CHICAGO — When Kate Middleton walked down the aisle Friday and unveiled the most closely held secret in royal apparel in decades, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of designers put pencil-to-sketch pad in the race to be the first to create the next big trend in wedding attire.
Within weeks, brides-to-be will be able to choose from look-alike frocks at a variety of price points. At least one designer will knock one out within about 12 hours of the first sighting, and Middleton’s look will be seen in one variation or another at many altars for years to come.
“Whatever she wears will have a lasting influence,” said Dan Rentillo, design director for David’s Bridal. “My big challenge is how we are going to interpret it.”
For months, designers have been debating how Middleton will make her wedding-day fashion mark as she marries Prince William in Westminster Abbey. Rentillo’s team, like many designers across the world, sketched designs weeks ago illustrating what they thought Middleton might wear, based on her sense of fashion, body type and what an event of such magnitude would dictate.
What will be shown in bride books, at bridal shows and in bridal stores worldwide will not be an exact duplicate of Middleton’s dress, but an interpretation of it, or designs that were inspired by it. Designer Romona Keveza said she doesn’t think brides want the exact dress anyway.
“The vast majority of brides will want to put their own special stamp on their wedding day and create their own special look,” she said.
Plus, most designers want to put their own stamp on trending styles. “I’ll put a Kate dress with my twists on it in the store in two weeks,” said designer Alice Padrul, who owns an eponymous bridal couture in Chicago.
She can work that fast because she has a team of designers and dressmakers at the ready. Her custom-designed wedding dresses are sewn, stitched and bedazzled at her shop. These dresses, however, aren’t for the faint-of-wallet: They’ll run from $3,000 to $7,000.
For mass-wedding-attire retailers like David’s Bridal, it will be closer to three months — still a quick turnaround — before future brides see their take on the new duchess’ dress. Though most wedding dressmakers have their factories fired up for fast production, many are in China and it will take time to get the dresses shipped to stores.
The prices, of course, will depend largely on the type of fabric — silk, taffeta and chiffon, for example, come at very different costs — and what kind of beading or hand-stitching is required. Mass retailers buy materials in bulk at cheaper prices than smaller shops, so their prices will be more affordable to a wide range of brides. At David’s Bridal, a Kate dress isn’t likely to exceed $1,300, the highest price point in the stores, according to Rentillo.