Brides-to-be anticipating a long search for a wedding gown to accommodate their womanly curves, rejoice. Owners of area bridal salons say the hottest dresses for fall and spring are full dresses that definitely arenâ€™t for willowy model types only.
â€œThere were seasons where everybody was going straight â€” sheaths, sheaths, sheaths,â€ says Laura Salkin of Laura Salkin Bridals & Fashions in Shaker Heights. â€œNow youâ€™re hard-pressed to find them.â€ What you will find are princess-seamed A-line silhouettes and romantic affairs with voluminous ball-gown skirts that gracefully slim or conceal hips, stomachs and rear ends.
â€œSome of the higher-end couture houses are taking note of the fuller-figured bride and theyâ€™re starting to cut their dresses in that direction,â€ adds Patrice Catan of Catan Bridal in Strongsville. â€œWhen a bride comes in, she doesnâ€™t have to try a size 8 on if she needs to order a size 22. We have size 22 samples on the floor.â€
Karen Lackner, proprietor of The Perfect Bride in Rocky River, estimates that more than 90 percent of the dresses currently on the market are strapless or held up by spaghetti straps. Salkin adds that some of her new arrivals have bolero-style jackets that can be removed after the ceremony as temperatures dictate. Brides who want something a little different can slip into an asymmetrical single-strap variation that leaves one shoulder completely bare. According to Catan, a lot of women â€” particularly those planning â€œdestination weddingsâ€ in Las Vegas or on a tropical beach â€” are opting for â€œa very practical slip-type dressâ€ that can be worn again at a later date.
â€œTheyâ€™re not necessarily short,â€ she says. â€œTheyâ€™re long and they mostly look like an evening gown. Theyâ€™re still white or ivory, but they have a more tailored look to them.â€
According to Lackner and Salkin, many of the traditional gowns are trimmed with a modest amount of sequins, pearls, crystals or tone-on-tone embroidery. â€œThe embellishments are at the top of the gown, sort of fading out to the bottom,â€ says Salkin, who describes the resulting look as simple and modern. The sole exception she mentions are tulle-skirted dresses accented with a sprinkling of crystals sewn into the net, a popular look for winter and holiday weddings. But Catan says the focus is increasingly on the material.
Lackner mentions Mikado, an up-and-coming fabric available in both silk and synthetic fiber that is thicker and has more texture to it than the ever-popular satin. And Catan describes dresses made of real silk shantung and brocades with a touch of mauve, lavender, sherbet pink or Wedgewood blue.
â€œA lot of the dresses that are coming in are accented in pastel colors or muted tones,â€ Catan says. In many cases, she adds, the accent color is repeated in the brideâ€™s choice of headpiece and jewelry.
In fact, the presence of color in bridal ensembles may be one of the biggest surprises for brides just beginning to shop for a dress. According to Catan, the trend started about two years ago and should continue through 2003. Salkin says some dresses are embellished with embroidery in a contrasting shade, perhaps of pale blue or gold. (The latter, she points out, is particularly popular for holiday weddings.) Bolder women are taking the matrimonial plunge in gowns of pale pink, green, blue â€” even burgundy and red.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been doing it in Europe for a long time,â€ Lackner says, â€œbut Americans have always equated white with the bridal gown, so anybody that has anything involving any color is considered to be pretty cutting edge.â€
Regardless of the color or style of dress women wear, most of them have one thing in common: They decide to wear a veil, usually one that can be easily removed after the ceremony. Catan estimates that 90 percent of her clients wear a veil, even the ones getting married on a beach; 70 percent opt for the blusher. Fingertip-length veils, with or without edging of some sort, are generally the most popular. But she amends that cathedral length, appropriately enough, is big with women making the trip to the altar down an actual church aisle. Salkin and Lackner say veiling accented with crystals, pearls and so on is a frequent alternative to plain netting.
â€œA lot of the bridal manufacturers are starting to do veils that match,â€ Lackner says. â€œIf thereâ€™s embroidery on your dress, theyâ€™ll have matching embroidery on the veil.â€
Lackner adds that more and more brides are having their hair done in a style that replaces the traditional headpiece. For example, a veil on a comb might be inserted into an elaborate updo accented with fresh flowers or pearls. The look isnâ€™t exclusive to women with longer locks. Lackner says brides with shorter hair and a savvy stylist can achieve a comparable look with, say, pincurls, jeweled hairpins and flowers. (Waxy blossoms such as stephanotis, which wonâ€™t wilt from the heat of your head, are best.)
But Catan, Lackner and Salkin agree that the No. 1 headpiece remains the tiara, although Catan notes that brides are now choosing daintier, 1 1/2- to 2-inch-high tiaras over the more ostentatious 3-inch-high versions.
â€œEvery woman,â€ Salkin says, â€œwants to be queen.â€
Selecting attire for attendants has also become easier since manufacturers began turning out collections of two-piece dresses sold as separates. The ensembles not only reduce alterations but eliminate the almost-impossible task of finding something that flatters the figure of every woman in a bridal party.
Instead, brides need only select a fabric. The attendants can each pick out the top and long skirt they find most flattering. â€œEven in wedding gowns, two-pieces are big,â€ Catan says. â€œThe bustier tops that lace up the back are very popular and very flattering.â€
According to Salkin, both the two-piece and one-piece bridesmaidsâ€™ dresses on the market reflect current bridal-attire trends in style, ornamentation and sizing â€” and challenge the stereotype of the bridesmaidâ€™s dress as a fluffy, frilly horror.
â€œThe bad press should be put to rest about bridesmaidsâ€™ dresses,â€ she declares. â€œHonestly, a considerate bride is going to find a dress that is going to look good [on everyone], yet achieve the look that she wants for her wedding. Itâ€™s not as bad to be a bridesmaid as it used to.â€
According to Catan, the overwhelming fabric of choice for attendantsâ€™ dresses continues to be affordable synthetic satin, followed by chiffon and crepe. But Lackner has noticed that taffeta is making a comeback. Neutral shades such as silver, pewter, taupes, even creams are popular fall colors, particularly with brides outfitting more attendants. â€œIf you get a lot [of people] in fuchsia, then itâ€™s a little much,â€ Lackner explains. Salkin and Catan mention aubergine and Victorian lilac, respectively, as the shades most often ordered by brides desiring a stronger color, while Lackner observes sheâ€™s â€œseen a little more raspberryâ€ than in previous seasons.
â€œIronically, even the pastel colors are carrying into fall,â€ Catan observes. She and Salkin foresee the same pale pinks, soft yellows and robinâ€™s-egg blue being ordered for next springâ€™s weddings.
When it comes to shoes, a strappy sandal with a sensible 2 1/4- to 2 1/2-inch heel has replaced the traditional pump in many bridal parties, even for winter weddings. Salkin says a lot of customers still instruct attendants to have their shoes dyed to match their dresses. But Lackner â€œdoesnâ€™t do a lot of dyed-to-match shoes.â€ Instead, her clients are selecting shoes that merely approximate or complement the color of the attendantâ€™s dress. â€œWith dyed shoes, you run into a problem with runningâ€ she explains. â€œYou also try to match the color [of the dress], but you miss.â€ Some brides simply ask their attendants to select a strappy sandal in black, gold or silver â€” something they might be able to wear again.