Ranking every royal wedding dress from worst to first

With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding taking place in May of 2018, there was a ton of speculation about just what kind of wedding dress the soon-to-be royal would choose. Would she opt for an Alexander McQueen as did Kate Middleton? Or would she wear a gown that paid homage to Harry's late mother, Princess Diana? Others wondered if she'd go a completely different route and choose something totally untraditional — it wouldn't be her first time breaking the royal rules, after all. 

But Markle's wedding gown wasn't the first to spark public intrigue. After all, since the late Queen Mother, dresses of the royal brides have been a hot topic of discussion. Some royals have cemented their role in history with beautiful gowns and others, well, some not so beautiful gowns.

Here are the very worst to the very best royal wedding dresses.

The dress of epic proportions

Princess Diana, often still referred to as the people's princess, was a fashion icon in so many ways. Eleri Lynn, the curator of Kensington Palace exhibition "Diana: Her Fashion Story" told Vanity Fair"[Diana] is stepping into that same sort of space as an Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Kennedy." 

The late princess often used her fashion to send a message. According to Lynn, she wanted people to know she was approachable so she chose colorful clothing. She would also forgo gloves so she could hold people's hands in hers — Diana was truly one of a kind. 

Of course, her wedding dress had to be one of a kind as well. David Emanuel, designer of the famous dress, told Entertainment Tonight, "This dress had to be young and sweet, but it also had to be glam because she was going to be a royal princess." And glam it was. It featured a royal record-breaking 25-foot-long train, which was embroidered by hand with pearls and sequins. The dress definitely made a statement and was emulated for decades, but it's certainly not a dress you'd want to wear today.

A new meaning to royal blue

If you're a fan of the Netflix series The Crown, you likely know a thing or two about King Edward VIII and his wife, Wallis Simpson. Their love story was practically made for television. According to the former king's biography, the couple met while Simpson was married and Edward was a prince. The two entered into a relationship shortly before Edward became king. 

Being king meant he wouldn't be able to marry Simpson, the American socialite who, at this time, was now a divorcee. Less than a year after taking the throne, Edward abdicated in order to marry her. Although this didn't exactly sit well with the royal family, Edward was given a new title — Duke of Windsor — and spent the rest of his life with the woman he loved, after marrying her in a private ceremony in France in 1937.

Pictures of the time, being in black and white, make Simpson's dress appear white or perhaps cream. However, her dress was actually blue! According to The Telegraph, it was a simple silk Mainboucher gown in a custom color, pale blue, rightfully called "Wallis Blue." Interesting choice, for sure.

Shoulder pads for days

Although Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson became synonymous with scandal back in the late 2000s, her royal wedding to Prince Andrew in 1986 was a blissful affair. At the time, Ferguson was a great fit to become a royal, according to Vanity Fair.

On their big day, Ferguson wore a wedding dress somewhat typical of the late '80s. Not unlike other royal wedding gowns, her dress was copied by commoners in the following years. Lindka Cierach, an African-born British fashion designer, created the dress made of ivory satin with large — very large — shoulder pads and incorporated a ton of beading work.

Ferguson's dress was also basically a scrapbook. There were hearts — to symbolize love? — along with anchors and waves, which represented Andrew's naval career. That sounds like a lot already but there were also beaded bumblebees and thistles to represent Ferguson's family crest and the train — the 17-foot-long train — featured the couple's initials. Eek.

Part wedding gown, part turtleneck?

The 1970s was a fascinating and bold time for fashion. Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth's only daughter, could chalk up her wedding dress choice to the time period, considering she married Captain Mark Phillips back in 1973. The decade may be, at least, partially to blame. Nonetheless, Anne's gown was still pretty peculiar, especially in retrospect.

According to Express, the princess chose a design by Maureen Baker, who, at the time, was the head designer for the brand Susan Small. The Tudor-style gown featured piping on the bodice, which is a bit reminiscent of a ribbed knit sweater, don't you think? The gown's "high neck" — essentially a turtleneck — didn't exactly help to make the frock look less like a sweater. Lastly, the ballooned Medieval sleeves tapered at the wrists were another interesting choice. All things considered, the dress managed to be quite flattering and the princess still looked stunning on her wedding day. 

Flight attendant chic

Princess Anne's first marriage to Captain Mark Phillips started to dissolve in 1989 and the two were divorced by 1992, People reported. Later that same year, the princess married Commander Timothy Laurence. Although Anne's wedding dress this time was much simpler than the medieval Maureen Baker creation, it was still a turtleneck — seriously. Anne wore the very modest suit, which stopped at the knee, with a matching white jacket and black shoes.

The dress isn't offensive — not in any way shape or form. As it was the princess' second wedding and she was obviously older in 1992 than she was in the early '70s, the dress makes a lot of sense. Still, you can't help but wish Anne had chosen something less in the realm of a flight attendant's uniform and something just a tad more glamorous. All in all, it just doesn't have the same wow factor that many other royal dresses are known for. 

A feather in her cap

When Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles (finally) wed in 2005, Bowles picked a perfectly appropriate outfit: a white chiffon gown paired with a light blue and gold damask dress coat. The coat, made by Robinson Valentine, featured a tasteful amount of gold embroidery throughout. Blink and you'd miss it but, the collar was especially beautiful. Inspired by a particular piece of jewelry belonging to her late mother, Bowles' dress was embroidered around the collar in a similar pattern. What a meaningful — and wonderfully subtle — touch. Bowles paired her outfit with a gold feather headdress.

