When searching for a wedding dress, some women know exactly what they want. Others gingerly enter a bridal boutique with a few ideas, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the options and open to suggestions.
Local bridal boutique owners are eager to help. They'll offer dress recommendations based on a bride's personality and body type and introduce her to the many trends of 2017 – from plunging necklines to shimmery, long-sleeve frocks.
"I always encourage my brides to have an open mind and try on a silhouette or style that they may not think is their perfect fit," says Mandy Schexnaydre Wienhusen, owner of Town & Country Bridal. "Sometimes a bride will come in with a photograph from Pinterest and think: 'This is exactly what I want.' But she leaves wearing something that's totally opposite of that look."
When a customer arrives at the Uptown boutique, Wienhusen sifts through an assortment of dresses and picks several styles for her to try.
"Let's get you in a dress, and then you can tell me what you like about it and what you don't like about it," Wienhusen says of her approach. She believes the best way to find the right ensemble is to experiment with different looks — and there are many from which to choose.
"We've really seen the re-emergence of sparkle," Wienhusen says, adding that "sparkle" includes glitter, beads, and sequins. "For a while it was just a touch of sparkle at the waistline or the strap, but now it's head-to-toe glitzy, which we haven't seen in quite a few seasons."
Wienhusen says one of this year's more daring trends is gowns with deep necklines.
"We're seeing plunging necklines everywhere," she says, displaying a dress with a dramatic neckline, formed by an intricate web of lace and secured by a thin layer of translucent material. The overall effect is ethereal: soft swirls of lace rest on the bride's bare skin.
Courtney Schulman of Pearl's Place says embellished, long-sleeve dresses – a nod to 1980s and '90s fashions – also are in style. "Three-dimensional" dresses with wispy layers of sheer fabric, like tulle festooned with floral appliques, atop a dotted Swiss material, are popular, along with glamorous crepe gowns, she says.
"Crepe is the new fabric that's in," Schulman says. Long cathedral veils with detailed borders are on trend, as are separates, she adds.
"The crop tops had a small moment," Schulman says, recalling a wedding gown trend from last year. However, separates – tops and bottoms that can be mixed and matched – are still in demand. "I have a whole area for (separates)," she says. "We're still doing really well with them."
Schulman enjoys meeting with women who are uncertain about what to wear down the aisle.
"That's the best bride, because then we get to use our decades of experience to steer her in the right direction of something that's going to flatter her figure," she says. "It's great when someone has an open mind and doesn't know what she likes."
While trends are fun, classic looks are still favored by many brides. Yvonne LaFleur, owner of Yvonne LaFleur boutique, believes this is especially true in New Orleans.
"The girl here has the opportunity to wear ball gowns and sexy dresses anytime, because we have so many formal affairs," she says, adding that women who are having their weddings in a church may favor more traditional, conservative styles.
As for trends, LaFleur says tea-length dresses and garments with a hint of color – such as champagne or dove gray – veiled by a fine layer of lace are in fashion.
"The contrast – the slightly different color slip under the lace dress – makes the lace come alive," she says.
LaFleur recalls a recent customer who took the notion of "color" a step further. She envisioned a formal black dress topped with a beaded gold overlay – an unusual, yet welcome request. After all, LaFleur says her grandmother's wedding dress was burgundy.
"A long time ago, a wedding dress was a lady's new best dress," she says, noting that many practical-minded younger women are in the market for a wedding dress they can wear again, rather than stow away. "That's something to think about: one's new best dress."
If a bride opts for a simple white ensemble, she can add pizzazz with accessories.
"We've always been big on sashes because we like to define the waistline," LaFleur says. Decorative brooches, hair ornaments and earrings/bracelet combinations are popular. But what's important, LaFleur says, is finding a dress that matches the bride's individuality.
"It's about how she feels in the dress," she says. "Trends are wonderful, but we all have in our minds, from when we were little girls, how we want to look as a bride. So we start with that, and try on things that would be appropriate for her body type."
"The one question I ask the bride is: 'Will you like your pictures in 30 years?'" LaFleur says. "Trendwise, it's about the individual.