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Cover photo by Nathan Larimer of Winter Tree Studios 2015/Makeup and hair by Kat Louis

Photos by Taralynn Lawton

TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION THE CUSTOM WEDDING DRESS—What to expect out of the design process Where to find help THE CUSTOMIZED WEDDING DRESS GETTING STARTED: The Wedding Dress Workshop

Silhouette THE COMPONENTS Necklines Bodices Sleeves Waistlines Skirts and Hemlines Trains and Bustles

DEVELOPING STYLE SAVVY The Back Story Convertible Dresses The Wedding Suit 411 ON BODY TYPES

For Petites For Full Figures For Short waists For Talls For Pear Shapes SHADES OF WHITE: The World of Bridal Fabrics LACES THE INSIDE STORY: The Inner Life of Your Dress SHOPPING 101 Sample Sales Bridesmaid Dresses Trunk Shows SHOPPING 102: OFF THE BEATEN PATH Going Vintage Boutiques and Specialty Stores Second Time Around Gowns HEAD CHIC VEILED UNVEILED THE HAT BRIDE HAIR CHIC THE SPECIAL TOUCHES ATTENDANTS Bridesmaids Kid Couture Groom Chic Traveling With Your Wedding Dress The Afterlife of Your Wedding Dress

Dedicated to brides everywhere

INTRODUCTION Awhile back, an interviewer asked me what kind of woman seeks out a one-of-a-kind gown or custom designer to create the most important dress of her life. After all, aren’t most brides satisfied going the conventional route? Ordering off a manufacturer’s sample or buying off the rack? My reply was, “Sure, but the lady who comes to me is individualistic with a certain sense of style. She may not have found exactly what she wants, but she’s willing to create it herself or trust a professional who can help her get in touch with her vision. She knows how she wants to come across on her wedding day. And while she may not always have the finished product in mind first consultation, there is always a path we start following together. And that’s what this book is . . . a path, hopefully a scenic one that leads you to your finished creation Understanding my clients has been my life’s work and something that simply evolved. I was one of these women once. I had a clear vision of how I wanted to look all of my life (not only on my wedding day), and explored every element of fashion design until it became my religion. At an early age I began loving the pure and clean lines the Hollywood designers created in the thirties; the hourglass silhouette Christian Dior reinvented in 1947, and the romanticism of classic ballet that shows up in my designs in some form or another. Because I came of age in an era of rebellion where it was more important to feel laid back, paired down and make a statement donning patched cut-offs, I felt gypped I couldn’t dress up like the fem-fatales of my mother’s generation unless I was invited to a costume party. This didn’t stop me from studying and honing my craft through my young adulthood, carrying a hatbox around in lieu of a backpack and finally throwing off the unconventional standard of the times, wearing crinolines under my skirts to formal parties where other women showed up in Moroccan caftans. While most of the time I felt like an anachronism, people appreciated what I did but put me in the realm of an aspiring costume designer or someone way out there who belonged either on Broadway, in Hollywood, or more realistically, sewing get-ups for community theatre. When I found myself in the field of bridal design, this seemed a happy medium; somewhere between reality and the fairy tale where I could employ every creative drive struggling in me to come forth. Eventually, the next generation evolved into womanhood, and I was fortunate they made their way into my studio. Most of these women trusted their instincts and embraced the simplicity and femininity we see reflected in most bridal design today. Finally women were demanding the stuff of pure construction. I became a true designer when daily I was asked to check into each client’s mind and look at my craft through her eyes for a time. To really listen and connect. Sometimes a client would invite me in to embellish or fine-tune her vision a little with a few of my own inspirations; things I could leave with her that were my very own and somehow became a very important part of her life. It was a two-way gift, for every one of my

clients has confirmed my ultimate design foresight along the way: First and foremost they wanted clean lines, knowing simplicity carries lots of impact. In addition they wanted a more unobtrusive link from head to toe—something like a long, white column. Women today believe a gown should be comfortable as well as beautifully lined so she wears her gown like a second skin—the whole component moving with her as if it's part of her body. If you think about this it makes sense. She’s connecting with a man. In spirit they link. The dress is symbolic of all that, so it should be a part of her and move right along with her. My clients also helped me pioneer certain cutting methods. Ways to cut fabric and get the exact and necessary fit without imposing too many seams or darts on the piece. They requested the finest fabrics be used inside and out of their gowns. Finally, the greatest gift of all from these women has been the chance to practice my art, as an art, something that still brings to me a great amount of satisfaction and an unparalleled sense of fulfillment. Thank you—

Suffice it to say you’ve narrowed down your search—decided you like the evening gown look but not absolutely, positively, 100 percent sure an A-line is out of the question. Next you actually turn off the computer (or whatever device) and go shopping. You hit every salon within a twenty-mile radius; plow through racks of gowns in all kinds of fabrics you never knew existed. You’ve tried on more than a few in every shade and texture of white imaginable. And while you’ve had a crash course in Bridal 101 and your dreams feel like Act II of Giselle every night, still nothing out there’s grabbed you. Then, a week later this picture of a gown finally comes together in your head—the neckline you found in Weddings; the sleeve on a dress you tried on

in the salon combined with the sweep train you spotted last week in the Film Noir. Once all this gets put together you’ll have a custom designed gown, something one of its kind and only yours like no other in the world. It’s finally in your head. Now all you need is help from a skilled designer or dressmaker and the savoir-faire to know the difference. DRESSMAKERS Once upon a time before mass production, every woman either had a dressmaker or became her own. Nowadays most dressmakers specialize. You’ll want one with expertise in bridal and evening wear. Dressmakers either work on an hourly basis or estimate out their labor. They usually work from store bought patterns and expect you to supply the fabrics and materials, such as buttons, zippers, etc. This is a good option if you already have a unique cut of silk or know how to shop around yourself for the fabrics. Dressmakers sometimes work from home, others might have shops. Though a dressmaker might save you cash, the trade-off might be your fittings take place in an intense work environment with rudimentary surroundings. Don’t be surprised to find yourself undressing in a sweatshop with florescent lights, ironing boards in the way and some guy getting measured for a suit in the next room. If ambiance is a big factor, find a custom salon or designer. CUSTOM BRIDAL DESIGNERS More and more custom bridal designers have sprung up in studios and ateliers over the past decade. They’re experts at helping you translate what you see in your imagination as reality. Like dressmakers, they work one on one with you. Unlike a dressmaker, they usually have tonier establishments and higher prices. The reason? Their services are zeroed in on you—the bride. Most offer small sample collections as well as bolts of fabric right in house to inspire you along with your decisions. Custom designers usually work all the materials and labor into the price of the garment. Prepare to pay more here. Prices can range from $1600.00 for something simple and unadorned up to $10,000.00 for the works: full trains, petticoats, underskirts, bustles, intricate beading, etc. Median price range for a custom made wedding gown at this writing would be around $3-5000.00.

