Royal Wedding: Kate Middleton’s wedding dress designer…

by Sasha Wilkins on November 25, 2010 · 32 comments

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There’s an enormous amount of debate, especially here in America, about which dress designer will make Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, with some frankly bizarre names being thrown into the ring. That’s partly because of the ludicrous betting lists published by bookmakers Paddy Power and William Hill, which seem to have been composed by throwing a dart at a list of fashion designers.

Whilst I normally avoid celebrity on LLG like the plague, as a fashion editor of course I have an opinion on which designer I think will make her dress. Having read an astonishing amount of drivel on the subject – everyone seems to be considering potential designers in a vacuum, rather than with their ability to design the very specific requirements of the dress, whilst still making it look wonderful, – here’s my exegesis, hopefully drivel-free.

Most of the bookies’ names can be discounted. Obviously the designer will be designing in Great Britain and Northern Ireland for a British label. So no Chanel, Armani or Vera Wang, and no John Galliano for Christian Dior. I wonder too whether an emphasis on British-ness will rule out the designer of her engagement dress, Brazilian Daniela Helayel of Issa, and that’s before we consider that relaxed, sexy Issa is hardly a go to label for formal wedding dresses. (Although Issa do occasionally produce bespoke bridal, it’s still in the flowing mode that is not right for a cathedral wedding.)

I also don’t think there’s much chance of a designer who has personal celebrity being chosen, however brilliant they are, as clearly the designer mustn’t overshadow the dress. That would rule out Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney or Vivienne Westwood. I think we can discount Anouska Hempel (Lady Weinberg), too in this section (her early ‘acting’ career…) I also would remove any overtly successful or commercial house. So no Christopher Bailey.

We all understand why Elizabeth Emmanuel would be on the bookies’ list – but at 6-1, really? I think the Diana connection rules out the charming Bruce Oldfield too. I don’t see much chance of Kate choosing the Queen’s dressmaker Stewart Parvin either: his designs seem too old, too formal for her. Above all, one hopes Kate will want to forge her own fashion path, & that means not using dressmakers already strongly connected to the royal family, past or present,.

Although some London Fashion Week names have been thrown into the ring, (wouldn’t an Erdem dress be glorious?), over the last twenty years or so, British royal brides have all gone for dresses from either specialist bridal houses or very experienced, safe couture designers, who understand exactly what is required from a formal wedding dress that will be photographed & filmed from every conceivable angle, which must be uncrushable (all that sitting in carriages), demure (no billowing bosoms), and won’t disappear in the echoing spaces of Westminster Abbey.

Catherine Walker: Lady Helen Taylor ( Lady Helen Windsor)
Jasper Conran: Lady Sarah Chatto (Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones)
Lindka Cierach: The Duchess of York (Sarah Ferguson)
Robinson Valentine: The Duchess of Cornwall (Camilla Parker Bowles)
Samantha Shaw: The Countess of Wessex (Sophie Rhys-Jones)
Sassi Holford: Autumn Philips (wife of Mark Philips, the son of Princess Anne)

Of these, the amazing Catherine Walker died earlier this year, Lindka Cierach’s clientele is too old, I doubt any bride would choose her future step-mother-in-law’s designers (Robinson Valentine), and Samantha Shaw and Sassi Holford could be in with a chance, but again I hope that Kate will want to go her own way.

Amongst other names in the press, the design signatures of Amanda Wakeley, Maria Grachvogel and Alice Temperley, like that of Daniela Helayel, seem too unstructured for this particular dress.

It also depends on who Kate Middleton goes to for fashion advice, who will be her Anna Harvey (the Vogue editor who turned around Diana, Princess of Wales’ wardrobe). Insiders are whispering about her future step-sister-in-law, Sara Buys, wife of the Duchess of Cornwall’s son Tom Parker-Bowles, who works for British Harper’s Bazaar, and who was married in a beautiful Alexander McQueen dress. The house’s wedding dresses would be a wonderful choice, suffused as they are with British heritage, but its history may prove be too controversial for the world stage. (RIP Mr. McQueen.)

Names I would throw into the mix are Jenny Packham, Phillipa Lepley, Ritva Westenius, Suzanne Neville and Caroline Castigliano, all of whom have thriving wedding businesses.  (Although maybe Jenny Packham & Suzanne Neville’s celebrity clientele rules them out.) The wedding market is not my area of speciality (for that you need to speak to Deborah Joseph on Conde Nast’s Brides), but it’s clear there are some amazing wedding couture designers out there.

