Royal Engagement: Let the Sketching Begin

If it’s a nail-biting decision for mere mortal brides, then it’s one of monumental importance for Kate Middleton, the bride of the 21st century: What, oh what, will the fresh-faced, stylish Brit wear for her nuptials this April to the future King of England?

Middleton’s engagement in November has set designer pencils a-sketching as everyone debates the look and style of the signature dress befitting a princess-in-waiting. While some designers point to a modern take for the 28-year-old university graduate, others see classic designs as the more proper option, but presented with restraint. Even Princess Diana’s wedding dress designer, Elizabeth Emanuel, wrote in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper that the frills and flounces of Diana’s gown worked for the ’80s but wouldn’t be “suitable” for now. (The 25-foot train is up for discussion.)

The key is to play up Middleton’s physical assets. “I don’t see Kate in a modern design,” says Charles W. Bunstine II, the designer behind Anna Maier/Ulla Maija Couture. “I think Kate’s gown should reflect classic elegance. I like the vision of her in lustrous duchess satin or taffeta … I like the skirt of the gown to be complex and full of volume defining her waist and making it seem as though she is elegantly rising out of it.”

Francesca Pitera, the designer of Jim Hjelm Bridal, imagines Middleton in “an elegant ball gown with beautiful draping throughout the bodice that accentuates her figure.”

Designers agree that one element that’s a must on her gown is lace, which in the 19th century was transformed into a major status symbol when Queen Victoria got married.

Romona Keveza suggests that Middleton should wear “a beautiful point d’esprit lace gown accented with a cathedral-length train,” and Jessica Williams, designer for Alvina Valenta, would choose to dress her in a gown made of silk duchess satin and alençon lace with a sheer bateau neckline and sleeves.

“The lace beautifully frames her neckline over the sheer tulle and delicately cascades over her shoulders and partway down her sheer tulle sleeves,” Williams says.

Lace abounds in the sketches created by New York-based designer, Angelo Lambrou, who studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design in London. In a nod to her classic style, Lambrou would create a form-fitting scoop neck gown with a handcrafted lace bodice featuring layered trains with lace. His boat-neck gown adorned with bows and a tulle skirt with appliquéd lace trim is a reflection of her “more youthful and playful side,” Lambrou says.

Most designers, including Lazaro Perez, see Middleton’s gown featuring some ornamentation, such as intricate embroidery. Lambrou would include Swarovski crystals on his creations.

To crown the moment, Anne Barge envisions Kate dressed like a princess with all its accompanying finery. Her satin dress will include a “detachable 12-foot train, a 15-foot veil of silk illusion tulle held with one of the royal family’s diamond tiaras.”

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