Some might turn up their noses at the recent red carpet craze for sheer fabrics and lingerie-inspired dressing, but a translucent mini-dress actually played a major part in the most royal romance of our ages—that of Kate Middleton’s and Prince William’s. Netflix’s The Crown has set out to recreate a crucial event from their love story for its final batch of episodes, debuting on December 14th: when Will spied Kate, a fellow classmate, wearing a see-through dress at a runway show. While it will undoubtedly add a bit of flashy sex appeal, the garment’s inclusion is warranted, narratively speaking. It’s often credited as the piece that piqued Will’s interest in his classmate in the first place.
Although Netflix decided to highlight the moment in a series of freshly released photos to promote the season, you may need a reminder of what happened. It all goes back to a time when the public didn’t even know Middleton’s name.
Middleton was a first-year art history major at University of St. Andrews in 2002 when she volunteered to walk in a campus charity fashion show dubbed “The Art of Seduction.” Middleton ended up wearing a sheer dress, originally designed as a skirt, down the runway. William, who was also a student at the university, happened to be sitting in the audience.
Reports differ as to whether the pair had ever met before (they began officially dating a year later, in 2003). Still, in the (often tabloid-informed) popular imagination, this was when William first took an interest in his future bride. You can imagine why, then, the future King and Queen haven’t bothered to talk about it much publicly.
The dress, designed by Charlotte Todd and estimated to have been worth about $50 originally, eventually sold at auction in 2011 for a whopping $125,000.
To this day, Todd says she never chose to put the dress on Middleton, and has no idea how she came to wear it. “I don’t know if Kate chose to wear this dress or if someone put her in the dress,” she told CNN. “So, I don’t know if it was her intention to be there in her underwear in front of the prince.”
It’s possible that The Crown—no longer a series that rests on subtlety—may take some artistic liberties with the moment.
If you’re thinking, “Wait, isn’t this show about the Queen of England, not college students in lingerie?” Well, the final few episodes will serve as something of a coda, and concentrate more heavily on younger royals. Meg Bellamy will play the Princess of Wales, while Ed McVey stars as the Duke of Cambridge.
No word, however, on whether the show will feature William’s own college-age risqué fashion moment. Remember when the world got a hold of photos of the young prince in a speedo playing water polo? It only seems that moment ought to be recreated, too—if for no other reason than equal-opportunity objectification.