WHAT TO EXPECT OUT OF THE DESIGN PROCESS A custom designer or skilled seamstress puts many hours and a high level of craftsmanship into the creation of a custom gown. Working with fragile, white fabric and delicate lace is an art form. Figure any custom gown crafted by a designer usually takes four to six months to complete from a listing of your measurements. Since the design process involved with a custom gown is more of a direct collaboration between you, you’ll have more input with decisions regarding fabric, silhouette and style. STEP 1 Every first consultation begins by asking questions about the actual wedding itself. You’ll look at and evaluate all the factors involved in optimizing gown design; the scale of the ceremony, the nature of its backdrop, your use of tradition, even right

down to the surfaces on which you’ll be walking. With respect for cleaning and preservation, sometimes even post-wedding plans are made for the gown. If you’ve collected any photos, sketches or swatches of fabric, these are discussed, usually with the designer running a few of her own ideas back to you. Choices and cost of materials, fabrics and a few other details are usually explored. If the designer has a small sample collection, this is usually when you can begin trying gowns on to see what the fabrics are going to look and feel like with you in them. This is the time too to look over how well the samples are made. Don’t worry about whether or not you know haute couture techniques here—just pull up a hem or look at the inside of one of the garments and you’ll know if it's cleanly made and as beautiful on the inside as out. STEP 2 Eventually, a gown is in the making. After a final sketch is approved, an estimate follows, complete with fabric swatches and your measurements are taken. For every gown order, a paper pattern is made. Think of the paper pattern as a blueprint, a record with all your dimensions on it. From this, most designers (some dressmakers too) work out a muslin. The muslin is an actual cotton mock-up and ‘living pattern’ of the gown design, fitted exactly to your body. Now, think of the muslin as the foundation work—laying all the necessary groundwork upon which your dress will be built. This is where most of the fine-tuning is done to get the perfect fit before one cut or stitch goes into the true gown fabric(s). STEP 3 After your muslin fittings (there may be two of them), the muslin is unstitched and laid out on the actual fabric and the gown is made up. Since most of the fitting is worked out on the muslin, second and third fittings usually follow up with finishing touches on the gown like, final hemline, closures, remaining design details, etc. Be prepared for more than three fittings though. A gown made from the ground up is a work in progress, each step painstakingly taken, checked and rechecked. Keep in mind you want your gown delivered at least a month before your wedding. Yes. You need to synchronize your calendars on this one. You want to be able to relax and deal with all those other last minute details.


THE WHERE AND HOW OF FINDING DRESSMAKERS AND DESIGNERS INTERNET- Over the past ten years, Etsy has been an answered prayer for many a bride! Etsy is a mega-site for artisans featuring a special niche just for weddings. Custom wedding dress and accessory designers from all over the world feature handmade products mostly crafted in private and home studios. You'll find everything from wedding dresses to veils, hats, cover-ups and even fabric bouquets. Generally, most designers whether they’re small artisans turning out one of a kind items or mainstream hotshots like Vera Wang, all have their own websites. How you search or come across the dress you absolutely adore is up to you but you'll find it eventually whether it is a dressmaker, designer or retailer. But before you OD, let's narrow it down some. Let's suppose you live in Los Angeles. Type in-BRIDAL DESIGNERS and you’ll be deluged with thousands (Great if you want to browse even more gowns). Type in: Bridal DESIGNERS-Los Angeles and you’re getting warm. Mostly what you’ll come up with is a Hodge-podge of everybody in LA: big names, indies who aren't so known and tons of varied retailers carrying designers, etc. Don't worry though. Once you hit that hot LA designer you absolutely love make an appointment. Realize hottie designers will usually do custom work as long as it is in their flagship store. Remember though, top designers get top dollar. As for indies and custom designers, if you’re near a metro area, your chances of connecting with the right one are good. Check out the gown photos on their site, first to see if his or her vision and yours are on the same page. Next, go to his or her gallery of Real Brides . . . (if there is one) see what others looked like on their wedding day in his/ her creation SALONS- Bridal salons and specialty stores sometimes employ custom designers or dressmakers either in house or as outside contractors. Depending on how they are set up, sometimes they’ll give a referral if it doesn’t interfere with the flow of their business. CONSULTANTS- Bridal consultants or planners are an excellent source of referrals and usually know who’s truly expert in the area by years of working with them. Some are willing to work with you on an hourly basis or for a small referral fee. FASHION EDITORS. Fashion or wedding section editors in regionals can be helpful if you reach them directly or run across their editorials on bridal wear. Most newspapers feature a spread on weddings twice a year. Here, private designers and dressmakers are sometimes featured or listed. Ask for back issues.

INTERNET AND ETSY—ideally you want to find an ETSY shop that's in your region. But, what if you love a designer in Australia and live in Orlando? Fifteen years back I would never have thought it was possible but mail order bridal gowns are a happening trend for brave and determined brides out there who want something one of a kind. With the proliferation of the net sites all you have to do is dream it and you'll eventually find it. So how do you make this virtual gown a reality once you do locate it 5000 plus miles away? First you determine whether this designer you adore has something similar to what you want in her collection —preferably something that can be customized (that's making a few of your own changes). If you are working long distance with your own design you’ll need to provide a top notch sketch and have good communication skills. Whether customizing an already designed design or going the made to order route, if you’re far away you'll need have your measurements taken by a professional seamstress or tailor where you live. I need to reiterate 'professional' here. Ideally this is the place you’ll be having the gown altered after it’s shipped to you. And please note you will need alterations. No matter how beautifully or personally made, anything as 'Red Carpet' as a wedding dress needs some kind of altering to make it really 'yours'. REVIEWERS-- Is YELP the new Yellow Pages? Before the internet, the Yellow Pages used to be the first and last place brides got started on their dress quest... After word of mouth, this was the easiest though riskiest way to find a reliable dressmaker. Fast forward past the Millennium and YELP with its 5-star review system has become the new word of mouth for extolling shouts of praise as well as thumbs down complaints. Google, Yahoo, Etsy and Wedding Wire all have a respected review system as well. FRIENDS-. Finally, word of mouth and recommendations through friends find designers and dressmakers. Someone knows someone who wore a stunner of a gown. Sometimes the same name will keep popping up in discussion. Follow it.

Photo on following page by S-1 Studios

How is customizing a wedding dress different than a custom made one? A custom wedding dress is made from scratch, that is, you and the designer working with a pattern and raw cuts of fabric to create it from the ground up. Customizing a ready-made dress is different. It involves remodeling and/or embellishing one already put together. It can be store bought, sewn or inherited as long as it’s fairly basic and free of mass adornment. Customizing a wedding dress is one way of fusing your individual stamp so that design is all yours. Take a very simple sheath or A-line, add a detachable train or overskirt and adorn it with embroidered ribbons and handmade florals. Viola! You have a customized gown. This isn't the only route to customizing. You can go for a removable shrug that adds sleeves, a capelet that looks like part of the gown or a lightweight overdress you doff come reception time. Believe me; your possibilities are endless here. Some brides opt for the most basic gown like I described then take it to the dressmaker or designer to get it personally customized.

Above: A basic sheath to the right is unadorned except for a wide sash added to the waist. Image on the left shows the same sheath with a detachable over skirt converting the dress into a ball gown. Following

Page: detachable train with handmade flowers and leaves of ivy embellishing the sash//Photo by Strotz Photography . . . .

THE EMBELLISHMENTS AND ALL THOSE DESIGN DETAILS Finding how to integrate all the design details you want isn’t all that difficult. If you’re going through one of those decision dilemmas just log onto Etsy and shop for ideas. Their designers have developed some of the most beautiful accessory and design attachments beyond anything you’ll ever run across in any salon or boutique. On Etsy you’ll find boleros, shoulder swags, lace collars, detachable overskirts, blouses, garlands of flowers and just about

GETTING STARTED: The Wedding Dress Workshop

Photo by Dominic Colacchio

The silhouette you choose is going to be the foundation of your look—the overall appearance you create once you make your entrance, dance your first dance, cut the cake. The right silhouette creates a positive visual chemistry. Something like a light turned on, illuminating the unique beauty of your female form. There are only three basic silhouettes: the sheath, the ball gown and A-line. Within each of these big three derive a few variations deserving closer examination


Photo by Taralynn Lawton Photography

The sheath is long and columnar like a cylinder. Styles vary and have waistlines and skirt features that are usually as snug up top as on bottom. The sheath can work for the bride who wants a stylish, simple presence as well as one who wants to make a more powerful statement with her veil or accents of laces and a train added. This is an ideal gown if you’re short and slim. The unbroken columnar line creates height. Although, it’s also great for tall, thin, physically fit brides as well. If you’re statuesque or prone to heaviness, look toward more flattering A-lines.

