The Pippa Mid­dle­ton wed­ding dress ef­fect

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - VANESSA FRIED­MAN

It was a big week­end for red-car­pet peo­ple-watch­ing — what with the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s first trip abroad since tak­ing of­fice, and the Bill­board Mu­sic Awards — but for all the com­pe­ti­tion, the fash­ion mo­ment I was still think­ing about days later was the “not-quite-royal-wed­ding-of-the-year,” a.k.a. the nup­tials of Pippa Mid­dle­ton, sis­ter of Cather­ine, the Duchess of Cam­bridge, with James Matthews.

I think it may change a fash­ion ca­reer. Per­haps two. Re­ally.

The de­signer in ques­tion is Giles Dea­con, cre­ator of Mid­dle­ton’s lace­cov­ered gown, a dress that was, like that of her sis­ter, firmly in the Grace Kelly-mar­ry­ing-Prince-Rainier con­tin­uum: high-necked, cap­sleeved, moulded to her torso; fairy tale and con­tem­po­rary at the same time, with a full skirt but not a stuffed one. Not rad­i­cal by any means. Which is what was in­ter­est­ing. Dea­con, af­ter all, made his name as part of the cooler, con­cep­tual strain of Bri­tish de­sign. “Ec­cen­tric” is an ad­jec­tive of­ten at­tached to his name. He’s the guy who put Cate Blanchett in an enor­mous strap­less em­pire gown at Cannes in 2015, dec­o­rated with a dig­i­tized print he called a “Tudor col­lage,” and who dressed Solange Knowles in what looked like two over­size, un­furled fans for the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art’s Cos­tume In­sti­tute Gala that same year. Last year, he stepped off the Lon­don Fash­ion Week sched­ule to show cou­ture in­stead; a sig­nal, seem­ingly, that he was go­ing to go even more ex­treme and ex­trav­a­gant.

So when ru­mours be­gan to fly that Mid­dle­ton had picked Dea­con to make her dress, it seemed un­likely. There was spec­u­la­tion that he had done her party frock for the re­cep­tion (an out­fit that re­mains a mys­tery, as the so­cial me­dia ban for the party seems to have suc­ceeded, an ex­tra­or­di­nary achieve­ment th­ese days), but that a more es­tab­lish­ment choice — Cather­ine Walker, who ul­ti­mately dressed Ca­role Mid­dle­ton, the mother of the bride, or Jenny Pack­ham, a favourite of the Duchess of Cam­bridge — would do the bride’s wed­ding dress. How wrong that was. It turns out that Dea­con can walk the line be­tween fan­tasy and ap­pro­pri­ate as well as any of his peers, and there’s a good chance we have all been in­tro­duced to the Next Big Bri­tish Wed­ding Dress De­signer. In not mak­ing a state­ment, he made a state­ment.

Just as the wed­ding dress that Sarah Bur­ton cre­ated for the Duchess of Cam­bridge cast Bur­ton’s work at Alexan­der McQueen in a more ac­ces­si­ble, ro­man­tic light — and set off a part­ner­ship that has con­tin­ued, with Cather­ine choos­ing a blush-coloured McQueen dress for her sis­ter’s wed­ding — the dress that Dea­con made for Pippa Mid­dle­ton may vault him out of the ranks of in­sider fash­ion names and into the ranks of run­way-de­sign­er­swith-thriv­ing-wed­ding-busi­nesses (Os­car de la Renta, Carolina Her­rera, Al­berta Fer­retti), as well as into the pop­u­lar con­ver­sa­tion. At least for a cer­tain con­sumer set.

When Dea­con moved to the cou­ture sched­ule, he men­tioned to The Tele­graph that he thought mov­ing into the wed­ding busi­ness made sense as a next step for his brand. He has now taken that step in a de­fin­i­tive way. Wed­dings cap­ture our imag­i­na­tions like few other events, tap­ping into a uni­ver­sal Dis­ney nar­ra­tive, es­pe­cially when roy­alty is in­volved, even if only by as­so­ci­a­tion. For a de­signer, it can in­crease for­tunes: It cer­tainly in­creases name recog­ni­tion.

As for that McQueen dress on the bride’s more fa­mous sis­ter — knee­length, colour-co-or­di­nated with her mother’s and with the sashes on the brides­maids’ dresses — it served its pur­pose well: grace­fully and ef­fec­tively fad­ing into the back­ground and al­low­ing Dea­con’s work to hold cen­tre stage.

As a re­sult, the sec­ond de­signer name likely to emerge from the week­end’s ex­trav­a­ganza is not another Bri­tish brand at all but rather the Span­ish chil­dren’s wear com­pany Pepa & Co. Yup, the one that cre­ated the clas­sic white shirts and sage knicker­bock­ers for the pages and smocked dresses for the lit­tle brides­maids, whose ranks in­cluded Prince Ge­orge and Princess Char­lotte.

Both minia­ture roy­als have al­ready proved to be great movers of merch, with the looks they wear in of­fi­cial pho­to­graphs caus­ing a sen­sa­tion on so­cial me­dia al­most im­me­di­ately (see an ear­lier Pepa & Co. whale sweater-and-shorts-set worn by the lit­tle prince for his third birth­day). And though the out­fits they wore for their aunt’s wed­ding were cus­tom-made, there are plenty of sim­i­lar styles on the brand’s web­site.

They aren’t sold out yet. Let’s see how long it takes.

WPA POOL, GETTY IMAGES

Pippa Mid­dle­ton ar­rives for her wed­ding to James Matthews at St Mark’s Church in En­gle­field Green, Eng­land, on Satur­day.

WPA POOL, GETTY IMAGES

Pippa Mid­dle­ton and her new hus­band James Matthews leave church fol­low­ing their wed­ding cer­e­mony.

KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pippa Mid­dle­ton and James Matthews kiss af­ter their wed­ding Satur­day.

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