Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Princess Kate wasn’t the first royal recycler: This the oldest surviving example of 'upcycling' in the British monarchy

Princess Charlotte’s 1816 wedding dress reveals surprising secrets about royal circular wardrobe habits...


Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.
Natalie Salmon
Fashion Digital Editor
26 April 2023
Share this:

Sign up to HELLO! Fashion for style tips, cultural insights, must-have items, and more

By entering your details, you are agreeing to HELLO! Magazine User Data Protection Policy. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more information, please click here.

Princess Kate isn’t the first royal to recycle her clothes, turns out the Georgian royals were at it back in the 1800s.

The wedding dress of George IV’s daughter Princess Charlotte of Wales, has gone on display for the first time in over a decade.

MORE: The Queen's favourite brand is creating a special handbag for the coronation

RELATED: £3.5 billion worth of jewels will be used at King Charles III's coronation

Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.© Todd-White Art Photography/Ben F
Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.

Her silk embroidered bridal gown is the only royal wedding dress that survives from the Georgian period, though it appears to have been significantly altered from its original form, in keeping with the Georgian practice of repurposing and recycling clothing. Upcycling is something our modern royals, such as Kate still practice. Our future queen regularly changes the hemlines and fit of her clothing to keep her looks fresh, season after season.

kate middleton navy commonwealth day service© Photo: Getty Images
Princess Kate is well known for altering her clothing

“Dress is so much more than just what we see on the surface, and it’s fascinating what we can learn about a period when looking at it through a fashion history lens,” explains curator Anna Reynolds, “Visitors might be surprised to learn how much the Georgian period has in common with the fashion landscape we know today, from influencers and fashion magazines to ideas about the value of clothes and how they can be recycled and repurposed.”


MORE: What Princess Kate should wear to the coronation according to 3 celebrity stylists

RELATED: The Queen's Coronation dress: Everything you need to know about her Norman Hartnell gown

Princess Charlotte was the King’s only legitimate child, but died in childbirth at the age of 21 in 1817. Her marriage to Prince Leopold in 1816 was considered one of the most important royal weddings of the era. The Princess followed the tradition for European royal brides to wear silver, despite white wedding dresses becoming popular by the end of the 18th century thanks to Queen Victoria.

Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.© Royal Collection Trust
Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816

The dress is among more than 200 works from the Royal Collection that is now on show at The Queen’s Gallery, in Buckingham Palace in a new exhibition entitled Style & Society: Dressing the Georgians. The exhibition also explores Georgian jewellery, which was often highly personal and sentimental. Items on display include diamond rings given to Queen Charlotte on her wedding day and a bracelet with nine lockets, six containing locks of hair and one with a miniature of the left eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales. 

Necklace made from George III’s dress-coat buttons, 1818© Royal Collection Trust
Necklace made from George III’s dress-coat buttons, 1818

As with clothing, jewellery was often repurposed; a striking necklace that’s on display was actually made from dress-coat buttons that had belonged to George III. 

Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.© Todd-White Art Photography/Ben F
Wedding dress worn by Princess Charlotte of Wales, 1816.

Looks like our royals have been sustainable sartorialists for longer than we ever realised.

Like this story? Sign up to our Hello! Fashion newsletter to get your weekly 'Fashion Fix' delivered straight to your inbox.

More Hello! Fashion

See more