Variations of the Sheath Chemise or Shift-Relaxed version of the sheath. Falls in a straight line usually cut on the grain of the fabric. The waistline if any is loosely fitted and fits low on the hips a la 1920s style. Slip Dress or Evening Gown-Carolyn Bessette wore the classic of all classics when she and JFK Jr. tied the knot. Cut on the bias, it hugs the body, evoking 1930s Hollywood chic. Ideal line for brides in tip-top physical shape who like to strut trim bodies. Be warned though. Toned and tight through the belly, hips and thighs are a must here. Fitted Shell-Think of enchanting Nancy Kwan in The World of Suzie Wong, sporting her Mandarin collared Shell and you’ve got the lines right. In fact, a floor-length Mandarin shell in ivory brocade would be an excellent choice for the bride who wants to add an exotic aspect to her look. The shell was also popularized by Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn circa 1960s. Check out Audrey’s celebrated black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s only think white. The Mermaid-Like the legendary creature herself, this silhouette is half and half: half sheath, half ball gown. Fitted long and snug to the knees then POW! Either a full flared skirt or tiers of ruffles complete the look, sometimes falling into (no pun intended) a fishtail train in back. Big glam look in the 1950s in heavier, highly polished satins. Bombshells like Jane Mansfield donned some high voltage, kitschychic with this cut.

Clockwise: 1. A fitted sheath in taffeta. Photo by Pixamage/2. A lace chemise/ 3. The chiffon slip dress. Photo by Jim Vetter Photography Photo by Lirette Photography//Photo on following page by Strotz Photography

Photo by Lirette Potography//Photo on following page by Strotz Photography



Dior revolutionized fashion in 1947 with his “New Look”. Cinched waists atop skirts flowing in yards of fabric over layers of crinoline marked a turning point in Twentieth-Century fashion. The hourglass, the most defined female silhouette, was back. The ball gown is indeed an hourglass and remains the most dramatic of all bridal silhouettes. A ball gown can be as romantic a confection as those seen in the corps de ballet, flowing in swirls of white tulle; or as edgy and structured as the silk faille versions in Charles James designed in the 1950s. But it doesn’t matter whether the fabric used to create it is delicate, mid-weight or heavy, one aspect of the ball gown always remains the same: the skirt and its under structure are both based on volume. Thus, sweeping skirts equal sweeping entrances especially awesome on brides who know how to work their strut. Regardless of its formality, a ball gown seems to have flex when it comes to showing up anywhere and looking beautiful. While they go great in all the splendor of a fullblown cathedral ceremony, imagine an outdoor garden wedding where nature, big and diverse as a thousand cathedrals can be the perfect sanctuary.

Photo on the following page by Greystar Pictures

Tall, slim brides carry this silhouette off best. Also if you’re medium to tall and pear shaped, you’ll benefit from the uber-volume in the skirts that camouflage your every imperfection from the waist down. Petite brides who want some gown drama might be better off going with the more modified A-line since the mass of a ball gown skirt will swallow you up.

Variations of the Ball Gown Bouffant or Hourglass-Fitted bodice with cinched natural or dropped waist atop gathered or pleated full skirt. Bubble-Bouffant shaped skirt swelling out of a cinched natural or dropped waist. Skirt curves in a balloon like shape at the hemline. Petal-Very structured overskirt. Imagine a fuchsia. A cinched natural or dropped waist sitting atop a full skirt with curving understructure that slits open in the front. Sometimes shows a bit of sheath-like under dress peeking out. Shirt Dress-A more relaxed version of the hourglass, a classic and tailored look concentrating as much on the bodice detailing as the skirt. Typically has long shirtlike or billowing sleeves and full gathered skirt. Can be made out of lightweight fabrics like organza, chiffon and crepe, as well as medium weights like linen. Nice for a garden reception, especially with a wide- brimmed hat.


The hourglass wasn’t Christian Dior’s only reinvention. His A-line hit big in 1955 and stayed with us. An A-line cut is a more modified form of hourglass, bringing with it refinement and understatement. Fitted through the bodice, the A-line can have a slight to moderate flair in the skirt. Dubbed by fashionistas as “The Deb Dress” it’s been one of the most popular silhouettes for the reason it flatters just about every figure type. Variations of the A-line Classic-Slightly flared, you see it everywhere; mostly with a strapless bodice in medium to heavy fibers. Stunning. Princess-Fitted bodice flowing into a skirt that has two parallel vertical seams running up front and back; can have a slight to full flare in the skirt. Very flattering. Especially great for petites or any woman wanting to add height. Heavier brides benefit too from the vertical seams drawing the eye, up, up, up. Trapeze-Loose fitting A-line that premiered in Yves Saint Laurent’s 1958 collection. Some versions have a lot more ease in the cut than others. Couture and bridal versions tend to look like classic A-lines with a little more slack in the torso area. Great for heavier brides. Tent-Another smart choice for the heavy bride. Except you’ll rarely see it anywhere in today’s fashion, so you’ll have to have it custom made. This triangular gown hangs from the neck or a yoke, flaring way out at the hemline. Priscilla wore a to-the-floor version when she married Elvis.


No matter how simple or paired down a dress can get, some women just can’t get into wearing one even on their wedding day. For this reason, the classic suit is becoming a stylish alternative. Like the sheath it’s long and columnar only in two-pieces with a jacket and straight skirt. There are of course exceptions. Skirt shapes can be flared like A-lines or take on full bell contours even under man-tailored jackets. Pantsuits are another option with pant legs varying from slim cigarette widths to wide culottes cuts. Later on we’ll cover the exceptional details of wearing a suit on your wedding day. Until then, consider it one of your options.

Sleeves, waistlines, necklines and skirts are just a few components that make up your wedding dress. The fusing together of these elements can make or break a good design, most of which involves getting the symmetry right. Photo on following page by Stephanie Williams Photography

NECKLINES The neckline frames your face and is probably the feature you’ll most concentrate on when choosing your dress. It’s the part of your dress that gives your face some wow! Because there are almost as many necklines as sleeve variations, think of mixing both components as an opportunity to really create that one-of-a-kind creation. Front and back bodices though aren’t always identical. For instance, the front could have a straight across neckline, and back a deep V; whereas another gown could have a scoop in front as well as back. STYLES Turtleneck-Once a classic, the high neck or turtleneck can be a plain band of dress fabric or lace. Especially popular in the Edwardian gown craze of the 70s when cotton ‘granny gowns’ reappeared. Mandarin-Like the high neck collar only it’s notched in front Cowl-draped either as an attached piece or integrated into the pattern. Lots of retro styles of the 1930s use this effect. Jewel-Aka crew neck, round and higher neckline. Not seen too much these days except in an over bodice of all-over lace. Bateau or Sabrina-Straight across the neckline Scoop-Low rounded neckline V or U-These necklines point down just like the letters they are named after. Off-the-Shoulder-Neckline extends horizontally across and sits below the shoulders. Portrait-Wide band that extends from shoulder to shoulder Square-One of my personal favorites, conveying a real open look, square necks look great on long and A-line silhouettes. Halter-Straps either wrap around the neck or neckline is high with deep armholes. Strap-Usually holds up a strapless bodice or evening gown silhouette.

