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Meghan: trendy or classic?

A dramatic ball gown, or a classic, simple silhouette? Sleeves, or bare shoulders?

With less than a month to go until she marries Prince Harry at Windsor Castle on May 19, Meghan Markle most likely has already chosen her wedding dress — though what it looks like is expected to remain a top secret until the last minute.

THE SKY'S THE LIMIT

Royal brides don't generally pick ready-made dresses off the rail. Instead, Markle is likely to have commissioned an exclusive designer dress tailored to her shape and tastes — and chances are it will be handmade in Britain.

A luxury couture dress like that typically takes months of painstaking preparation and a small army of fitters and seamstresses, and can easily cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

It all adds up: Silks are very expensive, as are British labour costs. A top-quality bespoke dress typically starts with a consultation to explore what styles fit the bride, followed by precise measurements and several initial fittings done in a mock-up fabric, according to leading London bridal designer Phillipa Lepley.

Then comes the labour-intensive part: When seamstresses work on the embroidery artwork and lace. More fittings follow to decide details such as where exactly the neckline sits and how many layers of petticoats are needed.

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3-D PETALS OR CLEAN AND SIMPLE?

Romantic, soft and whimsical styles with 3-D details like petals are popular with many brides right now, experts say. But traditional shapes like a ball gown or a column silhouette never go out of style, and many who have watched Markle's style have a hunch she might go for something unfussy and streamlined.

Lepley said that she hoped Markle would choose "something not too over-designed." She showed off one of her luxury duchess satin gowns with no embellishments, with just a striking picture collar framing the bride's face. "This would be amazing," she said.

Susan Courter, who runs WhatMeghanWore.net, a popular website identifying Markle's choice of apparel in each public appearance, agreed.

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THE ROYAL EFFECT

There's no denying the huge effect royal weddings have on what brides everywhere want to wear.

Princess Diana's 1981 wedding gown, with its puff sleeves, romantic ruffles and dramatic train, defined the 1980s fairytale bridal look. More recently, when Kate Middleton married Prince William in 2011, the long-sleeved lace gown she chose sparked a trend for more covered-up, traditional bridal dresses that lasted for years.

Markle has already set herself apart from traditional royal style, ditching classic frocks for trousers on several royal engagements. If she picks something similarly bold for her wedding, it's sure to make a fashion statement, Burstein said.

And as an established actress known for her love of fashion, Markle's wedding style will appeal to a broad audience — likely surpassing the "Kate effect," Courter said.



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