It’s an understatement to say that much of the British royal family’s clothing is old. Some of it was first created and worn decades, if not centuries, ago. However, a certain royal christening gown is in particularly high demand — and the queen’s dressmakers have preserved its exact color for many years with tea!
Fun fact: The current christening gown used by all of the royals is actually a replica! It was originally created in 1841 during the reign of Queen Victoria and spun with Spitalfields silk and Honiton lace. Queen Elizabeth actually used it at her own christening as an infant, and 62 other babies have donned the delicate dress for the same occasion. According to the queen’s dressmaker Angela Kelly, however, it was decided in 2004 that the original clothing was far too aged to use in the future, and a replica was commissioned.
Kelly and her fellow dressmaker Barbara Buckfield had a challenge on their hands: How could they create an outfit that had the same ultra-specific, off-white color as the original when that hue came from years of aging? That’s where they got a simple idea: According to Kelly’s book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser and the Wardrobe, they used Yorkshire tea to slowly stain the gown to the correct shade. Genius!
And if you’re wondering what Queen Elizabeth thought of all of this, she apparently gave them her seal of approval. “At each stage of the process, I would show our progress to the Queen: First the bodice, then the sleeves attached to it, then the skirt with the under-layers on, and finally the completed robe,” Kelly wrote in her book. “Her Majesty was very interested to see how it was developing. From start to finish, it had taken us, appropriately, nine months.”
It looks like all of their work paid off: The replica christening gown has been used for many of the royals since, including Prince William and Kate Middleton’s three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis. What a fun family tradition!