MY WEEK: With Kate’s help I’ve squeezed £78,000 out of a tarty teabag


The designer of the dress that caught Prince William’s eye enjoys a payday

20 March 2011


Last Thursday, a garment that I designed and knitted as a student became the first piece of Kate Middleton memorabilia to be sold at auction. Although it had a guide price of between £8,000 and £10,000, I wasn’t convinced it would sell. Critics have described my dress as a pop sock or a tarty teabag, and it was being sold alongside beautiful couture gowns worn by Princess Diana. The auction began at 2pm and the dress was lot 293, the last one.

As the hours passed, I began to get more nervous. Diana’s dresses sold but didn’t make as much as expected, so everyone was wondering what would happen with mine.


The bidding started and offers were coming in from America, South Korea, China, Japan, Germany and Britain. As the price crept higher my hands were getting clammy and my heart was pounding. When the gavel finally came down at £78,000 I burst into tears and my mum started shouting for joy. Suddenly there were lots of cameras in my face and people were congratulating me. I was asked for my autograph, but I didn’t quite know what to write.


Parting with the dress was emotional. In the auction room I had a little touch, a last look and then a final goodbye. I’ve never worn that dress — no one apart from Kate has — and selling it was a big decision. I had stored it in a box in my mother’s house for years and during that time I had turned down lots of offers.

When Kate and William broke up, my family thought, “Oh no”, but I wasn’t fazed. I felt their relationship wasn’t really at an end. People advised me to hold on to the dress until Kate becomes Queen, but I’m 31 and that might not happen until I’m in my sixties. Now feels like the right time to let it go. There is so much Kate-mania ahead of the royal wedding and with the increased interest came increased responsibility. The dress is made of very fine material — if I were touch it in the wrong way, it could unravel. Now it’s the responsibility of the buyer, Nicky Roberts from Jersey.


£30 I made the dress in 2000 while studying fashion and textiles in Bristol. I was given a brief, “the art of seduction” — and I wanted to create a garment that would glimmer and glisten. The dress is made of black and gold silk threads. It was designed as a skirt but I’m not sure it would have had such an impact on William if Kate had worn it as I intended. The top part has a teal band of elastic, which is meant to sit on the hips or around the waist, and at the bottom I used an acrylic yarn. The materials cost £30 and it took two or three days to make.


Two years later I got a call from someone at St Andrews University. He had seen my work among a new collection in London and he asked if I would send some for a charity fashion show at the university. He told me that Prince William would be in the audience and invited me along, but I didn’t go. Now I regret that decision.

If I had gone, maybe I’d have the answers to so many questions. What went on that night? Did Kate ask to wear the garment or did someone put her in it? Was it her idea to wear the skirt as a dress? Was her plan to get noticed by the prince? She has the perfect figure for wearing see-through knitwear and displaying underwear and it certainly looks like it made William sit up and take notice of her. Apparently when he saw her in it, he turned to his friend and said: “Wow, Kate’s hot.” That makes me proud.


I’ll be at home watching the wedding on television next month. Having got married last year, I know how excited the couple must be. For my big day I wore a short vintage wedding dress that cost £180 on eBay. I’m sure Kate will be a more traditional bride.


I certainly wasn’t a contender for designer of her wedding dress. After graduating, I tried to get an agent and I sent some of my samples to knitwear retailers and manufacturers, but it didn’t work out. I realised that I wasn’t good enough to work in fashion. I wasn’t at the top of my game, I wasn’t very driven and perhaps I didn’t want it badly enough. Now I work as a retail manager at an aquarium in Bristol.

With the money from the auction I can put a deposit down on a house and maybe consider a career change. These past few months have made me think I need to do something a bit more creative. I might just get my knitting machine out again.