Asymmetrical-Neckline falls diagonally-one side strapless the other either with sleeve or sleeveless. Queen Anne-High neckline curving into a sweetheart around the dĂŠcolletage area Sweetheart-Plunges into an open heart shape. Keyhole-Open tear-drop. Strapless-Either cut straight across or sweetheart shaped, the strapless is held up by boning inside the bodice.

Clockwise: Photo 1-Square Neckline//Photo 2-Sweetheart Neckline//Photo 3-Halter Neckline//Photo 4-Asymmetrical Neckline//Photo 5-Turtleneck//Photo 6-Scoop Neck Top 3 photos by Lirette Photography Photo 4 by Studio 7teen Photography//Photo 5 by Pixamage Photo on following page by Lirette Photography


The bodice is the focal point, the epicenter of your gown and reflects the heart of its overall style. Which bodice you choose will determine whether or not your gown has sleeves, a collar, high or low neckline, lace overlays, etc. Proper fit of the bodice is especially crucial and the place the most exact measurements need to be taken. Because a bodice is either darted or seamed, it typically has the most shaped and sculpted seams of any other piece on your gown. Also it is the center from which most other components are attached and take form—the place your gown finally goes from a flat to a three dimensional piece of fabric sculpture.

Left Photo by Greystar Pictures

While a bodice may look pretty straight-forward from the outside, like the skirt, it may have a complex inner life of linings, facings, and shaping materials we never see but sense by the way the bodice holds its shape. For instance, the bodice on a typical wedding gown needs an underling to give it that sculpted form in addition to becoming a strong foundation with which to attach lace, trim or embroidery. Also, an underlining can hide casements within the bodice for boning, a material used to hold

that strapless bodice up. We’ll discuss the understructure of your bodice as well as skirt in more detail later. Until then realize most bodices whether draped or closely fitted to your body, frequently have some kind of foundation of reinforcement beneath. Here are a few bodice treatments to consider. Gathered-Gathers at the waist add bodice interest Surplice-Two wraps of fabric criss-crossing over the bust line, usually attached and/or supported by an under bodice. Big 1930s glam look with Jean Harlow strutting’ across the screen in her white crepe satin... Draped-Like the surplice, this treatment can be attached from the shoulders or neckline. Also supported by an under bodice. Ruched-Treatment of vertical or horizontal gathers stretched across the bodice front and back. Aka shirring. Corset-Bodice or vest usually with visible boning running vertically up the front and back. Laces up through eyelets either in front or back. While I’ve seen a few that hint at modesty complete with miniature rosebuds and bows, typically the corset belongs to the venturesome bride. Yes, a bodice all done up like a corset does have that Moulin Rougesque look; makes busty and heavier brides look voluptuous, everyone else a Can-Can dancer.


From a designer’s point of view, sleeves can be one of the most creative components of a gown. For me, a well-designed sleeve is a work of art; it combines fabric and adornment into the overall image of the gown. I also think sleeves are the most satisfying part of a gown to work on—the actual stitching, manipulation of fabric and trim—the real character of the gown. There are probably more variations of sleeve than any other component and once you’ve decided to go with sleeves realize your possibilities are never-ending. Above: An extreme version of Bishop sleeve//Following Page: Flutter sleeves.

Besides looking beautiful, the right sleeves can add bodice appeal as well as keep your skirt or sloping shoulders in proportion. Although not foremost, keeping arms warm could be another option for wearing sleeves. Once upon a time etiquette dictated the length sleeve you could wear during winter months or time of day you got married. Fortunately these restrictions were lifted long ago. Nowadays, you can go for long sleeves in summer, short caps in winter if that’s your desire. Be realistic though. Just make sure you have a decent wrap or stole in New York for your December wedding. As for long sleeves next July in Palm Springs, go for them. Ever since Vera Wang popularized the detachable sleeve that ties and unties from your gown’s bodice, brides still opt for them. When choosing a sleeve, think of them in terms having their very own silhouette within the outline of your gown as a whole. Because of the vast variation there is on sleeves, I’ve listed only the basic sleeve silhouettes from which many other styles derive. Cap: Tiny sleeves that barely cover the upper portion of the arm. Flounce or Flutter: Usually cut on the bias this resembles an open bell sleeve with a hem falling diagonally, sometimes falling into a deep-V back. Puffed: Short sleeve gathered at the armhole into a puffy top. The cuff is also puffed giving a ballooned shape Petal or Tulip: curved arm hem and overlapping to give a petal-shape. Aka a tulip Short: Longer than a cap sleeve, you will find examples of these on t-shirts Three Quarter: Hemmed at the upper forearm Long: Set in and fitted sleeve extending from shoulder to wrist, offering the classic bridal look Bell: Set in smoothly at the armhole, flaring to a straight across hem Bishop: Long, full sleeve set in smoothly to the armhole, gathered at the wrist. Always is fuller at the wrist than Juliet: A long, fitted sleeve with a puffed shoulder. Gauntlet: A long, fitted sleeve that is put on separately like a glove and not attached to the bodice or dress in any way

Dolman or Batwing: A set in sleeve tapering from an oversized armhole, fitted closely at the wrist. Seen in many dresses harking back to the late 1930s. Leg of Mutton: Wide and puffed at the upper arm, narrowing from elbow to wrist

Clockwise: Photo 1--Long and fitted sleeves of Chantilly lace//Photos 2&3--Three Quarter sleeves with a flounce//Following Page: Shirred gauntlet sleeves.


Think of your waistline as an intersection where bodice and skirt join to make your gown whole and complete. A waist is either defined by a horizontal seam or—in the case of a princess design—vertical seams running up the front. Waistline is a vital element; it brings balance to your silhouette and with careful utilization to this area, you can cover flaws or highlight your best features. You can drop, point, slant, blouse or curve, your waist to create the exact symmetry you want.

Yoke-Believe it or not your waist in this case is higher than your bust. A yoke is a biblike piece that is joined to either a bodice panel or gathering stitches. Check out any tent dress or princess style originating form a yoke. Both were popular circa 1960s. Empire-Ends just below the bust line. Skirt can be straight or full. Most nowadays are either princess or bias cut. Raised-Recent trend popularized by Esprit.

Natural Waistline-Now trendy once more, seems like decades since we’ve seen so much of the natural waist. Until recently, bridal designers offered two kinds of waistline: dropped and empire. True, a dropped waist makes a woman look longer and leaner while empires camouflage short, thick waists and ample hips. The natural waistline however is one of fashion’s best-kept secrets. While not for everyone, it works for most body types and creates a great symmetry and overall picture of you. Dropped-Falls about 2-3 inches below the waist. Particularly flattering to most figure types because it elongates the torso Asymmetrical-Falls at a diagonal. It can be either a fitted or relaxed bodice. Basque-Falls into a point about 4-5 inches below the waist. Particularly flattering to full-figured and pear-shapes when it sits atop a full gathered skirt. U-Most flattering U-shapes are over bodices that fall over an A-line skirt. Princess Seams-No horizontal waist seam here. The vertical seams originate from armhole or shoulder and run the length of the dress. Draped-Gathers or draping take the place of darts. Can take the shape of being loose or fitted Seamless-Bias cut evening gowns and slip dresses have no seams defining waist. Usually snug fitting. As I’ve said before: you must be in top physical form to wear this waistline.


