What does Kate Middleton's choice of wedding dress say about her future style direction?
What Katie did next
It will go down as the best-kept fashion secret ever. But if we are honest, the fairytale wedding gown created for the Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton, by Sarah Burton said more about the emerging style of the bride than the designer brand famous for catwalk shock tactics and kitting out Lady Gaga.
Being both exquisite and modest, with a nod to Grace Kelly's iconic lace wedding gown of 1957 and Princess Elizabeth's of 1947, besides its discreet bustle and a corset hidden by lace, both McQueen signatures, the dress was a statement of understatement.
With that first shock of the day over, there was nothing to do besides revel in a wedding so picture-perfect it put Disney to shame.
There was a Disney story in there too. Here was a beautiful young bride who not only got her Prince Charming, dressed in his scarlet uniform (made by Kashket and Partners) topped with a dashing blue Garter sash but a princess who got to wear exactly what she wanted.
From the acorn-themed diamond earrings gifted by her parents to her choice of discreet 1920s tiara, loaned by The Queen to the modest ankle length gown worn to the evening party at Buckingham Palace, she showed a powerful sense of control.
"She did look amazingly serene," says the designer Osman Yousefzada, who dressed Sarah Parker Bowles for the Royal wedding. "Very modern Grace Kelly and appropriate. The first thing I thought when I saw her was: this girl knows what she wants. I feel it was very much a collaboration between her and Sarah Burton [who managed to whittle down the bride's waist to an estimated twenty two inches]. I think what they produced was modern and timeless with some tradition thrown in too. I liked the fact the (2.7 metre) train wasn't long. That was modern. That was very Kate-appropriate."
"The "Maid Marion" veil was demure and yet when she turned around you saw the buttons down the back and got a shot of that bustle - wow!" said Claire Thorogood, a couturier who dressed several guests for the Royal Wedding including Lady Harewood, the Queen's cousin.
The effortless way Catherine breezed through the formal nuptials watched by an audience of billions with ease speaks volumes about her self-confidence. So does her choice of garments, which sensed - no, seized - the mood of the moment. Hollywood moguls will be working on the movie right now.
When Catherine changed into yet another Burton design (a simple satin gazar dress worn with a fluffy bolero) for the evening, she pulled it off as if wearing a casual T-shirt and jeans.
Despite the fact her train was several metres short of the Royal average and her bouquet of lilies of the valley almost doll-sized, a sense of theatre was achieved. When the bride drew back her veil in the church the effect was as breathtaking as any McQueen runway because she proved to have already mastered that accessory so infrequently seen on the catwalk: a smile.
"The wedding dress was exactly what we expected," says Mark Niemierko, the London based wedding planner who deals with international clients from the Middle East, Russia, Europe and the US and whose budget averages around half a million. "The hair and make-up could have been better. I know she didn't have a make-up artist and insisted on doing it herself. I also felt her veil was a little flat. My overall opinion was that Kate got her way."
"It was amazing to see a dress that was not in the least bit grand: no crystals, sequins or pearl embroidery. And yet it worked, which she knew full well it would."
"The wedding dress was exquisite," agrees Deborah Joseph, editor of the glossy magazine, Brides, in the UK. "I loved the fact the corsetry was so modern and simple but the lace was traditional. Kate is a very classic dresser and she remained true to her own style. The fact that it was Alexander McQueen, a British brand and quite a bold choice, wasn't obvious in the dress but I'm impressed her choice wasn't predictable. This made a fashion statement even though the dress wasn't fashiony at all."
Her choice of Sarah Burton will serve to silence future critics who might dare suggest the wife of the second in line to the British throne's style is anything less than fashion forward or internationally designer savvy.
A huge retrospective of the late designer's work, overseen by Anna Wintour no less, will open in New York on May 4th. Might a photograph from April 29th be included in this, we wonder? It's a given.
The question is: will Catherine sever links with the flashy brand of McQueen now that she's got the business of her wedding dress over with? Having stocked up her honeymoon wardrobe with thrifty fashion-chain items from Warehouse and Whistles, will she continue wearing what 28-year-old "commoners" wear now that she is officially a "Royal"?
Like the young Diana, whom she is already being compared to, Kate is not seen as fashion-forward. Unlike Diana however, fashion does not faze her. She appears confident with the classic style reflected in her wedding dress. What is more, so does Prince William.
"I think Kate got her way in the wedding and William allowed her to," says Mark Niemierko. "He knows what he wants and he knows what she wants. He is very charming chap. He is aware of what happened with his mother and he won't let his young wife be dictated to."
"Kate's already shown us she's got her own style," says Joseph. "Her wedding dress confirmed really what we already knew. She makes a conscious choice to be seen shopping on the high street which is a statement that says she is not extravagant. Everything about the wedding was not extravagant."
"In terms of what will impact on fashion and the bridal industry, I expect sleeves will make a comeback. Lace is already a big bridal trend; now it will spill into fashion."
"Pippa Middleton's dress (also by Burton) will be copied," believes Mark Niermierko. "This style was very Kate but she needed the full skirt because she was the bride. Pippa, is one to watch. Not every bride would have let her sister wear that! She is clearly not shy. For a maid of honour she showed a lot of cleavage and that dress was very fitted. I think Pippa has an influence on Kate. She's style-savvy and this could rub off."
"Catherine needed the volume of the skirt, both to emphasise her tiny waist and to give the dress a sense of importance," agrees couturier, Bruce Oldfield.
"I think Catherine got it 100% right because the dress made the most of her figure," said Allison Rodger, a couturier who dressed several women for the Royal Wedding. "This is number one priority. Kate wears a lot of figure hugging dresses but it had to be a full skirt for Westminster Abbey. I loved the fact it wasn't showbiz and the drama was in the train. She looked like a Princess. Actually no: she looked like a future Queen."
"A few days ago I spoke to the couturier Stewart Parvin, who dressed about twenty women for the Royal wedding," said Thorogood. "He told me the overriding request with his clients was not to make a statement that would override Kate's dress. Everyone loves the fact she is low-key. Nothing she wears overpowers her. She is the best thing to happen to British couture. She is what we've all been waiting for. " "I think Kate was clever to settle for a dress that will be seen as iconic. She looked exquisite. None of the guests ever really stood a chance against her," says XXXXXXXX. "Even Tara Palmer Tompkinson couldn't compete with that. Handmade lace made at Hampton Court? Already you are talking about a dress which belongs in a museum."
"I think her wedding dress will kickstart a new romantic era for the younger generation," believes wedding couturier, Terry Fox. "We've needed a new trend for ages and I think Catherine has come up with it. This wedding was all about romance."
"I haven't met Catherine but I get a sense about her style," says Osman Yousefzada. "She's sussed when it comes to 21st century easy clothes. She hates fuss. Let's see how she develops. It was a great choice for her to work with Sarah Burton for McQueen. That's a great start which has already put her on the fashion map."