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07.27.10

Oscar vs. Vera: Chelsea's Wedding Dress Dilemma

Forget the guest list, the price tag, the menu—the wedding detail everyone wants to know is who'll design her gown. Claire Howorth weighs de la Renta's insider cred against Wang's democratic pull to see who's on top.

The dress Chelsea Clinton will wear on her wedding day has been a topic of endless speculation, with her head appearing online juxtaposed with every imaginable designer creation. Two real front-runners have emerged in “ the American wedding of the century”, however: Oscar de la Renta, whose bridal inspiration is Grace Kelly, and Vera Wang, whose muse is Princess Diana. In the frenzied last few days of press coverage before her rumored nuptials July 31, the Clinton camp has remained mum on the dressmaker’s identity, but The Daily Beast has a few clues.

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De la Renta, the Dominican-born designer famed for his ladylike creations, was an early favorite, with Vanity Fair declaring him the obvious choice in November. In the de la Renta corner is popular certainty, if unconfirmed: New York magazine and The New York Times both wrote he was “reportedly” Chelsea’s dress designer, though a source, anonymous or otherwise, has never materialized. Perhaps their facts are as speculative as a scrap we learned: Clinton family adviser and glamour girl Huma Abedin was cruising “samples” in the Manhattan offices of de la Renta on Tuesday. Of course, Abedin could have been finalizing bridesmaids dresses (usually dealt with months before a ceremony); on a personal errand (Abedin herself was married in an Oscar gown earlier this month); or helping Hillary pick her outfit.

That last possibility underscores what might be the match point for Oscar: experience. While Wang, known as the high priestess of wedding dresses, has designed for oodles of boldface names, de la Renta remains the king of understated luxury for politicas. His designs have appeared on ladies of various administrations, Republican or Democrat, and are a perennial favorite of Hillary’s. She chose him for Bill’s 1996 re-election night, his 1997 swearing-in and inaugural ball, a 1998 Vogue cover, and again to Obama’s swearing-in and inaugural ball in 2009. And de la Renta knows weddings. He’s done gowns for Vogue arbiters like Miranda Brooks, not to mention another first daughter, Jenna Bush Hager. (Bush, whose father was still in office at the time of her wedding, announced her wedding and released a sketch of her dress and those of her bridesmaids.)

“I’m gonna put the odds at 5-7 that Chelsea Clinton will get married in a Vera Wang dress.”

Through all of those stylings, de la Renta has entered a serious insider circle, popping up to support various Beltway buddies, including Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, granddaughter of Katharine Graham, whose biography President Clinton credits with propelling him to write My Life. If all that doesn’t cinch it, then Jennifer, a Queens-based psychic, offers up her two cents: “Oscar de la Renta is going to be the dress.”

Then there’s Vera.

For starters, her entire business stands on her reputation as a world-class wedding gown designer—her name and that gown are almost synonymous with brides. And Chelsea Clinton visited Wang Tuesday, WWD reported. Wang is young, fresh, and extremely celebrity-friendly. And she has Vegas on her side: Johnny Avello, the head oddsmaker at Wynn Las Vegas, told The Daily Beast, “I’m gonna put the odds at 5-7 that Chelsea Clinton will get married in a Vera Wang dress.” He clarified that it’s practically gambling law to specify “get married in” on the betting board, since “she could easily have two dresses by each designer.” Two dresses?!

“Totally true,” one fashion veteran agreed. “The trend today is to get married in one dress, and then change into something lighter after the ceremony.” Our source, operating under the event’s implicit gag order, said de la Renta would be the safe choice for Chelsea, given the Clintons’ history with the designer, but added, “Have you seen Vera Wang’s collection this year? It’s amazing, and she’s putting out some really incredible designs right now.”

All of this fawning was enough for Wang’s recent brides, who include the superstar likes of Brooklyn Decker, Ivanka Trump, and Khloe Kardashian. Wang also designed the dress Jennifer Lopez was to have worn to wed Ben Affleck, Chelsea’s alleged fling. Past Vera-wearers have included Kate Hudson, Karenna Gore, and Sharon Stone.

Wang would also be the democratic choice: Her gowns are for sale in most price ranges, a gamut she extended two months ago in a huge collaboration with David’s Bridal, the wedding gown chain retailer. Chelsea may well want to convey her allegiance with the people, not the politics.

But who knows? She could shock us all and get married in Nina Ricci. On Martha’s Vineyard. Next year.

Plus: Check out more of the latest entertainment, fashion, and culture coverage on Sexy Beast—photos, videos, features, and Tweets.

Claire Howorth is the Arts editor at the Daily Beast.