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LONDON (Reuters) - It was on everyone's lips at London Fashion Week: Who will make the dress that transports Kate Middleton from regular gal to real-life royalty?
The paparazzi have camped out on the doorstep of veteran British designer Bruce Oldfield, but some fashion insiders say Middleton may have discovered her own unknown, much like her prince's mother did when the shy Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles at St. Paul's Cathedral three decades ago.
At this week's Burberry show, the Telegraph newspaper's influential Fashion Editor Hilary Alexander said the designer of the dress Middleton will wear when she marries Britain's Prince William on April 29th is likely to be an unknown.
"I think she's got someone she's discovered, like her own secret discovery, and it'll be made in absolutely top secret conditions and we won't know until on the day but I suspect it'll be something beautiful," Alexander said.
Most fashion experts agree that Middleton will most likely choose a British designer, although no specific requirements about home-grown talent are stipulated by Buckingham Palace.
British designers who have been mentioned besides Oldfield include Matthew Williamson, couture wedding dress designer and the bookies' favorite Phillipa Lepley; as well as former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, who has only recently begun to design her own clothes after years of wearing luxury labels.
Speculation around Beckham heightened after it was revealed that she and her soccer player husband David had been invited to the wedding.
The paparazzi have already surrounded Oldfield's shop in London's Knightsbridge since Middleton, her mother and her sister were seen leaving the showroom. According to vogue.co.uk, Oldfield greeted Middleton himself.
Oldfield no longer shows at London Fashion Week but due to the increased media attention and demand from potential brides and "Kate wannabes," he has put photographs of some of his classic but modern wedding gowns on his website.
His office said they were only examples of Oldfield's work and that Middleton -- whoever designs her dress -- will of course wear a bespoke gown which covers the bride-to-be's arms as per royal wedding tradition.
The woman who designed the dress for the marriage of Diana told Reuters last month that the intense media interest may require strict security measures.
Elizabeth Emanuel said she had had to bring in security guards and put Diana's dress in a safe every night to fend off reporters who camped out on the doorstep, gawped through the windows and rummaged through the rubbish bins looking for clues.
"We used to leave bits of different colored threads and things to put them on the wrong track and we had to put blinds up so that people couldn't peer through the windows," she said.
Brazilian-born designer Daniella Issa Halayel knows all too well the power that royalty can bring to a fashion label.
Middleton wore a blue Issa crossover, knee-length dress when she and William announced their engagement. The dress sold out within 24 hours and cheap knock-offs put on sale by British supermarket chain Tesco vanished almost instantly.
Copies of that dress and the cream "Nannette" gown by British fashion retailer Reiss, which Middleton wore in the official engagement portraits taken by celebrity photographer Mario Testino, were also snapped up from online auctions.
"It's all been very good, amazing, no complaints," she told Reuters at her London Fashion Week show.
Designers Paul Smith and Welshman Julien Macdonald described the royal wedding dress they might make, if given the chance.
"You have to do things which are appropriate, especially for Westminster Abbey and a royal wedding so you have to do sleeves, quite demure, covered up and probably in the more classic colors like white or cream," Smith said.
Macdonald said the dress might be a reflection of his own show at fashion week, which he described as modern and directional outfits for young women.
"They're not fluffy, they're not necessarily pretty ... and I think that's what I would do if I was getting married on the most important day of my life. I definitely wouldn't wear a white meringue," he said.
Britain's grande dame of fashion Vivienne Westwood told reporters she was most definitely not designing Middleton's dress and that the commoner who may one day be a queen had some way to go before she was Westwood-ready.
"I would have loved to have dressed Kate Middleton," she said, "but I have to wait until she kind of catches up a bit somewhere with style."