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Niles dollmakers recreate Kate Middleton’s wedding dress

AshtDrake master seamstress designer Yermen Romero created Kate Middletreplicbride doll starting 5:00AM today Niles company. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Ashton Drake master seamstress and designer Yermen Romero created the Kate Middleton replica bride doll, starting at 5:00AM today at the Niles company. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 13, 2011 2:14AM



When the creative team at Ashton-Drake Galleries gathered at 3 a.m. in a Niles conference room to watch the royal nuptials, they weren’t holding an ordinary viewing party — they were all business.

Makers of collectible dolls, they had researched and prepared for months, and were determined to create a near-exact porcelain doll replica of Catherine Middleton and her elaborate wedding dress the same day as its grand reveal. Five hours after the images of Middleton’s gown were broadcast across the globe, their pint-sized princess was complete, tiara and all.

“You can’t exactly replicate it because it’s one-of-a-kind, but you can get pretty close,” said Deb Kobak, who works in product development for the Niles-based collectibles company that owns Ashton-Drake.

Production began when hand-made dolls were painted and coiffed to resemble the bride. The designers had a bit of practice, since they created a previous Kate Middleton doll wearing her sapphire blue engagement dress. But because details about the bridal gown remained a closely-guarded secret, the team was stumped.

“None of us really had a clue what it would look like,” said the company’s Vice President, Leslie Joyce.

Kobak jokingly replied, “We wish it had been leaked, it would have made things easier.”

Instead, the doll-makers researched bridal fashions and Middleton’s sense of style, as well as the collections of every rumored designer whose name surfaced in the press. They used the research to create several mock-ups of what they thought the royal bride might wear, and assembled a variety of fabrics and plenty of trim and accessories to cover any possibility.

Seamstress Yermen Romero began scribbling sketches soon after Middleton stepped out in the Sarah Burton-designed gown.

“She has the eye for it, so when Kate walked down the aisle, she was already taking notes,” Joyce said of the seamstress, who has been costuming the company’s creations for more than 20 years.

Still oohing and aahing, the designers scoured the internet for reference photos from every angle and took notes on Middleton’s appearance during the ceremony. Five hours later, at about 10:30 a.m., Romero put the finishing touches on a 16-inch tall version of the bride’s ivory and white v-necked ball gown, replicated down to the daintily pointed lace sleeves and fabric-covered buttons.

The veil, a delicate, inches-long swatch of netting edged in lace, tops off the costume. Praised for her skills as co-workers admired the finished product Friday morning, Romero modestly replied, “Well, it’s what I do for a living.”

The designers also re-created Middleton’s Cartier-made “Halo” tiara, diamond earrings and wedding band from materials already on-hand.

“After 26 years of Ashton-Drake doing dolls, we’ve complied jewelry pieces of all kinds,” explained Dee Gvozden, a product development manager. “You never throw anything out.”

The artist’s rendition will soon go into production, where each porcelain doll will be hand-painted and matched with a certificate of authenticity.

Although there’s no Prince William doll in the works at the moment, Joyce said she hopes to send the Catherine doll to the bride herself to commemorate the happy occasion. Bits of lace and scraps of satin remained sprinkled across the workroom floor Friday morning, but the $149.99 collectible is already available to order through the company’s website, www.ashtondrake.com.



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