x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Never mind Kate's wedding dress, what will the guests be wearing?

Hat or fascinator? Bespoke or ready-to-wear? We get the lowdown from top designers on what to wear wedding this wedding season.

The fact that Kate Middleton's already breaking fashion rules – wearing blue and black, for example, and wearing black to a wedding – shows a new confidence that will allow her to develop a distinctive personal style.
The fact that Kate Middleton's already breaking fashion rules – wearing blue and black, for example, and wearing black to a wedding – shows a new confidence that will allow her to develop a distinctive personal style.

Never mind what Kate will wear: the attire of the 1,900 guests at the wedding on April 29 should equally be grabbing your attention. It's this, rather than the wedding gown the princess-in-waiting will reveal on her big day, that could have a huge impact not just on fashion but on the dress code of social events and far less formal occasions that you or I will have to attend in the near future.

As society weddings go, this is the one to watch. And watched it will be, by an audience of billions via terrestrial and satellite television, and online. Being live-streamed on YouTube (www.youtube/theroyalchannel), accompanied by a live multimedia blog and tweets from wedding guests themselves, viewers will have unprecedented access to a hitherto exclusive occasion and simultaneously an education in emerging occasion-wear and millinery trends.

So, what can we speculate these will be? How does one dress for a wedding these days? Not in the frumpy florals and ghastly dowager pastels last seen in Four Weddings and a Funeral, the phenomenally successful British movie that enlightened the world to the unique dress code and strange practices of the posh society wedding in the mid-1990s (when Andie MacDowell and Kristin Scott-Thomas created a sort of fashion-off of preppy vs aristo style).

In the manner of Miss Catherine Middleton, most British guests and royals will be adhering to home-grown brands, as is usual on such occasions.

If you were a relation of the queen and wanted to have something special "run up" for a wedding you would head over to leafy Chelsea to someone reputable and discreet such as Claire Thorogood, Lindka Cierach, Bruce Oldfield or Allison Rodger, who specialise in bespoke.

"I think we are going to be seeing some great British couture represented by blue-blooded ladies," says Thorogood, who will dress several clients including royals for the wedding.

"Lace is a big trend. I suspect celebrities like Victoria Beckham and the young royals will be wearing bold colours. For wedding guests generally, however, I don't think women dwell too much on fashion when it comes to something as important as the wedding of a close relative where photographs will be around for a lifetime."

Rodger, a couturier based in Ebury Street, who trained with the Emanuels, designers of the wedding dress of the late Princess Diana, advises a Jackie O shift and long jacket as a fail-safe society-wedding ensemble.

"For me, dressing for a wedding is very much about looking as elegant as possible, which is achieved by cut and fabric. Most of my customers choose bespoke to avoid turning up at an event only to find another woman wearing something identical," says Rodger, whose clients include Cherie Blair, Katherine Jenkins and Nigella Lawson, and several royal wedding guests. "For weddings I would advise clients keep their shoulders and upper arms covered and avoid trousers."

The British designer Caroline Charles, who has long been making impeccably tailored modern occasionwear, has seen a huge change in British weddings.

"Wedding hats are not about making a statement in the way hats for the races would be. More defining a sense of occasion," explains the milliner Judy Bentinck. "A lot of my clients have had their colours 'done' [Colour me Beautiful, the leading global colour consultancy, has several consultants in the UAE; www.colourmebeautiful.co.uk] and come in with swatches that seems to work. Sometimes I have to dye fabrics to match. Very rarely would I do black."

"If in doubt [when looking at hat colour], always have [a hat] shade darker than your outfit," advises the milliner Edwina Ibbotson.

"Fascinators are finished!" shrieks Victoria Grant, the trendy bespoke milliner to Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Liberty.

"For an amazing occasion such as a royal wedding they don't carry the same amount of respect. I dress a lot of the young rock 'n' roll elite - women who are fashion-forward. The first thing I enquire about is the crowd at the event. Sometimes I have to explain to them I don't feel you should wear something huge. You don't want to upstage the bride."

"Most bridal guests don't actually know what they want and are looking for guidance," says Terry Fox, a wedding gown and occasionwear couturier based in Suffolk, whose outfits start at around £5,000 (Dh30,000).

"My clients tend to be professional, self-assured women mostly from London. Depending on the event, my advice would be go for something 1950s Dior with a touch of Vivienne Westwood. I think definitely feminine, not fussy. Be simple with shape and bold in colour. And always match your shoes. I'd also say go for a colour that suits you. Don't go too fashion short, sheer or slouchy."

"We are definitely going to be seeing lots of colour, bold print, hats and lace," agrees Charles, who points out that most women will go home and change for the evening celebrations, which culminate at the royal wedding in a pop-up disco in one of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.

"There are plenty of glamorous society weddings where long, full-length dresses are popular. Especially if the wedding is later in the afternoon," says Ibbotson.

Holli Rogers, the buying director of Net-a-Porter.com, believes the perfect wedding outfit is a "floor-length gown by Halston Heritage, Alice by Temperley or Issa, worn with sky-high sandals from Jimmy Choo and a lace trim cover-up shawl by Valentino."

What about local weddings in the UAE?

"Emirati women look for colour when selecting an outfit to wear to a wedding and shy away from black - especially as the traditional dress is black," explains Salama Alabbar, the founder and director of the boutique and concept website, Symphony Style in the Dubai Mall.

"Customers want something different, something bright yet sophisticated. We tend to find that non-local weddings call for less dramatic ensembles. Lots of expats love the collections from Willow, Acne, Derek Lam and Erin Fetherston for summer weddings."

When it comes to wedding-guest style perhaps the person to look to in this case is the royal bride herself. Middleton showed a very modern approach to dressing when she chose a mid-market brand, Reiss, and a simple white one-piece costing around £250, for her official engagement photographs taken by Mario Testino. "Dresses are a key part of our business, especially evening gowns," explains Victoria Phelps, the press director at Reiss. "Sculptured, cocktail and maxi styles are all popular. I think women see red-carpet glamour as a sense of escapism from the economic climate. This would definitely account for the recent return to dressing up. Style watching, be it following celebrities or bloggers' street fashion, has definitely made the average woman up the ante."

And perhaps we should mention here that gentlemen should preferably be dressed in traditional morning suit, preferably slightly aged, and nothing too new.

"Last year the revered global trends forecaster, David Wolfe, predicted that Middleton would be the most-copied trendsetting person on the planet.

"Think how the bride might wear it - in other words, "what would Kate do"? (WWKD: it's already being printed on T-shirts) - and you have in a nutshell how to dress for a wedding.