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Field Narrows as Bruce Oldfield Exits Dress Race

The speculation about Kate Middleton's wedding dress is reaching near-fever pitch.

By
with contributions from Nina Jones, Rosemary Feitelberg
fashion-features/news

LONDON — Bruce Oldfield, who since November has been tipped as the front-runner to design Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, is not the royal-bride-to-be’s pick.



The designer told WWD on Wednesday that he isn’t doing the dress.

“It has been such a subject of rumor and speculation over the past months, but I am not designing it,” Oldfield said. “We will all know [on Friday] — and I thought I’d duck out of the ‘possibles list’ to give everyone 24 hours to place their final bets!”

With Oldfield now out of the running, speculation is zeroing in on the other candidates who have not yet issued denials. They include: Catherine Walker, Alice Temperley and Daniella Helayel from Issa. Other reported front-runners, including Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen; Sophie Cranston of Libelula, and Phillipa Lepley have all denied — repeatedly — that they are working on the dress.

As the Big Day approaches, the guessing game is reaching near-fever pitch. In addition to the non-denying designers, the award-winning Jenny Packham has been thrown into the speculative pool, as has Middleton herself.

A new name - Vera Wang - surfaced Wednesday as possibly having some kind of role in the royal festivities. There is absolutely no chance that Wang, an American, would be tapped for the actual dress, but sources suggested the designer may be involved on another level.

The intrigue escalated, after Wang’s office fell unusually quiet, with the normally accessible designer failing to return numerous phone calls.

However, Wang insisted Thursday, “I have no involvement with the wedding or anyone in it.”

Asked if she had ever been in contact with anyone connected with the wedding, she said, “I just know her name,” referring to the bride-to-be.

In addition in an e-mail sent Wednesday night after press time, Mario Grauso, president of the Vera Wang Group, said, “The Vera Wang Group has no involvement in the royal wedding this coming Friday.”

Wang, the world’s leading bridal designer, is no stranger to London. The designer opened a bridal shop at Browns in February and a trunk show for her namesake collection was held there last month.

The preparations for Friday have been extremely buttoned up, with participants operating under strict confidentiality agreements and registered in London hotels under various aliases. Leaks of any kind clearly will not sit well with the seemingly contradictory press-shy royals who are determined to preserve all elements of surprise. With 2.5 billion people expected to tune into the regalia via TV or the Internet, there is no question the payoff — in publicity alone — for the wedding providers will be gargantuan.

As for one of the newer names in the mix, Britain’s Jenny Packham, her red-carpet clientele includes Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lopez, Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel and Jennifer Aniston.

Packham, who has a shop on Elizabeth Street in London and shows at New York Fashion Week, is known for slim silhouettes, bias cuts and embellishments. She shows her collection during New York Fashion Week, and has won a slew of awards, including Hollywood Style Designer of the Year and British Bridal Dress Designer.

 

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Packham said the company was “not commenting at all on the wedding.”

He added: “Catherine will undoubtedly look spectacular. She has a fantastic figure and knows well what suits her. I shall be intrigued to see her choice of design.”

In related matters, a spokeswoman for Anna Valentine confirmed she would dress Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for the wedding. Valentine declined to give details of what Camilla will wear. The duchess wore a design by Valentine for her own wedding to Prince Charles, and her daughter Laura Parker Bowles also wore a wedding dress by the designer.

Valentine had earlier said she was not designing Middleton’s wedding gown.

As for Oldfield, he was the hot tip to design Middleton’s dress from the moment the royal engagement was revealed in November. And he was certainly up for the job. At the time, Oldfield told WWD: “If I was lucky enough to be asked, I’d be delighted. I’m already dressing her peers.”

In early December, speculation about Oldfield was so feverish that Paddy Power, the Irish bookmaker, was forced to suspended betting on him after a flurry of big-stake bets of more than 500 pounds, or $825.

Oldfield, who has been in the business for 35 years, is one of Britain’s premier dress designers and a perennial favorite among the mothers and daughters of London society. He created power suits and evening gowns for Princess Diana in the Eighties, and has made one-off dresses for clients including Britain’s First Lady Samantha Cameron, Sienna Miller, Charlotte Rampling, and Queen Rania of Jordan.

He has an atelier and shop on Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge, and last year opened a second atelier on the street, offering a full bridal service. His custom-made gowns — which are famous for their clean lines and intricate detailing — start at 3,500 pounds, or $5,600, and he also offers shoes, jewelry and accessories.

Wedding pick or not, Oldfield will appear on Oprah on Friday in an interview taped in London by Carson Kressley, the show’s style expert.

In the media circus that London has become, the royal wedding gown isn’t the only subject of sartorial speculation. The British betting crowd is putting its money on Queen Elizabeth donning a yellow hat for Friday’s wedding.

“We’ve received more bets on yellow than on any other color,” said David Williams, a spokesman for Ladbrokes plc, the British betting firm. “Most of the interest right now seems to be focused on her majesty and the hat,” he said, adding there have been no big-ticket bets “just fivers and tenners.”

Speaking of wedding headgear, Williams also confirmed that Ladbrokes this week received a 6,000 pounds, or $9,900, bet at odds 12-1 that Kate Middleton will wear a Russian fringe tiara — borrowed from the Queen — on her big day. The bet came from the Ladbrokes in Ascot, England, home of the famous racecourse, and not far from Windsor Castle. “You prick up your ears when you hear about a bet like that,” said Williams. “It’s right in the heart of royal country.”

Middleton’s hairdo — on which said tiara will sit — also is a hot topic.

Richard Ward, who runs the Richard Ward salon in London’s Chelsea which Middleton frequents, told the Daily Mail that the one rule the bride has stipulated for her wedding day hair style is that William “must recognize her” when she arrives at the altar. Ward also noted that her hair will be “natural.”

James Pryce, who styled Middleton’s hair for engagement photos, will be the main hairstylist for the wedding on Friday. Ward — who praised Middleton for being “caring and honest,” as well as for having “amazing hair” — also said that Middleton, her mother Carole and her sister Pippa have all had several “practice runs” for their hairstyles on the day.

Royal watchers on Wednesday were trying to discern the contents of the many bulging garment bags and hatboxes the Middleton family sent to the Goring Hotel, their London base during the wedding. Kate will move there on Thursday night to be with her family, while Prince William will be spending his final night as a bachelor with his immediate family. “The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be having a private dinner with Prince William and Prince Harry on Thursday evening at Clarence House,” said a St. James’s Palace spokesman on Wednesday.