Even timeless garments like wedding gowns are subject to the vicissitudes of fashion. Sleeves disappear, lace embellishes bodices and trains, and colors shift into new palettes for the new year.
As the spring wedding season approaches, local wedding boutiques prepare to roll out dresses in a host of new styles. This year, retailers will shelve clingy satin offerings in favor of ballgowns and fit-and-flare dresses. The overall effect is more temperate, yet still glamorous.
"We are continuing to see the more 'covered-up' bride, which is a very chic look," says Amy Casbarian, owner of Wedding Belles. "We are creating shrugs, jackets and boleros to complement strapless styles that are removable, but when made in the same fabrication as the gown look as though they are part of the gown."
Gowns that incorporate sleeves and jackets are a refreshing change from the parade of strapless dresses that formerly dominated wedding magazines. Straps and sleeves help gowns flatter a wider variety of body types, provide comfort and support, and adhere to church requirements for apparel.
"A lot of churches nowadays, they want you to have some sort of strap or your shoulders covered, and [cap sleeves] take care of that without looking like they're adding something to the dress," says Stephanie Kass, manager at Bustles and Bows Bridal. Kass says many designers offer jackets that accompany certain gowns, which can be worn during the ceremony and removed during the reception, eliminating the need for a separate reception dress.
Kass says she's seen more dresses with low, plunging backs or even backless styles. This is an extension of the keyhole back trend, which has enjoyed popularity in recent months. According to Kass, a low-cut back adds an element of sex appeal to dresses that don't bare shoulders. Illusion necklines, where a thin layer of tulle or netting covers a deep V or sweetheart neckline, have also appeared at trunk shows.
Another addition to bridal gown options is color. Both Kass and Melissa Estess, owner of the Bridal Boutique by MaeMe, commented on the appearance of colors beyond the typical white and ivory. During Estess' visits to this year's bridal runways she saw gowns with underlays and linings in oyster, romantique (a darker version of Champagne) and blush. These linings, especially dusty colors in gray or silver, make lace patterns pop. Designers often pair colored designs with laser-cut lace, a mechanically produced cutout pattern that provides more exposure for the underlay.
A discussion of color, sleeves and neck and back details doesn't touch on the issue of accents and accessories, which have emerged as important parts of shopping for a wedding dress. Estess says the jewels on today's gowns appear in larger clusters, for jewel-encrusted rather than lightly sparkling designs. Beaded belts and jewelry continue to provide glittering accents to less ornate gowns, as do yellow gold, rose gold and bronze accessories.
Many accessory and styling choices are inspired by pop culture and influential celebrity weddings. This year, Kass noticed many brides looking for fascinators, headbands and other vintage accessories modeled after the extravagant costumes in the recent film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.
At Wedding Belles, the staff encourages brides to get a sense of the latest trends on websites like Pinterest or blogs such as Green Wedding Shoes or Utterly Engaged.
"Everything has become viral in the wedding industry," Casbarian says. "[Blogs] put wedding details (dress included) in realistic settings, rather than a flat picture on a page. A lot of times it's real brides and their real weddings. ... Brides have more options at their fingertips, and it changes with every season, every year."
For brides who are interested in the most fashionable gowns but may be constrained by a budget, Casbarian suggests attending sample sales and shopping far enough ahead to take advantage of end-of-season discounts. When shopping a trunk show or sample sale, brides should be ready to pay for the dress at the event. The gowns at sample sales are frequently sent to consignment shops afterward, so the sale itself may be your only opportunity to make the purchase.
Ultimately, the wedding dress and its accessories have become an opportunity for a bride to exhibit her personal taste and stamp her aesthetic on the wedding as a whole. Though trends can offer new ideas, brides shouldn't shop with a sense of obligation to what's in vogue. Casbarian recommends brides view on-trend gowns as possibilities rather than inevitabilities.
"The best favor any bride can do for herself is to shop with an open mind and be prepared to try on many different looks," she says. "[This year's] trends are less about silhouettes and more about styling."
ON THE COVER: Tulle modified mermaid gown with lace appliques by Sophia Tolle, starting at $1,600 at Bustles & Bows.
The Bridal Boutique by MaeMe (3331 Severn Ave., Suite 102, Metairie, 504-266- 2771; www.mae-me.com)
Bustles & Bows (3230 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-780-7090; www.bustlesandbowsbridal.com)
Wedding Belles (3632 Magazine St., 504-891-1005; www.weddingbellessta-tioner.com)