Unless you’ve snoozed on your wedding watch lately, you’ve probably heard that Disney is launching a new line of wedding gowns, based on 34 of their iconic princess brides.

And naturally, there’s been a singular upswell of excitement from the press, engaged couples, and those few bridal shops blessed by the magic wand that grants them distribution. The general reaction so far (to the idea — not the gowns)? Mixed.

“I would have thought that because many young women are waiting until their late 20s and early 30s to marry, that would put them long past the delusional princess stage,” says a media critic in the Vancouver Sun. “I’m guessing they’ll be kind of tacky,” says a bride on a popular Disney forum, who wistfully adds, “maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Some wedding planners are a little more optimistic. “It’s a good way to for brides to put their theme over the top — stand out from all the other Disney weddings happening that year,” says Shayna Box of Posh Celebrations.

“Disney’s been a favorite destination wedding/honeymoon spot for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was huge demand for the character gowns,” says Mattie Johnson of Look No Further Events.

Couture or Costume?

Part of the resistance is the vision of thirty-something brides gliding down the aisle in bouffant Quinceañera style dresses, maybe with a Mickey logo here and there. Even the Wall Street Journal contributes briefly to this scare, describing the product line as a princess look, “complete with billowing gowns and crystal tiaras.”

Not so, not so, says the PR rep for Kirstie Kelly, the designer tipped for this giant commission, who’s said, “They will be high-fashion and very modern. We are modernizing the princess concept.” And the details leaked by the WSJ back her up, with sketches showing sultry mermaid silhouettes, dropped backs and plenty of bare shoulders.

Kirstie Kelly: From Footlights to Floodlights

Amy-Jo Tatum, fashion journalist, former fabrics buyer and longtime custom gown designer, has followed Kelly’s work for years. She, too, believes the designs that flow from the “House of Kelly” are far more likely to be couture-friendly than cringeworthy.

“Kelly’s a beautiful designer,” she says, “And I think this is a good step for her and Disney both.” When she first came on the scene, says Tatum, Kelly immediately struck her as innovative.

“I’d put her in with greats like Vera Wang.”

Vera Wang, with her punk-princess designs and torn fabrics? “Well, Kelly’s innovations were a little different,” says Tatum, recalling sumptuous fabrics and clean lines. “One of the first I remember was a debutante-type strapless A-line, but underneath was what looked like two layers of pleated organza ruffles … gorgeous.

“She also did an evening gown that had a nostalgic feel: asymmetrical torso flowing into a full skirt — a really beautiful version of a mermaid.

“I don’t think she has a princessy look in general, but I do see a very romantic designer.”

Odd Couple or Match Made in Heaven?

Which brings up the obvious question: with Disney looking to one designer or label to launch an enormous fleet of princess gowns, why Kelly? After all, up until now, Kelly — though well-known in the fashion world — hasn’t exactly been a household name. And if you were a mega-corporation appealing to princess brides, wouldn’t you pick someone who’d already carved out that niche for themselves?

“It’s true, I wouldn’t necessarily see Disney type gowns with Kelly,” says Tatum. “You’d naturally think of labels like St. Pucchi or Lazaro, which I see more as princess gowns. They’re huge — enormous ballgowns, exactly the type you think of when you hear ‘Cinderella.’

And she’d connect the dots right away, she says, if Disney had gone with almost any of the British designers. Elizabeth Emanuel, for example, who became a household name when Princess Di wore her magnificent gown down the aisle. “It’s not American designers all limit themselves to the debutante dress … but on the whole, they’re not as costumey as the British.”

The conclusion? These gowns are likely to lean more toward sleek modern lines and couture echoes than princess costumes after all — just as Kelly’s spokeswoman says.

“She’ll just keep doing what she’s doing,” says Tatum. “She’ll stick to her creative process — her own version that she takes away from the Jasmines and Ariels. If someone said to me, ‘do Cinderella,’ it would be my take on what Cinderella would do.”

With Great Opportunity Comes Strange Pitfalls

There might be only one glitch here for Kelly, says Tatum, which befell super-designer Elizabeth Emanuel not long after her House of Windsor triumph. “If this takes, her gowns might be remembered by name — the Cinderella gown, the Snow White gown.

