Excitement builds over Kate's wedding dress 'scoop'

Rumours that Alexander McQueen's successor, Sarah Burton, is designing Kate Middleton's wedding dress have sent Britain into a frenzy of excitement - even if everyone involved denies them.

"If this is true it's the best news the fashion industry has had in a long time," said Hilary Alexander, fashion director of The Daily Telegraph.

Buckingham Palace has been desperately trying to keep secret any details about Kate's dress ever since her engagement to Prince William in November, to ensure maximum impact when she steps into Westminster Abbey on April 29.

The Sunday Times claimed a scoop and reported that Burton, the Briton who took over as creative director at McQueen's label when the designer killed himself last year, has won the industry's most coveted commission.

"A fashion source said the dress will be a combination of Middleton's own design ideas and Burton's deep knowledge and understanding of high fashion," said the newspaper.

The denials were swift. Burton said: "I am not doing it", Alexander McQueen chief executive Jonathan Akeroyd denied it - noting that he should know - and a label spokeswoman told AFP: "We are not making the dress."

The palace meanwhile refused to say either way, with a spokeswoman saying: "We are not commenting at all on anything to do with the wedding dress."

But the speculation continues, fuelled by reports that the editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, had recommended Burton when the palace asked the advice of fashion editors and stylists last year.

Burton's latest collection in Paris this week also did little to dispel the rumours by including a number of full-length, billowing white gowns.

Among the garments were two wedding dresses with tight-fitting bodices, bare arms and shoulders and waves of soft white fabric tumbling to the floor in a romantic dream.

Bare shoulders would be controversial for such a formal occasion and in such a traditional setting as Westminster Abbey, but there is also the question of whether Kate, 29, would go for such extravagance.

Although she is growing into her own elegant, classic style, she still plays it safe - during an official engagement with William to Northern Ireland this week, she wore a Burberry trench coat with a flared hemline.

Fashion magazine Grazia suggested Burton would be a "brave fashion choice", saying in a tweet: "If news true, so happy for Sarah Burton designing Kate's dress. Brave fashion choice. Brilliantly talented designer. Excited."

Last month, veteran British designer Vivienne Westwood took a dig at Kate's style while crushing rumours that she might be designing the bridal gown.

"I'd love to have dressed Kate Middleton but we'll have to wait until she catches up a bit in style," the 69-year-old told reporters backstage before her catwalk show in London.

However, although Alexander McQueen was known for his outlandish designs, fashion experts say Burton has softened the label's designs since his death, taking on a more romantic, more feminine side.

The label has also proved it can tone down the shock factor with bridal commissions in the past, including for Sara Buys, who married Tom Parker Bowles, the son of William's step-mother Camilla, in 2005.

Buys wore a strapless silk ivory dress with an embroidered veil.

Burton had worked side by side with McQueen for 14 years until he committed suicide in his London flat in February last year, and for the last ten years had been head of design for the label's womenswear line.

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