Fairy-Tale Wedding? Disney Can Supply the Gown
Princess-Inspired Designs Aim to Attract Older Crowd;Subtle Mermaid Styling
By MERISSA MARR
February 22, 2007; Page B1
Walt Disney Co. has made a fortune out of turning little girls into princesses. Now it plans to turn big girls into princesses, too.
In a move to expand the reach of one of its most popular franchises, Cinderella and her regal friends are moving into the bridal business with a line of wedding dresses and accessories. Disney has teamed up with couture bridal designer Kirstie Kelly to transform blushing brides into their favorite princesses, complete with billowing gowns and crystal tiaras. At a cost of $1,100 to $3,000 for each gown, brides will be able to walk down the aisle in dresses inspired by Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine or Ariel.
DISNEY'S NEW WEDDING GOWNS
As Ms. Kelly sees it, Cinderella is "classic glamour" -- the dresses in her line come in high-shine satin with ball-gown skirts and make generous use of silver embroidery and crystals. Snow White has a slightly more conservative look dubbed "sweet elegance." Ariel and Jasmine models are considerably racier. Ariel, who played the title role in "The Little Mermaid," has a "sultry allure" and is "comfortable showing her body." Jasmine, from "Aladdin," is "bohemian chic," and her various dresses are big on sheath and lace. In all, Disney will offer 34 princess designs for its first season.
The new wedding gowns, which will go on sale made-to-order at bridal boutiques in North America in June, are an effort by Disney to extend its line of princess paraphernalia to older consumers. Created in 2001 when the company's consumer-products division started packaging its female characters, Disney Princess has grown into a craze among little girls that is fast approaching annual sales of $3.5 billion from costumes, dolls, bedroom furniture and other regalia.
In thinking of ways it could reach outside the core princess crowd of 3- to 6-year-olds, Disney homed in on women who had grown up with the characters. Brides seemed an obvious target.
"Most brides, even the cynical ones, want to be a princess on their wedding day and see their husband-to-be as Prince Charming," Ms. Kelly said recently at her bridal boutique in the upscale Brentwood district of Los Angeles. To date, there are no plans to offer prince costumes for grooms.
But don't expect the gaudy princess costumes that kids run around in. Ms. Kelly says her designs are more about capturing the "mood" of the princess than creating an exact replica of each of the cartoon characters' outfits.
That means using more subtle colors than the startling pinks, yellows and blues of the mini-princess world. The Cinderella designs, for instance, come in refined ivory and champagne, rather than the bright blue of the original attire. That also means including only delicate features from the characters' costumes. One of the five Ariel designs has a subtle mermaid styling to the skirt, for instance. Another has waves of shell-like beading cascading down to the hem.
By making the designs more subtle versions of the characters, the company hopes to appeal to more buyers. "No bride wants to look like she's at her sweet-16 birthday party," says Sandy Ferreira, who has ordered the princess dresses for her Distinctive Designs Bridal boutique in Rockville, Md. "There needs to be a sense of elegance."
Still, some of the dresses go places the princess costumes wouldn't dream of -- namely a sexier look. For the newer princesses, Ariel and Jasmine, the designs feature dropped necklines and backs and bare shoulders. (In an unrelated move, Disney also is using a sexy version of Cinderella in an advertising campaign that features actress Scarlett Johansson in the princess's blue dress.)
The dresses aren't Disney's first venture into weddings. The company has a popular wedding service at its theme parks. Thousands of couples have been married to such tunes as "Someday My Prince Will Come," with their wedding rings offered up in a glass slipper before being whisked away in Cinderella's coach. Yesterday, the company unveiled a new wedding-planning service from celebrity party planner David Tutera, starting at around $75,000 for 50 guests.
Until now, brides who wanted the full princess experience had to design their own gowns. In its research leading up to the decision to make the dresses, Disney found that brides tend to spend more on their dress than they plan to, which amounts to an average 10% of a $26,000 total budget.
The midrange market marks a shift for Ms. Kelly, who usually designs couture dresses costing as much as $20,000 for celebrity clients, including some of the cast in the movie "Wedding Crashers."
To maintain a luxurious look at lower prices, the 38-year-old designer found a Chinese factory three hours outside Guangzhou that was experienced at making wedding dresses.
She used cheaper materials in parts of the dress that don't meet the eye. The Snow White-inspired dresses, for instance, combine silks on the surface with polyester fabrics underneath.
In designing the dresses, Ms. Kelly says she spent night after night watching animated Disney movies such as "Cinderella." Then she tried to imagine what the modern-day equivalent of each of the princesses would be.
She pictured Sleeping Beauty as a creative type and labeled her "pretty romance." Her dress features an elegant A-line skirt with pearl-like beads and crystals at the hem. By contrast, Belle, from "Beauty and the Beast," "knows who she is" and would be a doctor or lawyer. Her dress with "stylish sophistication" comes in taffeta and features her signature roses.
Some of the princesses skew slightly older than others, Ms. Kelly felt. Belle, for instance, is an older bride, perhaps 30-35, while Snow White is younger, maybe in her early 20s.
Ms. Kelly sketched out various designs for each princess, which she plans to unveil at Bridal Week in New York in April. Disney hopes by the end of the year to offer the dresses in around 500 boutiques in North America, and has plans to move into Europe and Japan as well. It's also launching a line of costume jewelry for each princess with pieces costing $45 to $295.
Other accessories will follow in October, including bridesmaid and flower-girl dresses, as well as shoes next year. For now, Disney is recommending existing brands of shoes for each outfit -- for instance, Jimmy Choo for Cinderella and London Sole ballet flats for Snow White.