I like to think of the skirt component as the one in which the most critical movement takes place. The skirt goes into motion when you put one foot in front of the other and make your way down the aisle or dance with your groom. And because the skirt is an action piece, it has a certain ‘living quality’ once you start moving around in it. Added embellishments like beads and crystals reflect light a different way every step you take; back slits reveal sexy legs and bustling can transform a gown one moment from elegance, the next to poetry and romanticism. Consider once you start really moving around, your skirt, your dress as a whole is constantly changing with you in it.

Since most gown silhouettes are based on the skirt proportion of a sheath, ball gown or A-line, let’s look at a few details within those categories. Skirt details vary and are filled with special treatments like pleats, overlays and drapes. For instance, ruffles are a design detail that can add length; deep inverted pleats can add fullness without bulk to the waist or hips. Zeroing in on which of these treatments you want is going to be one of your most important decisions. Draped or bustled-Can be applied to sheaths, A-lines or ball gowns. A drape is a wrap of fabric pleated or gathered to the side or back seams of the skirt adding fullness. They can be integrated into the original pattern or added on in a contrasting fabric. Imagine a 1930s evening gown in a lightweight crepe, asymmetrically draped front to back. In heavier fabrics like faille and peau, swathes of draping lend a more sculpted, architectural look to the gown giving it that Goddess on a Pedestal quality. Flounce-A ruffle or pleating of any width around the bottom of the skirt. Seen nowadays mostly as a bit of flounce peaking out of a skirt overlay. Tiers-Can be one or up to even ten layers of tiering in a range of lengths and fabrics. Think of a Spanish dancer. Graduated Hemline(s)-Again think Spanish Dancer. Hem tapers from a high to low point. Can be applied as one or more skirts. Trumpet-Form of princess line with two vertical seams up front and back with godets (triangular pieces sewn into the seams) adding fullness around the knees. Overskirt-Most are detachable and worn over a sheath or A-line. Could be considered a detachable train if it’s elongated in back. Overlay-Like the overskirt, the overlay is placed over an existing skirt. Some employ special effects like being cut asymmetrically or short in front, long in back. The difference between the overskirt and overlay is the latter is generally incorporated into the pattern when the gown is made. Circular-Full skirt completely on the bias. Typically fitted onto a natural or dropped waist with a sweeping, flowing hem. Takes on totally diverse characteristics according to what fabric is used. In lightweight silk crepe its fluid; wool crepe heavily fluid. In heavier satins it’s very structured and needs well thought out understructure.


When you think of pleated skirts do you think of schoolgirl uniforms and classic plaids? If you do, think again. Couture bridal gowns can have some of the most pleated skirts you’ll find and deserve a special section all their own. Many A-line and princess styles in heavier fabrics like satin and moirÊ incorporate deep (sometimes very deep) box or inverted pleats instead of gathers in the skirt. Why use a pleat instead of a gather? Pleats are designed to fall flat in folds through the waist and/or hip area (where the skirt is joined) and not bunch up like gathering would. The result

is a well-fitting, uninterrupted line up the bodice with a beautiful and even fullness in the skirt. Here are a few of the different types of pleats. Box Pleat-Double pleat made by two facing folds joined to the center. Many gowns with full skirts have this application Inverted Pleat-Reversed box pleat where folds meet and are stitched up top. Another much used application. Knife Pleat-Flat pleats all going in the same direction. Mostly used on mid-weight fabrics like linen, and lighter weight woolens and taffeta. These look like famed Italian designer Mariano Fortuny who innovated an exclusive pleating method that never changed.


About ten years back the length of your gown was a deciding factor in how formal your wedding would be. These days the new code on lengths has more to do with how you feel about wearing a certain gown than what's proper before or after five. So let’s get right into what those lengths actually mean. Did you know there's a difference between tea-length and ballerina length? Short and mini? Here are some images to inspire you along to finding your perfect hemline. FLOOR-LENGTH-Most common length for bridal gowns, this hemline is graceful and elegant; the hem typically doesn't touch the floor in front 1-3" above for ease with walking. BALLERINA-Ballerina-length skirts fall just above the ankle and are wide and full just like the skirts seen in the corps de ballet. Full skirts look awesome worn over layers of crinoline petticoats. A dress this length can go semi and informal depending on the materials and workmanship. TEA LENGTH-Falls mid-calf and can be either full and voluminous or fitted. Mostly worn for the informal or semi -formal wedding but showing up more and more at larger celebrations.

Four different lengths of skirt//Left to Right: Photo 1: Floor length//Strotz Photography//Photo 2: Ballerina length//Vetter Photography//Photo 3: Tea length//Dominic Colacchio Photography//Photo 4: Knee length//Dominic Colacchio Photography KNEE LENGTH-This shorter style of skirt finishes just below or above the knee. A very flattering length, it's perfect for the cocktail and the less formal civil-style wedding. MINI-Whimsical and playful, this skirt sports a certain radical chic first worn in the 1960s. Perfect for a cocktail wedding or a bride with great legs. ASYMMETRICAL-Irregular hemline falling diagonally. Can start as a mini and go to the floor. Tres chic the last few seasons along with asymmetrical necklines. GRADUATED OR HIGH-LOW HEM-Hemline is short in front and generally extended into a train in back. HANDKERCHIEF-Another irregular hemline that falls to a point, more a treatment than length as the longest point usually falls anywhere from the knee down. Typically in sheer fabrics like chiffon. Very chic and in now.

Back in the Middle Ages when fabric was in short supply, the length of one’s train conveyed a person’s wealth and standing. For Victorians, bustling the train was considered an art form with all kinds of intricate floral and lace treatments. Today a gown with a train still suggests formality; typically the longer the train, the more formal the wedding. So what is a train exactly? A train is that extension in the back of

the skirt that follows when you move. There are two types of trains: built-in and detachable. Built-ins are integrated in the actual skirt pattern when the dress is made. These are the kind that are pulled up and bustled after the ceremony. A detachable train is a separate component, not integrated in the skirt pattern. Detachable are usually removed after the ceremony, although I’ve seen them bustled every so often when brides want to keep that certain “Gigi” look going for the party. LENGTHS Sweep or Brush- Extends a foot or so past the hemline. Chapel-Considered formal. Extends about 2 feet beyond the hemline. Tres chic right now. Cathedral-Formal. Generally a 3 foot extension from the hemline. Needs bustling treatment post ceremony. Royal-Very long. Diana Spencer’s was twenty-five feet! Ultra-formal look for big churches and cathedral ceremonies. STYLES Watteau-Named after the eighteenth century painter who popularized his models wearing them; attached at the shoulder and falls to the hemline or beyond. Panel Train-A long strip or A-line shape of fabric. Typically attached to the waist; though sometimes fastened to the back or shoulders. Bouffant Panel-(Pictured on the following page) a sort of semi-skirt gathered onto a band at the back waist sometimes extending the hip area. Popular accent with sheath and A-line silhouettes. Check out Audrey Hepburn’s party dress in Sabrina, it’s a good example. Overskirt- gathered or fitted onto a belt that can be unhooked for the reception. May be made of solid fabric like duchesse satin or something transparent like organza. Fishtail-Either a built-in extension or godet (triangle of fabric inserted in the seam).

