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Disney gowns for fantasy weddings

The entertainment company asks Kirstie Kelly to design dresses inspired by beloved movie princesses.

April 20, 2007|Samantha Critchell | Associated Press

NEW YORK — So many brides say they want to look like a princess on their wedding day -- and now we're about to find out if they really mean it.

Walt Disney Co. has teamed with bridal designer Kirstie Kelly to create a collection of gowns inspired by the favorite Disney princess characters: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" and Jasmine from "Aladdin."

But Kelly is quick to point out that "inspired by" doesn't mean gowns that look like they came from the animated movies, which have been translated many times over into dress-up costumes for little girls. Instead, the designs attempt to channel the personality of each princess in terms suitable for a real-life modern woman.

"We wanted women to feel like they had something in common with these princesses," Kelly said.

"We had to identify who the princesses are now and who does the everyday girl relate to."

A mood and fashion sensibility were assigned to each princess-themed gown: Cinderella is for the classic glamour bride; Sleeping Beauty is about pretty romance; Snow White is sweet elegance; Ariel is sultry allure; Belle is stylish sophistication; and Jasmine is bohemian chic.

"It actually touches on every type of wedding," explained Kelly, who also has her own bridal couture label. "For the destination wedding there's Ariel or Jasmine, but if you're having 500 people in a ballroom, you're definitely the Cinderella gown."

Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products Worldwide, said that when the company began developing the marketing concept of the princesses six or seven years ago, the company discovered that the demographic wasn't limited to the 2- to 8-year-olds Disney was expecting. "We've been blown away [by] how strong the demand is for princess thematic things in almost every stage of a woman's life," he said.

The decision to go into the bridal market was largely made because of that princess dream so many brides talk about, Mooney said. "Every bride wants to be Cinderella, but she also wants to be classic, feminine and beautiful. Kirstie has allowed a woman to enter the princess fantasy but in a way that's absolutely appropriate for the event."

The gowns will be sold at bridal salons. Kelly said Disney identified a void in the mid-tier level of gowns for brides who want to spend between $1,100 and $3,400.

Bridal retailers are always looking for the new thing that can help their store stand out -- and that's what gives Disney a good chance at the market, said Carley Roney, editor in chief of TheKnot.com.

"As to consumers, the success of this line all depends on the dress design," she said. "The Disney brand has a strong, positive, emotional meaning for a surprising number of people -- consider the couples who choose to get married at Disney [parks]. But I see these 'Disneyphiles' as being a relatively small group. As to the women who have no real Disney brand loyalty, if the dress designs are strong enough, they will probably overlook the brand association."

Roney envisions suburban brides on the younger side as the target customer. And although a lot of women toss around the words "fairy tale" and "princess" about their weddings, she thinks they're talking more of an ultra-luxurious celebrity wedding.

But Disney's Mooney points out that a woman's first impression of love often comes from an animated character, and it's hard to completely erase that from her mind.

"If you think about who the first person who teaches you about love, romance and Prince Charming is, it probably happened between the ages of 2 and 5 and included Disney," he said.

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