“It’s an interesting position. Because Emanuel is working at this amazing level — she’s done many beautiful things since Di’s dress — but she’s really remembered for almost none of them, outside of fashion circles or British designer circles.”

(Of course, Emanuel lost the rights to her own name in a complicated business sale, which didn’t help at all. Helpful note to Kelly: keep control of your name.)

“I just hope she’ll keep up her ready-to-wear line,” says Tatum, adding, “this really is good both for Disney and Kelly.

“Not many designers get this opportunity. And not many conglomerates have a chance to work with someone that talented.”

Disney wedding gowns, Kirstie Kelly, Elizabeth Emanuel

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49 Responses

  1. BLC

    I have one from the Sleeping Beauty Collection and I love it. The material is buttery and it is so feminine. I never thought I’d have a puffy- ball gown dress, but once I tried it on I never looked back. They are gorgeous and flatter many shapes and sizes.

  2. JUNIA

    I think its very good. they are so cute dresses I wish i had those dresses I love them . : 😛

  3. Julia

    😀 WOW!!!!
    I love these gowns. A nice modren take to a disney inspired dress. Not at all what I expected, which is a good thing.

  4. Pam

    I think that this is a great idea. But i was reallllyyyyyyyyy disappointed in the dress that was made for Cinderella. It was nto what i expected, you think Cinderella-you think ravishing. I don’t think it is ravishing enough I think it needs bead work. Do something pleaseeeeeeee

  5. Monica

    If you think about each character and their personality and background, the dresses fit each of them. The dresses aren’t predictable, which I like. I personally love Belle’s dress. She also happened to be my favorite growing up… 😀

  6. Bonnie

    I love this collection. It is fairytale meets modern fashion, but the good fashion. The kind that you could see yourself actually wearing. Disney and Kirstie Kelly you have great ideas, keep it up. 😛

  7. mandy

    The dresses are beautiful. Both disney and kirstie kelly got a lot of slack when these dresses were announced, because everyone assumed that they would be big versions of the little girl’s dresses that we see at the disney store. Glad to see that this isn’t the case. Nice job.

  8. Meiko

    I liked the dresses. I think they’re beautiful, but.. yeah. I would prefer a 1000 times more if the dresses where just as the movies.
    When I was a kid, I LOVED Ariel’s dress. I even thought I would get married with a dress just like that.

  9. Ariel

    In the little mermaid cartoon when Ariel married prince Eric the dress she wore then is the one i like the most. Will you ever design one like that and if you do what is the cost of said dress.
    Ariel 😀

  10. Miranda

    These dresses are beutiful and my fave is cinderella. But can you try and make 1 of cinderellas dress a light color of aqua marine?

  11. stephanie

    I am having a terrible time choosing a color scheme for my May wedding. My bridesmaid dresses are Davids Bridal cornflower blue, my moh is in dark blue and my wedding dress is white with tiny light pink iridescent jewels across the top 3 inches of my dress, must I tie in that pink in my colos scheme?

  12. Arriane

    If you really want a unique wedding gown, check out Rivendell Bridal. Her stuff is really awesome.

  13. Christina

    Those of you who were criticizing the designs need to lighten up. The key word to keep in mind is Disney “Inspired” designs. Just because they are not identical to the cartoons, does not make them dissapointing. Have you ever heard of the words artistic or imaginative? I think the dresses are beautiful, and a modern rendition of the classic princesses.

  14. Annie

    I have been obsessed with the Belle gown. Drove from Ottawa to Toronto just to try it on. I was surprised it fit just like a glove too bad I can’t afford it. I was a princess for 5 minutes.

  15. Tannie

    😀 You can’t be serious!? Before anyone goes and puts a Disney name to any of these, they better go back to their drawing boards. Nothing like Disney Princess at all. Where is the sparkle and tiny crystal beads, and tulle?? Nothing in these dresses are shouting out Fairy-tale. Nice gowns for other occaisons but I wouldn’t wear any of these to try to pass them off as Disney Princess Dress…LOL Who are you people?


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