal. I think all brides look beautiful, and whatever dress makes you feel amazing
    will make others like it too.

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  38. Here on the Left Coast we think that Kate wore her dress beautifully. Though I loved Diana her dress wore her.

    PS: Does Rain sell machines? ... does he have email? I don't want to visit, I am coveting a machine !!!

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  39. I saw the dress for the first time this afternoon and I immediately thought of Grace Kelly!! It's a knockoff of Grace's dress, the V- neckline is the only thing different! Is it true that dress cost $800,000???!!! Now don't get me wrong, it was beautiful and a welcome change from all of the bare skin styles that have been so prevalent lately......but that designer is laughing all the way to the bank!!! Where is the originality? I had to go back and look at Grace in her dress and my God......... she was exquisitely beautiful........ the neckline was closed and you're eyes are focused on her incredible face! Helen Rose did Grace's dress and it was one of the most copied in fashion history! I think you will definitely see a return to the more covered up styles and more women will wear a veil over their face! I love it!! A return to class and refinement, which is desperately need in this "Jerry Springer" age!!!!

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  40. I was rather taken aback by my first glance at Lady Catherine's gown. It was not at all what I expected. But it certainly suited her. Love the lace, love the silhouette, love the nod to vintage fashion, but it was the train that made me catch my breath. I'm glad she had a decent train (by today's standards anyway) and the design of it was so lovely. I agree with those who say Princess Diana's gown was too fussy, and her train was just silly. But like Kate's gown, I think it suited her ... it was extremely princess-y, very fairytale. I would never wear it, but then I would never wear Lady Catherine's either. Lace sleeves, yes, yes, yes! More attention to my already large chest with a heart-shaped bullet bust, no thank you.

    But enough about the ladies. What about that Harry fella? ;-)

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  41. Kate's dress looks almost exactly like my mom's wedding dress. She got married in the fifties. The dress looks beautiful, classic and elegant but I think it made Kate's face looks big. Like her head is bigger than her body. Diana's dress, on the other hand, looks wrinkly and huge but it makes her look slim and therefore, more matching with Charles size.

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  42. I instinctively knew that she would go for lace and long sleeves and I loved the dress, although the embroidery detail on the skirt was a little too much for me (but that's just me, I like plain and simple). Having said that, the dress needed the detail as it was for a Royal wedding after all. I was hoping she would choose a longer train under the circumstances but on the whole, she looked absolutely beautiful and elegant - funnily enough, just like a Princess (or Duchess!

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  43. I loved Kate's dress! It was perfect for her and just perfect for the occasion, simple yet regal. The white evening dress looks like the wedding dress with the train and the lace overlay taken off. Two for one and no need to change... Re the 'bullet bra' effect maybe there were vertical darts sewn into the lace from the waist up that gave that effect?
    I loved Diana's dress - for Diana, and she looked so happy on the day. Pity about the marriage *cough.
    I may be the only one but I always hated Princess Grace's dress. It looked like it was choking her, so closed in and stuffy.
    Historical comment - when Diana married Charles she was supposed to be known as "Princess Charles" and be called by that name but no one ever did. She was already too big a star in her own right. I'm sure that if she had been alive she would have been the second most beautifully dressed woman in the room.

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  44. By the way - top marks to Cathy for pre-empting the lace overlay look!

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  45. I'm old enough to have fully (MORE than fully - aged 16 and fully of surging teen hormones) enjoyed Diana's bridal rig, but honestly, Kate's was in another dimension. Comparisons with Grace Kelly's seem warranted, though I've heard at least one bespoke wedding dress designer draw parallels with the Queen's wedding gown, interestingly.

    Featherweights are amazing sewing machines. When tuned up, they have the most delightfully regular stitch. I'm glad yours has finally passed muster. Enjoy!

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  46. Kathryn wore a woman's dress while Diana wore a poufy girl's dress.

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