Fish Tail train created with the extension of a lace godet

If your heart’s set on an ultra- formal gown and you’re petite, concentrate on exquisite fabric or embroidery rather than extension. A sweep train and/or chapel veil is about as far as you can go and stay in proportion. Heavier? Go any length but keep in mind thick, textured, adorned fabrics aren’t your best option. Lucky you if you’re tall and slender. Go any length you like in any fabric without over embellishing. Evening gown silhouettes in lightweight fabrics come with both built-in and detachable trains; sheath silhouettes, the latter unless they have fishtail treatments. If you’re looking for an A-line or ball gown in medium to heavyweight fabrics like Duchesse and Peau de Soie, your train will probably be a built-in chapel or cathedral length. These are the more formal gowns and when you visit a salon, you won’t find them displayed out in the open as much. If you do see one, or a sales consultant brings one out, observe how the gown keeps its shape on the hanger or dress form. If it’s hanging up, it will probably be on a molded form-hanger, bustled and/or displayed at least a foot apart from other gowns similar in silhouette. A dress form is the next best thing to you wearing it, and will show it off to its best advantage. Things to look for: Notice whether or not the skirt (read: skirt, not the under slip) seems to have a structure that can stand on its own. It should. This has to do with how it's (1.) lined, and (2.) hemmed. When you pick up the skirt—including the train—and look closely at the hemline, you’re likely to find a 3-6” wide band of horsehair. That’s the clear and meshy edging at the hemline that gives the bottom of the dress some flex as well as firmness. Notice how the skirt and train extension seem to hold that precision shape. It’s the horsehair that keeps the bottom of the skirt in shape and gliding when you move instead of swishing side to side (you’ll find this out once you try on the gown). Typically horsehair is sewn on the inside of the hem. Most designers are bringing the skirt lining over the horsehair edging completely, leaving as clean a finish inside as out. Keep in mind you’ll be walking over surfaces of stones and uneven pavements that might trip you up or get caught up in the horsehair. With clean finishing work inside, when you lift your skirt to walk up stairs, the horsehair BUSTLING Bustling is the gathering and tacking up of the train so that the bride can move around freely post ceremony. Once a gown is bustled it goes through a kind of metamorphosis as does the bride in it. There are two kinds of bustling techniques: over bustles and under bustles (French). Usually, bustling is secured with hooks and/or ribbons (narrow

strips of grosgrain). Over bustling is the easiest and consists of picking up and tacking the skirt to the waist for chapel and cathedral lengths; or behind the knee for sweeps. Under bustling goes the other way—down and under, fastening to points on the under slip. Longer trains can take a combination of both over and under bustling all at once and the results can be stunning. Additional or custom bustling is done after the bodice fitting is completed. How many (more) bustle points you chose is up to you and the estimation of your alterations person. Keep in mind not every dress bustles well. Examples include ball gowns with skirts in lightweight layers like tulle or organza. The amount of layered skirts present problems. The bustling is done layer by layer which is time consuming and expensive, and you’d have to absolutely love the result to go through all that hassle. Also some gowns with sweep trains, godets or fishtails don’t bustle well. Overall, most dresses do bustle beautifully and are a joy to wear. A bustled train remains one of the most elegant and romantic elements of the wedding gown .


True, your grand entrance will certainly make the first impression. And how you see yourself head-on in a particular neckline and bodice is probably how you’ll go about choosing your gown. But realize once you make it down the aisle and stand alongside your groom, your guests will be looking at you from the back. Also consider the reception; this is where your guests will have glimpses of you from all perspectives, including the back of your dress, train and veil. All are significant to the overall picture you create.

Think of your back in components that make up a picture of you: There’s the veil, back bodice, skirt and train. Choosing the right veil depends on the length of the gown, the interest of the back bodice. You may opt for a shorter veil or no veil if there are some details you want to show off. These details can be as simple as a row of buttons all the way down the back, or as elaborate as silk flowers cascading the length of a cathedral train. How much or little detail you choose is a matter of preference. Here’s a listing of treatments to consider for the back of your gown. BUSTLE- Result of train being pulled up or under and fastened to the gown or underskirt. CLUSTER- Grouping of florals or florals mixed with bows, tassels and ribbons. BUTTONS-A row down the back is classic; either fabric covered or pearl. RUFFLES-Some gowns have a treatment of ruffles part or all the way down the skirt. BOW-This can be a series of small bows spaced down the back like button closures or a sizable one placed on the waistline or lower back. DRAPE-Popular back treatment for low-necklines in evening gown silhouettes. Usually a cowl in crepe or chiffon.

Lirette Photography

Once you're ready to evaluate the back details of your gown and veil, make sure your salon or dressmaker has a three- way mirror. It’s a necessity. Not only if you want to see how you look in the back but how you move as well. First glance you’ll notice

whether or not all the buttons line up just right; how the reverse drape should fall or if the veil is a complimentary length for the dress? Space is the next factor. Can you move about a little and still see yourself from the back? Notice how the train follows when you move? Ditto the veil if you’re wearing one. These are all things you couldn’t possibly see by looking at yourself straight on in the mirror. CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS

Okay, so you’re in front of a three-way mirror and have enough space to move around comfortably. Time to look for any construction or design errors—infrequent in higher end gowns, more common in lines using inexpensive fabrics. Does the dress fall properly? Is it well made and lined correctly? If a dress and/or its lining is off grain or has the wrong weight lining, the train or back hem won’t move in a straight, even flow when you do. The entire outfit—that is gown complete with train and veil—should all move equally and together as a whole. PROPORTION PROBLEMS

Let’s say this time the dress you have on passes the technical test and there are no construction problems. It looks great in front but once you get a back glimpse, it doesn’t look so hot proportionally . . . the length train and volume of the gown back there seem to be swallowing you up. That’s what’s so nice about getting a good back view of yourself; you can see the problem and work it out. Now you know to try on something similar only scaled down. Say an A-line instead of a ball gown silhouette—and one with a more modified sweep train instead of cathedral train. If you can, have smaller bows or flowers made up.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER If you’ve fallen in love with a particular detail you want on the back of your gown like a cluster of florals, but can’t find a gown with it in the style you want, consider two ways you can go about getting it: 1) Go ahead and order the gown then find silk flowers and someone with the skill to attach them. . 2) Have a gown custom designed. Custom design is the best option if you have a specific back feature that ordinarily would have to be engineered into the gown rather than simply added on. Bows, florals, sashes and detachable trains can all be as closely matched up in color and fabric and added on to a ready-made gown with little or no problem. But features like back overlay skirts and lace-up bodices are usually built in and need to be planned out with a skilled dressmaker or designer. Going custom might cost more in time and the number of fittings, but you’ll get that wonderful back feature that makes the gown uniquely yours, uniquely one-of-its-kind . . .


Face it, going straight from a wedding ceremony to the bash of your life is a radical transition few brides can carry off without making some changes to her attire. The most typical adjustments are to head and hemline. Following the ceremony, a bride usually takes off the longest layer of veil or removes it entirely leaving only the headpiece. A train that looked spectacular during the walk down the aisle gets bustled up for dancing and moving around. Some brides even take time out between ceremony and reception, changing into an entirely different dress—usually something “cocktailish” that’s chic in addition to comfortable. Since more brides are asking, “How can I look proper for my ceremony and still be stylish and relaxed for my reception?” some designers are offering convertible looks in their collections. Think of convertibles as ensembles that work one way for the ceremony, and, like the layer of veil, are removed or readjusted for the reception. Say you want a formal look for your ceremony and picture yourself in a skirt with layers of organza falling into a chapel train as you walk down the aisle. For your reception however, you want something totally different: a strapless sheath—like something you might wear to a cocktail party. Go ahead. Wear the sheath for your ceremony; only wear it under a detachable organza overskirt. The layers of skirt fasten to a belt and unhook for the reception. Want more cover up top during your ceremony? How about chiffon or all over lace dress that buttons down the front worn over that sheath? This offers a transparent, delicate look and is removed after the ceremony. But suppose you like the idea of one gown—something all one piece with tiers of ruffles that fall into a sweep train. Problem solved: the bottom ruffle can be secured with Velcro or hooks, then removed—and presto!—your train is gone and you have a cocktail dress. If you’re not a romantic go for a more tailored look. You can still go with the sheath idea and your overdress—the one you wear down the aisle—might look more like a full-length Princess-style coat or ¾ length jacket. Or imagine something with one button at the waist and part of the dress underneath showing; ideal for winter weddings in heavier, structured fabrics like Peau de Soie and Brocade. Once you decide a convertible wedding ensemble is for you, begin your research. Don’t worry if a clear picture of dress and fabric doesn’t happen right off. First step while browsing the latest magazines and going online for ideas is keeping an open mind. If you see two entirely different looks you want, imagine how they’d look together. Could the skirt possibly work as an overdress? Or street length sheath you like be worn underneath a long swathe of tulle skirt? Don’t fret even though you see two entirely different styles. A ball gown and evening gown may be as diverse as you can get; but realize with a little ingenuity, they might work together.

