A £30 Slip Dress Created by a Design Student at the University of St. Andrews Somehow Cemented the Future of the British Monarchy

A charity fashion show, a prince, a beautiful college co-ed, and four stupefied words spoken to a friend sparked what has become the future of the Crown.

Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2007
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Who knew a piece of see-through lingerie worn at a charity college fashion show would cement the future of the British monarchy? Prince William and Kate Middleton had been friends since 2001 and their initial introduction as first-year students at the University of St. Andrews (even becoming roommates at one point), but when Kate took to the runway in a risqué number, William saw Kate in a different light. (This is timely because it will all play out in part two of season six of Netflix’s The Crown; the final four episodes of the show drop tomorrow and will cover the royal family up to 2005.)

Netflix The Crown

Meg Bellamy portraying Kate Middleton in "The Crown"

(Image credit: Netflix via Instagram)

In March 2002, at a fashion show aptly titled “The Art of Seduction,” normally shy Kate (who would later admit to blushing whenever she saw William around campus) took to the catwalk in a sheer number alongside her fellow students. William paid £200 pounds to attend the fashion show, surely never knowing that it would be a turning point moment in his life. As Kate walked down the runway, William was “left so utterly gobsmacked” by Kate (as The Mirror puts it) that he turned to his friend Fergus Boyd and said four words that would ultimately lead to his marriage and, on a broader scale, the continuity of the British monarchy for the next generation (via William and Kate’s eldest child, Prince George): “Wow, Fergus, Kate’s hot.” Poetic, no?

“She was in a very daring dress, in a sheer, stocking-like dress,” William’s friend Pat Duncan told E! News in 2011. “He was sitting front row, and his eyes were like stalks.” 

The dress Kate Middleton wore to the fashion show where Prince William fell for her

The actual dress itself (and Kate Middleton wearing it in the photo displayed behind)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Enamored by Kate’s bold look, it was that night he reportedly made his feelings known to her at the fashion show’s after party, even allegedly leaning in for a kiss. “It was clear to us that William was smitten with Kate,” a party-goer told Vanity Fair’s royal correspondent Katie Nicholl. “He actually told her she was a knockout that night, which caused her to blush. There was definitely chemistry between them, and Kate had really made an impression on William.”

As to the attempted kiss, Kate demurred and pulled away. In the source’s view, the future Princess of Wales “didn’t want to give off the wrong impression or make it too easy on Will.”

Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2007

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Life is weird, and somehow, a £30 slip dress opened William’s eyes to Kate as more than a friend, which then kickstarted their romance, which then resulted in their marriage, which then resulted in the birth of George and the continuity of this endlessly intriguing monarchy. Design student Charlotte Todd—who designed the sheer dress—didn’t know who Kate was at the time of the show but is happy to be a part of her royal love story: “I’m thrilled,” she told People. “Everyone says that the fashion show was when the romance started, so a small part of me will always be part of royal history. It’s madness!”

The dress, by the way, sold for an incredible £65,000 at auction in 2011, nine years after its creation by a design student at the University of St. Andrews.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.