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November 18, 2011 10:23 pm
And so the wait is over, the bated breath unbated, the quick-beating hearts slowed to normal speed. Breaking Dawn, the first half of the final instalment of the lust ’n’ longing, vamps-as-metaphor series Twilight has hit movie screens, and the third-most anticipated wedding dress of the year has been revealed. Yes, after the Kates, Middleton and Moss, we have ... Kristen! Well, OK, Bella.
But why should you, a mature person of great cultural discrimination, care?
Because, whether or not you have read Stephenie Meyer’s mind-bogglingly successful series (in the interests of checking my 10-year-old daughter’s reading material, I have, and the writing may be banal, but the plot is impressive); whether you have followed tabloid coverage of the affair between Twilight co-stars Kristen Stewart (who plays Bella) and Robert Pattinson (who plays vampire Edward); whether or not the meditation and discourses on vampire chic drive you up the wall, this dress matters. It will inspire trends. And those trends will arrive soon on a high street near you.
Put simply: when you see long sleeves everywhere, don’t blame winter. Blame Twilight.
The timing is perfect for optimum fashion spin-off, in the short and long term. Breaking Dawn has been released just in time for the biggest movie-going weekend of the year in the US, the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend – not to mention the time when gift-giving begins to, well, haunt our thoughts, creating a perfect storm of opportunity for the film to move people from being viewers to being consumers.
Literalists have already jumped on the trend – thus far I have clocked a perfume, Twilight Immortal, courtesy of www.twilightbeauty.com; jewellery, thanks to Stephen Einhorn’s bronze Fang collection; and, yes, wedding dresses, via Alfred Angelo, the officially licensed Twilight wedding dress manufacturer – but I think the film’s influence, especially that of The Dress, will extend far beyond that.
. . .
Bella’s wedding gown (as well as her shoes and veil) is a Carolina Herrera number, which puts it in a different place from, say, a Paramount costume department number. It gives the dress both a legitimacy and a fashion market identity that will expand far beyond the cinema. And I don’t think this has been lost on either the filmmakers or the designer, who created a gown with long, tight sleeves, a boned bodice, scooped neck and (yes) big skirt – yet one relatively unencrusted with pearls and other “wedding” decoration. This means it may well reach the level of trend, influencing both the wedding dress market and the evening dress one too. That makes it relevant for everyone, not just teenyboppers and brides.
I recently spoke with designer Alice Temperley, who made the dress that Pippa Middleton wore to the royal wedding reception as well as assorted Middleton frocks, and who has been closely associated with Britain’s Middleton mania. Temperley said wedding dresses made up 40 per cent of sales in her London store, and they have a bridal appointment once an hour every hour they are open, pretty much every day of the week. She also said the skirts of her wedding dresses are getting bigger (she called them Cinderella skirts), which should put them atop the Twilight style trend. All this, and she didn’t even make the wedding dress!
Which is why, though to some extent Herrera’s selection as Twilight couturière of choice was a surprising one, it was also smart on the part of the filmmakers and the designer.
For Herrera gives the film a veneer of sophistication, and Twilight, or more specifically, the “twi-hards”, will provide an audience and inroad into popular culture that Herrera doesn’t normally have. How else, after all, would she feature in tweenie mags Twist and N17? But get ’em young and you’ve got them for life. Fashion industry strategy promotes cross-sector high/low partnerships, whether it’s Giorgio Armani giving his brand a funky twist by making Lady Gaga’s wardrobe, or Versace teaming up with H&M.
As it happens, Herrera has not had a music tour or high street collaboration to her name, so this is her opportunity to hit that market without looking as if she’s trying too hard – which is wholly in line with her own aesthetic of cool elegance. And if Herrera had to work within Victorian dress parameters – as set out in the book – when creating her blockbuster celluloid special, well, we grown-ups know enough to realise that our curiosity can be satisfied by going to her shop to find out what she might have done differently. The answers will be hanging on the rails.
More columns at www.ft.com/friedman
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