ON THE COVER:
This gown by Sophia Tolli features a modified mermaid silhouette, Swarovski crystal detailing on the bodice and layers of tulle, $1,573 at Bel Amour.
Bel Amour Bridal & Boutique (1901 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, 504-302-7797; www.belamourbridal.com)
MaeMe Bridal Boutique (3331 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-266-2771; www.mae-me.com)
Olivier Couture (1901 Hwy. 190, Suite 24, Mandeville, 985-674-6994; www. oliviercouture.com)
Pearl's Place (3114 Severn Ave., Metairie, 504-885-9213; www.pearlsplace.com)
Bridal trends are like fashion trends in general: There's an ebb and flow that keeps customers interested and commerce thriving. The best news about dresses from the 2013 and 2014 seasons? There's something for everyone.
"Every designer has a wide range of looks right now," says Courtney Schulman, one of the owners of Pearl's Place, which stocks 2,500 dresses at any given time. "To me, it's so refreshing that brides aren't just pigeonholed."
Consumers are seizing on easy, 1920s-inspired silhouettes. There's been a trickle-down effect from designers like Miuccia Prada and Alberta Ferretti who've mined the period in seasons past. Director Baz Luhrmann's new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby also revived interest in the fashions of the Jazz Age.
"People want a nice elegant look," says designer and boutique owner Yvonne LaFleur. "But these are not simple slip dresses like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy wore. They're more detailed — embroidered or threaded with lace. They're softer and really elegant."
At Pearl's Place, Schulman says 1920s-inspired styles are the most popular trend. Both LaFleur and Schulman say looks influenced by other periods are important as well. One of the most memorable bridal dresses to come out of the 1950s, the long-sleeve lace-and-peau de soie design worn by Grace Kelly, is said to have inspired Kate Middleton's wedding dress.
Taking cues from the high-end gowns worn by such celebrities and responding to the market's saturation with strapless, columnar gowns (which held sway season after season), dresses with more coverage feel new once again. "Strapless was a trend-setting look, but nothing stays in [fashion] forever," Schulman says. "A lot of brides wanted sleeves and they weren't out there. I think designers are now doing a more modern take on traditional looks."
Designers are updating dresses with more coverage by using sheer illusion necklines (a sheer overlay of fabric with a strapless silhouette underneath), sheer, plunging or adorned backs, V-necks, straps, cap sleeves, gossamer shrug-like wraps constructed on the dress, boleros, and in winter, capelets. At Olivier Couture Bridal Boutique, owner Emily Swinford Shaffer says the majority of her clients opt for dresses with a fitted silhouette and a lace element. The treatments making these classics look new are the higher neckline and an A-line shape that's neither too fitted nor too full, Shaffer says.
"Girls are loving sheer, illusion necklines with some kind of detail like lace or beading or sparkle that's very feminine and soft," Shaffer says. Sequin underlays — sequin fabric underneath applique lace, for example — make sparkle more subtle. "It's sparkle done in a completely different way and girls love it."
Though white, ivory and candlelight hues have been the mainstay of wedding gown colors for centuries, today's bride can choose blush, platinum, oyster, alabaster, gold and champagne. These colors maintain the sense of tradition while flattering a bride's complexion and setting her apart from the rest.
"Most people don't want white," says Alicia DiMarco, owner of Bel Amour Bridal & Boutique. "Everybody wants color right now."
Peplums reappeared in fashion several years ago and have made their way into bridal styles. While local boutique owners say peplums are not as popular as other trends, they are well-suited to style-conscious women and women with tiny waists. "Some people want to be trendy and on the pulse," Schulman says.
Short dresses, touted as a major trend to emerge from the spring/summer 2014 bridal market, also are a viable choice for the young and fashionable, but local bridal boutique owners say New Orleans women usually wear them only at the reception. Brides most often choose a full-length dress for the ceremony, particularly when it's in a place of worship, and change into the short dress to dance the night away. Schulman says about 10 percent of her brides buy two dresses for their special day.
At Bel Amour, most of DiMarco's brides want a mermaid silhouette with a strapless, sweetheart neckline, which DiMarco describes as flattering for a variety of figures. DiMarco sees a trend shift in gowns' skirts.
"There are a lot of ruffles and layers on the bottoms of the gowns," she says. A layer of sparkle underneath a sheer top, combinations of layered fabrics like silk and lace, and cavalcades of soft, petal-like tiers are among the skirt features in dresses by Sophia Tolli and Christina Wu, two of Bel Amour's most popular designer lines.
Brides often work heirloom jewelry into their looks. Reproduction vintage and antique jewelry also is popular. LaFleur carries a collection of art deco-inspired jewelry (made to look like platinum and sapphires) that marries well with fashions influenced by the 1920s.
"Jewelry is very important," says LaFleur, who cites sashes, lace-trimmed veils and a return to sandal-toe hosiery as current trends.
"If the dress is simple, brides want to dress it up with the jewelry; if the dress is beaded, they want simple jewelry," DiMarco says.
At the end of the day, choices abound. "It's anything goes," Schulman says.