Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A royal disappointment? How being official wedding dress designer can prove to be more of a curse than a blessing


Kate’s dress designer may still be a mystery. But one thing’s for certain — whoever she’s chosen will be deluged with attention. However if history is anything to go by, that doesn’t always translate into long-term success and riches...

1981: The Emanuel's creation was a vast sea of creased silk taffeta with sleeves the size of small sheep, golden horseshoes sown into hems and puffed up frills

Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding to Prince Charles
July 29, 1981, St Paul’s Cathedral
Designers: David and Elizabeth Emanuel

Sadly, Elizabeth’s plans to turn herself into a Ralph Lauren-type fashion-to-lifestyle global brand failed to float and her career went from bad to worse, involving bankruptcy after falling out with her backers. Eventually, she gave in to the siren call of Bhs in 2008 and designed people’s princess dresses at £495 a pop.

David, meanwhile, discovered his inner minimalist. He ditched all the ruffles when he started designing celebrity wedding dresses for the likes of Jane Seymour (at her fourth wedding), and producing ranges for Bonmarche.

The Emanuels forced themselves to co-operate on a book a few years later, but two sets of gritted teeth were clearly visible through the veils. They’re both still staggering gently along.

1973: Introduced to Princess Anne by Princess Alexandra, Maureen created a Tudor-style dress, with a high collar and pointy wizardy medieval sleeves

Princess Anne to Captain Mark Phillips
November 14, 1973, Westminster Abbey
Designer: Maureen Baker

Frugal Anne and modest Maureen were a good match, largely because the latter had no delusions of turning herself into a brand.

In fact, it has to be a credit to Maureen that Anne wore one of her dresses 23 years after its first outing (many of her frocks outlasted Anne’s marriage to Mark Phillips) and Maureen happily ‘altered her maternity clothes so she could wear them again when she was slim’.

Anne favoured matching jackets over dresses because ‘she felt you got two looks for the price of one — jacket on or off’. A permanent size 10, Anne also ‘paid her bills promptly and never asked for a discount,’ said Maureen, who was described as a ‘good finisher’. What a practical pair.

1986: Sarah's had padded shoulders, a letter 'A' embroidered into the train, along with an anchor and a bumblebee, which was to Fergie's coat of arms what the acorn is to Kate's

Sarah Ferguson to Prince Andrew
July 23, 1986, Westminster Abbey
Designer: Lindka Cierach

After the initial fuss, Lindka went on, quietly and meticulously, to make well fitting suits and dresses for smart women from Cherie Blair (Lindka feistily banned Carole Caplin) to Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Rania of Jordan.

Herself a striking figure, she even inspired a Jilly Cooper character in Pandora, but she didn’t pop back onto the news radar again until it emerged that Carole Middleton had commissioned an outfit from her for her (daughter’s) big day. Both took umbrage — Carole, when Lindka wouldn’t send the unfinished outfit for a trying-on session with her Berkshire pals, and Lindka when she discovered she was part of a beauty parade rather than the winner.

Now Carole’s got the outfit, but she’s not wearing it on Friday. And poor old Fergie isn’t even invited.

1993: When it came to his royal job, Bruce Robbins chose the groom's mother Princess Margaret's wedding dress as the inspiration for Serena's wasp-waisted, big-skirted dress

The Hon Serena Stanhope to Viscount Linley
October 8, 1993, St Margaret’s, Westminster
Designer: Bruce Robbins

Luckily, Serena was far too wholesome-looking to resemble the royal nemesis anyway.

Robbins’s career didn’t seem to be electrified though and, unromantically, the Poltimore tiara Serena had borrowed from Margaret was eventually flogged at Christie’s for the princely sum of £1 million after her death. Bruce, meanwhile, went quiet, although he does pop up on occasion, designing for Jesire among others.

1999: Sophie wore a pretty silk and organza coat dress which gave a nod to the medieval theme without getting too Blackadder about it all

Sophie Rhys-Jones to Prince Edward
June 19, 1999, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
Designer: Samantha Shaw

Luckily, the theme didn’t stretch to Edward wearing the funny Dark Ages outfit he’d once sported on It’s A Royal Knockout.

Sophie, soon to become (fittingly enough) the Countess of Wessex, wore a pretty silk and organza coat dress made by Shaw (who has a theatrical streak herself having studied costume design), which gave a nod to the medieval theme without getting too Blackadder about it all.

Shortly before the wedding, Samantha got married herself (to Dave Keswick, a son of Prince Charles’s friends from the Hong Kong Jardine Matheson dynasty). She closed her studio for four years when she had children, but reopened in Paddington in 2007, making pretty dresses for society women again.

2005: For Camilla, Anna made two dresses, instead of one: a white chiffon dress with beige coat, and a porcelain blue gown and coat

Camilla Parker Bowles to Prince Charles April 9, 2005, civil ceremony at Windsor Guidhall
Designers: Robinson Valentine

Unfortunately, Antonia never returned from the West Country, choosing instead to go native and make rings, which meant that Anna had no choice but to carry on the label alone.

Both were self-taught, but knew what women like them wanted to wear. With a plush (and slightly intimidating) studio behind London’s Kensington High Street, they would scan English women with an honest eye, and find a cut to suit.

For Camilla, Anna made two dresses, instead of one: a white chiffon dress with beige coat, and a porcelain blue gown and coat.

Royal Wedding Ceremony of Charles & Diana

The wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips(capt) 1973

ROYAL WEDDING 1986 - Andew & Sarah

ROYAL WEDDING 1999 - Edward & Sophie

Charles-Camilla Wedding-1

source: dailymail, click more detail

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