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Handicapping Kate Middleton's wedding gown designer: The traditionalists

April 26, 2011 | 12:21 pm

Though my ever-clever colleague Adam Tschorn riffed on what Kate Middleton won’t be wearing to her wedding (skorts, jorts, lederhosen?), I am going to get back to the real business of continuing to speculate about what she will be wearing. A gown, yes, but designed by whom? On Monday, I looked at the dark horses. Today, I'll size up the traditionalists.

Bruceoldfield Bruce Oldfield: The rumors about Oldfield became feverish in January when Kate Middleton’s mother, Carole, and sister Pippa were photographed leaving the designer’s posh London boutique.  In business for more than 30 years, Oldfield was a go-to designer for Princess Diana in the 1980s, before her marriage broke up and she began asserting her fashion independence by wearing such big-name international labels as Versace and Valentino. 

When it comes to bridalwear, his style is often described as traditional, although he seems quite capable of designing a variety of looks, including  socialite Jemima Khan's clingy ankle-length skirt and tailored blazer in 1995 and Samantha Cameron's demure lace column and veil in 1996.

He wouldn’t be a sexy choice for Middleton, but he would be a safe one.  (Oldfield has also dressed Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Middleton’s future stepmother-in-law.) And early on, a lot was made of his silence on the subject of the gown (“showing the restraint necessary for a royal wedding,” according to a story in the Daily Mail in January).

But since then he’s opened his mouth on several occasions, including on “Good Morning America” in February. When Kate debuts her gown, it’s going to be a “nightmare,” were his words. So odds are Oldfield’s out, although he could certainly be dressing the mother-of-the-bride, which seems more like his demo anyway.

Catherinewalker Catherine Walker: Kate Middleton is already wearing the late Princess Diana's ring, so why not a dress by one of her favorite designers?

Although Walker died in 2010, her namesake label lives on under the name Catherine Walker & Co. And it would be quite a tribute to William's late mother for Middleton to choose the house to create her gown.

The French-born designer, who founded her label in 1977, created more than 1,000 outfits for Diana during the princess' lifetime. And in 1997, Diana was buried in a black Catherine Walker dress.

Walker was known for staying out of the spotlight, even hiring a press officer during the height of the Diana years to keep her name out of the papers, according to the London Telegraph.

That legacy of discretion continues today, which could make the label an attractive, almost anti-fashion choice. Still, I'm betting Middleton will want to make her own mark and be more forward-looking and less morbid.

Elizabeth Emanuel: She and then-husband David designed Princess Diana's famously frothy wedding gown in 1981, at the height-of-'80s romanticism. And though the Emanuels divorced in 1990, Elizabeth has continued to design under her own name and that of her label, the Art of Being. Another interesting factoid? She was commissioned by Elizabeth Taylor to create her wardrobe to promote the White Diamonds perfume.Elizabethemanuel

Emanuel's designs are pared down nowadays, but I'm counting her out based on media-hounding behavior. Emanuel has special-edition royal-wedding T-shirts for sale through her website, and on Monday night, just days before the event, sat down with CNN's Piers Morgan to discuss her predictions for the big reveal. Enough said.

-- Booth Moore


Interactive: Your guide to the royal wedding

Photos, from top: Bruce Oldfield's London boutique. Credit: Chris Jackson / For The Times. A Catherine Walker gown was among the frocks on the block in "Dresses From the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales," at Christie's New York in 1996. Credit: Christie's, New York. The wedding of Diana and Prince Charles in 1981, with the Princess of Wales in a gown by Elizabeth and David Emanuel. Credit: Associated Press