While Bowles undoubtedly looked stunning and so very happy to be marrying the love of her life, the dramatic headdress was arguably a little on the distracting side. A veil would not have made sense with her ensemble but perhaps a smaller headpiece would've been a more fitting accompaniment to her big day look.

Simply '90s

Prince Edward, the Queen's youngest son who looks shockingly like Prince William, wed Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1999. The couple said their vows before 200 million TV viewers, according to Hello! magazine. For an event like that, you've got to look stunning! And that's exactly what Rhys-Jones did.

Although her dress was very indicative of the '90s style — ahem, shoulder pads — her v-neck gown could easily be refashioned for today. From far away, Rhys-Jones' gown seems pretty minimalist, other than the long veil, but there is a lot more to this ensemble than meets the eye. 

Part of the gown was made of hand-dyed silk organza, making the dress much more complicated than it would appear. It was also embellished with a combination of pearls and crystal beads — a whopping 325,000 of them! The coordinating veil also featured crystals, of course. This wedding gown was definitely fit for Rhys-Jones' new title: Countess of Wessex. 

All about that lace

These days, Queen Elizabeth is known for her brightly colored outfits. Whether she's donning a hot pink or lime green suit, she certainly doesn't shy away from making bold fashion statements. Although her use of color has evolved over time, the Queen seems to have always had an eye for style. Her wedding dress was no exception. 

Although it's probably not a dress you'd say yes to today, it's still pretty amazing — especially for having been made in 1947. Designed by Norman Hartnell and inspired by the famous Primavera painting of Sandro Botticelli, the then princess' ivory-colored satin dress was embroidered in a floral pattern with silver thread. The dress was also embellished with white seed pearls imported from the United States. The Queen's dress also had a long silk tulle train attached at the shoulders. Even her shoes were embellished with little seed pearls to tie the look together. Maybe her look was a bit extra, but hey, she's the epitome of royalty.

Keepin' it classy

Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's sister, married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a fashion photographer, in 1960. Town & Country reported that their big day was actually the first royal wedding ever broadcasted on television and it pulled in about 300 million viewers. Nerve-wracking, much? Regardless, Margaret didn't disappoint.

Norman Hartnell, the same designer who created Queen Elizabeth's stunning gown, created Margaret's. Although the princess' dress incorporated silk organza much like the Queen's, it was much simpler overall. That's not to say it was boring — not at all. In fact, it looked like the quintessential princess dress. It didn't hurt that it literally was a princess gown. The full skirt alone required over 30 meters of fabric. That means, if you could stand the silk on end, it would measure about as tall as a 9-story building.

While that's impressive, even more phenomenal was Margaret's dramatic tiara. Designed for Lady Poltimore in the 1870s, it looked more like it was made for her.

The Queen Mother was quite the fashionista

If you've ever wondered where Queen Elizabeth gets her fashion sense, it's likely inherited from her mother. Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, as she was known in the early 1920s, married Prince Albert in 1923. You may not be able to picture the royals embracing the edgy flapper trend of the '20s but, at least as far as the Queen Mother is concerned, it definitely happened. Bowes-Lyon wore a dropped waist pearl- and silver-threaded gown along with a flapperesque headpiece to her royal nuptials. The gown, designed by Madame Handley Seymour, was in the moire style, which meant the silk had to be heated and pressure-rolled after weaving it in order to give it the iconic rippled look of the '20s.

While Meghan Markle may be credited with pushing the boundaries when it comes to fashion these days, could the Queen Mother have been the first one to test the royal waters nearly a century ago?

So very Kate

Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding may have been pushed to the back burner after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got engaged, but it's still very much worth remembering. Middleton's Alexander McQueen gown, especially, deserves to stay in the spotlight. According to Good Housekeeping, the bodice was inspired by Victorian-era corsets and Middleton even added a little padding below the waist for a more flared look. Middleton's dress was also incredibly detailed.

The silk tulle bottom of her gown was made to resemble a blooming flower — a detail that could only be seen when the 9-foot-long train was lifted. Middleton's lace sleeves were also a great touch and followed the tradition of some of the royal brides before her. According to The Telegraph, a lot went into making sure those sleeves were absolutely perfect. The lace was hand-cut and either of the English or French Chantilly variety. Each lacy detail was created using the Carrickmacross lace-making technique, a special method that dates back to 1820s Ireland.

Middleton's dress is truly amazing. So amazing, in fact, that even with another royal wedding approaching, her dress is still being emulated and sold.

Timeless elegance

When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married on May 19, 2018, the world finally got to see her royal wedding dress. Ahead of the big day, there was a lot of speculation about which designer the former Suits actress would wear. In the end, Markle opted for Givenchy — and it was a beautiful choice. 

Markle achieved a modern yet timeless look with her gleaming white silk A-line gown with three-quarter-sleeves and a delicate off-the-shoulder neckline. The classic gown was paired with a 16-foot silk tulle veil, which, according to People, took "hundreds of hours" to complete. The floral trim featured hand-embroidered flowers from each of the 53 Commonwealth countries over which the Queen of England presides. 

While some royal wedding viewers thought Markle's bridal gown to be a bit drab, Harry most certainly didn't. During the luncheon reception after the wedding, Harry was able to share his opinions with the designer, Clare Waight Keller. "He came straight up to me and said, 'Oh my God, thank you. She looks absolutely stunning,'" Waight Keller told reporters, as reported by People. Stunning, indeed!