Okay, let’s say you find a reception dress you like. Save it. See something else that might go with it? Sketch out the combination. The more research you do, the more likely the gown will evolve in your head. And once it gels, start shopping. Visit a Salon. Your consultant will know which designers offer interchangeable looks. You may find you’re able to order a simple evening gown and have that wrap dress you want to wear over it made. Did you know some bridal salons employ in house dressmakers? Yes, not only for alterations but for special custom touches brides put on the gowns they order. Those who don’t often have referrals. Check Out the Possibility of Going Custom. Custom designers will work with you from concept to finished creation; they have skill handling fine fabrics and the expertise to help you achieve exactly what you want. Go Vintage. If you can get hold of an actual dress from the 30s-40s eras when slip/dress combinations were so popular, you might have a good investment as well as chic bridal ensemble. Never Overlook Department Stores and Specialty Boutiques. Even though boutiques don’t necessarily carry bridal, the extraordinary dresses they do have can sometimes be special ordered in white or ivory. Some work closely with up and coming specialty designers. With a little imagination and the help of professionals, you might be able to put some stunning looks together. Below: A strapless ball gown style changes with a Valenciennes lace over blouse accented with a satin belt//Left image by Lirette Photography

/ A strapless dress is accented by gauntlets—removable sleeves designed to cover the arms during the ceremony and are removed for partying at the reception//Photos by Lirette Photography/

Want to glam up a sheath? Above: A hook on and off tulle overskirt turns a sheath dress into a ball gown for the walk down the aisle, and evening style for the after party//Photos by Scott Williams Photography//Directly Above: Another taffeta sheath can be covered with a lacy over blouse for a more formal and traditional look//Photos by Piamage

THE WEDDING SUIT: When A Dress is Out of the Question I’m 38, professional and getting married in New York this October. I’ve done the salons from the east to west side hoping to find something with more tailoring and less frill. Not much luck. Even the alternatives feel too Mother-of –the-Brideish for me. I’m thinking custom design/tailoring and hoped we might experiment with the idea of a suit or coat. Any thoughts? By all means consider that suit or some form thereof. Something about a well-tailored suit on the right bride suggests a certain élan—she projects sophistication and independence. The good news is, for the most important day of your life, you can wear a suit instead of ‘The Dress’ without being mistaken for a Bride’s Mom. You’ll just have to hunt a different direction than the traditional bride to find those clean lines and fabrics you like so much. Getting married in a suit isn’t exactly an original concept. World War II brides popularized them out of necessity, wearing the best they could find in their closets for ‘on the fly’ nuptials. Mia Farrow wore one when she married Frank Sinatra, and more recently, Camilla Parker-Bowles wore coat/dress ensembles for both her civil and church ceremonies. So what differentiates the wedding suit from the everyday business suit? Typically, the fabric in a wedding suit or coat will be special. Considering the season, winter for example, peau de soie and brocade are luxe, heavier materials that sculpt to the body well and hold their shape. A high quality wool suit fabric can go any season. Imagine a wool crepe suit in white or ivory, lined in a lightweight pure silk; it will have a totally different appearance than what you wear in the office or boardroom. Linens and medium weight silk shantung or dupioni have just enough weight to tailor well and look chic for spring-summer weddings. The basic cut of the jacket is going to be the same one you are used to—either single or double breasted. More radical styles would include Nehru, Mandarin or Cossack. Shorter jackets like the Eisenhower and Bolero look best with skirts having higher waistbands, giving you a more column-like look. JACKET STYLES Tailored Jacket-The classic. Either single or double-breasted, the tailored jacket ends just below the derriere and can have a notched or shawl lapel or no lapel at all. Ideal with a floor-length straight skirt.

Dressmaker Jacket-Shorter than the tailored jacket, this cut ends at the hipline and can be single or double-breasted. Like the tailored jacket, it has the same collar treatments. Tailoring usually has softer lines. Nehru, Mandarin or Cossack Jacket-All are ethnic inspired. All have high turtleneck style collar. Typically tunic-length, each has its own ethnicity distinguished by trim or the fabric used to create it. For instance, Mandarin jackets are usually made out of brocade. The Cossack is made out of any type wool and has a row of trim around the collar, extending down the side front of the jacket. Three-Quarter Length Jacket-Longer than the tailored jacket, this cut is usually worn over a straight or A-line style skirt and removed once the ceremony is over. Eisenhower-Popularized by the General during WWII, this jacket crops at the waist and is typically double breasted. Eisenhower jackets had a revival period during the mid-70s and have continued to be a fashionable alternative. Bolero-A shorter jacket that crops above the waistline. Has curved front corners and no buttons SKIRT

The skirt is one element that really makes the wedding suit special. Formal and semiformal weddings call for a long floor length skirt. The cut of your skirt could be straight or A-line. Even a full skirt complete with a formal train works well as a suit component considering it has the proper linings and understructure (read: slip or crinoline) to balance out the jacket worn with it. If you don’t feel comfortable in a skirt, by all means wear pants. And don’t hesitate wearing a veil with a pantsuit if a veil is what you want. Be gutsy and make your own trend!

Want more choices? Coat dresses and coat and dress ensembles (like Camilla ParkerBowles wore) are an option many women overlook simply because not many are shown these days. A coatdress is just that: a lighter weight coat (street or floor length); and can be single or double- breasted. Then there’s the coat and dress ensemble. Simply put, this is a coat with a dress out of matching fabric underneath it. In the 60s, these were trendy mostly for formal occasions. If you like the idea of a fitted coat, you

could wear one for your ceremony—long or short—over a corresponding sheath. After the ceremony the coat could be removed so you could move freely throughout the reception.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER Accessorizing a suit with bridal touches is one of the ways you can customize it for a wedding. Everyday buttons on a jacket for instance can be replaced with fabric covered or jeweled ones. Your jacket can also have couture techniques such as handbound buttonholes. If your suit has a formal floor-length skirt, topping it off with a

