How does Meghan's gown compare to royal wedding dresses of the past? ​

For months, the details of Meghan Markle's wedding dress have been the biggest secret in fashion. But, now the cat's out of the bag, how does her gown compare to royal wedding dresses of the past?

There are those we swooned over, such as Princess Grace of Monaco's – which is said to have inspired Kate Middleton's Alexander McQueen gown – and the '70s chic of Princess Anne's gown, especially those bell sleeves, which are still very on-trend.

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And though we may snigger at the mutton sleeves and 7.6-metre train of Princess Diana's gown, or the heavy bustle of Fergie's dress, we need to remember that in the '80s, these were the height of fashion.

Regardless of the era, there's a certain formula royal brides have followed. For the British royals, a local, or at least locally-based, designer is a must.

Anything imported would be a faux pas. Add a modest neckline, long train, intricate lace or bead work and, voila!

But royal wedding dresses weren't always bigger than Ben Hur. Queen Victoria's wedding gown, worn in 1840 for her marriage to Prince Albert, was one of the first examples of a royal bride wearing white. To think, had the monarch gone with a "fashionable", coloured gown, today's brides could well be walking down the aisle in shades of pink or purple. Queen Victoria also employed local artisans to complete the needlework on her dress, a custom we saw with Kate (the workers were told they were creating a dress for a period drama so as not to spill the beans).

Heirlooms feature prominently in royal gowns, including that of Australian-born Mary Donaldson, who, in 2004, donned a veil that was previously worn by five other brides from the extended royal family of her groom, Prince Frederik of Denmark.

It's common for royal wedding gowns to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – and who pays for all this? Well, usually the royals themselves (not taxpayers, as some cheeky republicans might have you think). Queen Elizabeth famously saved ration coupons to buy the ivory fabric for her dress in 1947.

Another trend followed by modern royal brides is having multiple gowns.

What many don't know is that Diana had a "spare" in case photos of her gown were leaked before the day. But the dress remained a secret and the backup was never needed.

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