LONDON — It's a stunner: Kate Middleton arrived at her Westminster Abbey wedding in a splendid dress by Sarah Burton, creative director of the Alexander McQueen fashion house — ending months of speculation about the identity of the designer.
The lacy white gown, with its low neckline, dramatic veil and medium length train, immediately provoked swoons of admiration on Friday.
Jennie Bond, a leading British monarchy expert and royal wedding consultant for The Associated Press, called it a "fairy tale."
"It's a dream," she said. "It is a beautiful laced soft look which is extremely elegant. She looked stunning."
As her "something borrowed," Middleton wore the Cartier "Halo" tiara, supplied by Queen Elizabeth II. The tiara was first purchased by the Duke of York, later King George VI, for his duchess, who later became the Queen Mother Elizabeth. It was given to the current queen by her mother on the queen's 18th birthday.
The "something new" in Middleton's ensemble were diamond earrings given to her by her parents. The earrings by Robinson Pelham were a set of stylized oak leaves with a pear shaped diamond drop and diamond acorn suspended in the center.
But it was the dress that stole the show.
"Oh its gorgeous!" gushed Yvonne Ryland, of Yorkshire, England, who now lives in Spain. "It is absolutely beautiful. It is so slimming and fits her perfectly. "
Burton had earlier denied receiving the coveted commission, but that denial now appears to have been part of an elaborate strategy to maintain secrecy.
In recent weeks reports had circulated that parts of the McQueen office had been cordoned off so no one could see what was being designed behind the screens, adding credence to the belief that Burton had been chosen.
Burton came to prominence when she was appointed creative director of Alexander McQueen shortly after the designer's suicide in 2010. She had worked for him for many years, and has since earned plaudits for developing her own distinctive design style, which is slightly more restrained than the late McQueen's.
She has many supporters high up in the fashion world, including Anna Wintour, the influential editor of the American edition of Vogue, who praised Burton's "brilliance" during a recent visit to London.
Burton also got a private endorsement from Alexandra Shulman, the editor of the British Vogue, who recommended Burton to palace officials when they queried her about who would be the best choice to design Middleton's dress.
She has managed the sensitive task of taking over from one of the world's most celebrated designers in the aftermath of his shocking death. McQueen had been suffering from depression and took his life days after the death of his mother.
Unlike McQueen, whose edgy personality was well known, Burton has received little publicity outside the fashion press and she is not a well known figure on the London nightlife scene.
She edged out a number of other high profile British designers with experience in wedding gowns, including Vivienne Westwood — who has criticized Middleton for being too timid — Bruce Oldfield, Alice Temperley and Philippa Lepley.
Designers from outside Britain apparently did not receive serious consideration in the wedding gown sweepstakes.
Burton's work caught Middleton's eye when she designed an off-the-shoulder wedding dress for Sara Buys, a fashion journalist who married Tom Parker Bowles, the son of Prince Charles' wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2005.
The designer, who was raised in Manchester in northern England, has dressed Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga and Gwyneth Paltrow.
She joined McQueen in 1996 as an intern, and in September presented her first womenswear collection in Paris — clothes that were not as dark or dramatic as McQueen's, but still bold enough to make a very fashion-forward choice for a royal bride.