As Kate Middleton stepped out of the car in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding gown on the morning of April 29, 2011, the internet went into a fury. Among those clamoring for a peek at her highly-anticipated dress were brands looking to replicate it. Less than one month later, retailers were offering knockoffs of both the new royal’s gown and the McQueen frock her sister and maid of honor Pippa Middleton wore.
ABS by Allen Schwartz, the retailer famous for creating, styling and photographing A-list actresses’ Academy Awards dresses in a mere matter of hours, was one of the first brands to take on the designs. Accessible versions of Kate Middleton’s wedding and reception gowns, as well as Pippa Middleton’s maid of honor ensemble, were available for sale on its website within a month of the wedding day. The same dresses were in-store Lord & Taylor outposts and stoppable on the retailer’s e-commerce site, by mid-July, for a fraction of the cost of the real things.
A lookalike version of Middleton’s long-sleeve wedding gown, which ABS sold under the style name, “Kate Bridal” dress, was sold for $1,125, while the strapless number she wore to the evening reception, called the “Catherine,” sold for $475. Pippa’s cowl-neck maid of honor dress – which the McQueen brand, itself, was offering for sale on its site and various upscale retailer’s e-commerce sites for at $2,565 – was replicated by ABS for $425.
As ABC reported on the heels of the wedding, “Minutes after the world got its first glimpse of Kate's gown, designers were making detailed sketches. Michelle and Henry Roth are designers who sell exclusively for Kleinfeld Bridal Salon, the largest wedding boutique in the country, located in New York City … Now, Kleinfeld and the Roths are working on what will surely be one of their hottest gowns ever: An inspired replica of the amazing Kate Middletown wore as she walked down the aisle.”
For designers like the Roths, Middleton’s dresses was a serious opportunity. As they told ABC in 2011, “Women were waiting breathlessly for a chance to try on their ‘Kate’ dress,’ while demands for replicas of sister Pippa’s dress were absolutely through the roof.”
Regardless of whether brands scrambled to create lookalikes specifically on the heels of the wedding, the marketing opportunity was not lost. Many did their best to offer up imagery and links to buy existing designs that bore some similarity to any of the aforementioned gowns, the wedding jewelry, and the footwear.
New York-based designer Nicole Miller, for instance, was quick to inform her social media followers that her brand was already offering a dress that was not too dissimilar to Pippa’s, with wedding dress brand Priscilla of Boston boasting lookalikes that were already in its lineup.
It would be silly to expect anything different for the designs that soon-to-be royal Meghan Markle selects for her nuptials on Saturday. Any designs that are offered up are likely to be a fraction of the cost of the $130,000 custom gown from London-based brand Ralph & Russo that Markle has reportedly chosen for her big day.
In the meantime, Kleinfeld, for one, will welcome brides-to-be for a shopping event to coincide with the royal wedding, with an emphasis on wedding dresses and tiaras inspired by Markle.