So, my betting money is on a specialist wedding dress designer, who has both the technical skills and an understanding of how to make a dress that can match up to the pomp and ceremony of the occasion, and who has no celebrity connections, newsworthy personal background or household name commercial business to be exploited: Philippa Lepley, the current favourite, maybe, or more likely, a name no one has heard of outside of the bridal industry.

Amongst the household names, I’d love to see what Jasper Conran would do, as he makes glorious, glorious wedding dresses, and although he doesn’t hit all the criteria above, he seems to rise above it all. He is also quintessentially English. He produced this book, after all.

My outsider money is on Alexander McQueen, but I suspect our future queen is, at the moment, too fashion-shy for such a choice. I hope that changes.

Photo: Lady Sarah Chatto (Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones) in Jasper Conran

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Milla Fox Shops November 25, 2010 at 01:50

Isn’t it amazing how one dress can create such a world-wide fervour. I would say it boggles my mind, but secretly I’m just as excited and interested as everyone else!! I love a royal wedding. I was only 9 yo when Diana married Prince Charles and I still remember the hype around ‘that’ dress nearly 30 years on. Out of interest, did Danish designer Uffe Frank get a mention with the bookies? Out of all the royal weddings I’ve followed over the years, Princess Mary of Denmark was my standout favourite (behind Diana of course…blush blush). She looked stunning.
MFSxx

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:13

Extraordinary! But gd for the fashion industry! LLGxx

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rollergirl November 25, 2010 at 03:59

Yay, I’m with you on Jasper: experienced, uncontroversial but capable of doing something spectacular if needed. Totes forgot the Sara Buys connection – will Harpers also get the first KM cover?

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:13

Interestingly all my fashion friends are plumping for Jasper… LLGxx

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Sarah November 25, 2010 at 05:28

I agree with your thoughts… an Erdem dress would be truly exciting, and pretty too, or McQueen. What about Westwood? Too sexy, I guess. Boy, I do not envy the level of scrutiny she will endure! (ps Love that you avoid celebrity on this blog). Best wishes, Sarah

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:12

I think Westwood too famous. And thank you – I’m glad you appreciate my editorial policy! LLGxx

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Eilis Boyle November 25, 2010 at 05:59

Alexander McQueen would be perfect!!!

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:11

Funny how we all want McQueen or Erdem! LLGxx

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A Girl, A Style November 25, 2010 at 08:09

I’m not too bothered by the whole affair either, but I very much enjoyed your expert summary nonetheless! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Sarah Buys did become her Anna Harvey, and we saw her walking down the aisle of Westminster Abbey in a glorious, dramatic lace McQueen creation?

So annoyed to hear about your posts being stolen from the subscriber feed too! I hope there’s some action you can take?

Briony xx

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:11

ooh lace! Wld be perfect. Never going to happen. *sniffs* LLGxx

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Jem November 25, 2010 at 11:14

I cannot wait to see what Kate wears, I am sure who ever she chooses will not only create a stunning bridal gown but also be thrust onto the worlds stage. They will gain so much sudden fame from designing one dress, one dress which could make a whole career. In a way this reminds me a bit of the fever over the Jason Wu dress which Michelle Obama wore to the inauguration ball… it certainly helped launch his career! Its so exciting to have such a big royal wedding to look forward too… my hope is that Kate chooses Erdem (imagine how gorgeous that would be?!)! :)

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:07

Yup! I hope it’ll be a small house for exactly those reasons. LLGxx

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Aja November 25, 2010 at 12:23

Ooooh, I love Erdem. Even though it’s not likely I’m going to still keep my fingers crossed for it.

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:07

It wld be amazing, wldn’t it? LLGxx

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The Very Simon G November 25, 2010 at 18:54

I thought Issa was announced?? x

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admin November 26, 2010 at 00:24

Not as far as I know! LLGxx

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Roxy November 26, 2010 at 00:33

I can’t wait to see what Kate decides. All this hoop-la over a royal wedding? OK- I’ll admit it, I love it too. I think she’ll look amazing in just about anything. But whatever she decides, she better choose right- the whole world is watching.

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:07

So no pressure then! LLGxx

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Blue Floppy Hat November 26, 2010 at 08:34

It’s a shame she probably won’t go for McQueen, because, like you said, that house gives GOOD wedding dress and had a perfect mix of drama (needed for Westminster Abbey) and technical finesse (perfect construction).

But seriously, LLG, you cannot possibly think that, even if Mr McQueen (RIP) were still alive, Kate M would actually wear a dress by a label whose founder, legend has it, stitched the words “I am a cunt) into the lining of one of her would-be father-in-law’s suits as an apprentice tailor?

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admin November 26, 2010 at 20:06

I know, I know. But god they wld be perfect. LLGxx

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