longer veil really gives it that wedding feel without going ‘all out’ as a sweetheart bride. Shorter veils like fly aways (shoulder length and above) or poufs of netting go great with suits. If you’re not the veil type, consider a hat or headpiece that compliments. Hats and suits go together, especially a hat with some kind of veiling over the eyes. It takes the place of a blusher and offers certain sophistication to being veiled rather than that symbolic ‘being given away’ business. Gloves really tie your whole look together and add a touch of formality when you want it. Kid gloves are the most elegant; net and crocheted ones give a more vintage or feminine feel to your ensemble. WHERE TO SHOP The trick here is to shop in the opposite direction the traditional bride would. The exception is the bridal salon that features one or more of the few designer lines that offer suits. Selections as of this writing are still pretty limited though. Initially your search for ideas will probably begin online. Once you get a thought of how you want the skirt and jacket to look, store or print out the combinations. From there sketch them how you want. Next you might go to a fabric shop. Yes, to look at fabrics but also to comb through the pattern books. Pattern books are great for finding looks you can take with you. Or go online to www.vogue Look under coats and suits and you’ll find plenty to browse through and get inspired. If you take the department store route for buying a suit, you might find a particular designer has the suit you like but it’s available in every color but white. The designer or store carrying it may be able to special order it in white. If you’re satisfied with the idea of a ready-made suit, department stores might be a better option than anywhere, especially if they have an established relationship with the manufacturer. Salespeople within departments know their lines and designers well and can steer you in the right direction. You might be able to find your jacket by one designer—your skirt by another. Be warned though. Just make sure the shades of white aren’t too far off that they can’t be worn together. There is on the other hand a down side to department stores: If you want that particular fashion edge their merchandise probably isn’t as forward-looking as say, the one-of-a-kind boutique or specialty store. And believe me, a bridal suit should be classic, yes, but something about it has to be different. The kind of different only a tailor or designer can translate. Check out boutiques and specialty stores. They may not have the exact suit you want but they may be able to create one or point you to a first-rate tailor or custom designers who can. . If you can’t find what you want in a

salon, department store or boutique and are serious about that real ‘tailored look’, find a good tailor, preferably a men’s tailor (they’re so skilled). Use some of the same guidelines for finding a tailor that you would a designer or dressmaker. We covered it in chapter one—in this case follow the most important rule: ask around and word of mouth. Once you find your good tailor, he (most likely a he) will either have an array of fabrics in house or help you scout your desired materials out. Chances are you’ll want an exclusive fabric you can only find in a specialty store. A tailor knows how to take all the proper measurements and look you want . . . the look that undoubtedly says, You and sets you apart.

411 ON BODY TYPES Now that you understand how all the components come together to complete a dress you’re ready to assess your particular body type. Knowing your figure liabilities as well as best features will empower you to formulate fashion decisions in the right direction. In your search, always keep in mind those dresses that make you linger and look a little longer than the rest—the ones that really grip your attention. Do you love that dropped waist because the model in the editorial looks great in it? Or do you go for the dropped waist because you instinctively know it would look great on you? My best advice here is this: Learn to really accept and cherish the body you have then train your eye and thinking to embrace styles that compliment your particular assets. Pass up any looks you could wear if only you were taller, bustier, lost twenty pounds, etc. Target your flaws then minimize or camouflage them; always, always heighten your assets.



I’m 5’ and very small boned. Most gowns I’ve tried on are for women that are 5’6’’. This means whenever I get in front of the mirror I’m swimming in the dress. Almost any sleeve, belt, print or lace looks magnified on me. What are my options? Trying to find samples in your size is difficult, I know. One of the most important things for the vertically challenged to remember is scale. If you’re petite and in shape, you can wear just about any dress as long as you scale down to the right proportion. Also thinking vertically (up, up, up) it will be easier to figure out which treatments suit you best. For instance, choose a bodice and neckline that draw the eye up to your décolletage. Here’s some more to consider: GO FOR * A gown with a panel or seam(s) running up the front. The unbroken lines give you height. *Empire waists are one of your best options considering you go floor length. You want to keep that vertical line going. * A V or U-neck, it gives the impression of a longer neck. *A mermaid. If you’re slim and petite consider this style. It’s fitted like an evening gown up top and has all the bounce and swirl of a ball gown below. *An A-line. Think of it as your very own scaled down version of a ball gown. *Sheath and evening gown silhouettes, long and columnar; they will flatter you. * Length over volume in your skirt *Sleeves that are long and straight. * Best proportion is a floor length gown with veil or train of the same length.

*Prints and laces as well as any motifs should be scaled down and worn on the upper portions of the body. Busy designs below the waist (even small ones) draw all eyes downward. *Soft and sheer fabrics like crepe and chiffon that drape to the body. PASS UP: *Any ball gown. The volume in the skirts will consume you. *Heavy, elaborate fabrics like brocade or any print or design that is large. *Wide belts, sashes and cummerbunds interrupt the vertical lines you want to create. If you do wear a sash or belt go thin (1-1 ½ inches) and as close to the shade of your gown as you can get. *Any design with big puffy sleeves or shoulder pads. *Any train longer than a sweep.

THE TALL BRIDE I’ve spent most of my life in blue jeans so I have no idea what to look for in a wedding dress. I like the idea of wearing a long, white dress on my wedding day but I’m finding it confusing to know what I’m going to look good in. I’m 5’9” and slender. Can you help? How lucky can you get? You’re going to hear it again and again—tall women look best in any style (well, just about) whether it be ball gown, A-line or sheath. Some words of caution though: There have been some tall, svelte, otherwise lovely brides who went way over Niagara with the frou-frou and piled on drapery. Yes, you certainly can carry around more weight and bulk than most but still need to keep scale and proportion in mind even if you are tall. GO FOR: *Sheaths and evening gown silhouettes. They really compliment your body if you’re in shape. *Two-piece dressing like a floor-length suit or coat and dress combo. It’s original and takes someone like you to really carry it off. *Shrugs and boleros. You’re one of the lucky few that can wear them. * A ball gown. Talk about drama! You’ll look like Giselle! *You can go all out and carry off all those beautiful back details: Florals, bows, big and intricate bustles, etc. *Heavier fabrics like brocade and velvet, you can carry them. *A wide belt or sash in a contrasting shade or color.

PASS UP *Bouffant hair-dos and high headpieces. Unless, that is, your groom has the proportions of Magic Johnson. *Victorian gowns with high necks and long tight sleeves. All that elongation puts you over the top. *Long panel trains. You’ll look even thinner. *Flats or ballerina slippers if your hem is above the floor and your feet are long and narrow. You’ll come off looking like Olive Oil.


I’m a size 20 and want to make my wedding day the one day of my life I really look gorgeous. Because of my size it’s hard to find stylish options out there so I’ve decided to go custom. So far I have this ivory taffeta A-line in my head. Could this work for me? You bet! Any A-line or princess style flatters with vertical lines moving upward. Always concentrate on keeping those lines vertical while bringing the rest of your silhouette inward. Consider a curve darted A-line or a princess style with some contrast to the center panel. If you have pleasing curves and/or a full bust, focus on empathizing these attributes the Great Masters have painted for centuries. Think Rubenesque rather than heavy, realizing you can carve out your own special style niche. Consider Minnie Driver. She’s definitely somebody who knows how to ‘rock it’ with her full-figure. Though you won’t find her too often inside the pages of Vogue, she’s definitely tres chic. GO FOR: *An empire waist. It looks great on you. It plays down a thick midriff and hides big hips and bottom. *A ball gown. Even if you have full breasts, some tummy, rounded hips and bottom you can wear a ball gown well as long as there's a determined waistline. The voluminous skirts hide the tummy, bottom and hips, focusing on a nipped in waist. *Low, wide necklines. Consider the scoop, sweetheart, keyhole and V-neck, all of which empathize your cleavage and décolletage. *Long and fitted sleeves, preferably in lightweight fabrics to make your arms look slimmer. *Basque waists atop either an A-line or ball gown slim you out. *The trapeze or tent style; one of your best options.

PASS UP: *Any gown with massive embellishment and go for clean lines and fabrics like crepe, matte satin and shantung; they even your body out. Pass up any weighty fabric like brocade or velvet adding bulk in the folds and seams. Ditto the heavily beaded laces and organzas. *Shiny fabrics like satin. High shine magnifies volume. . *Mermaid, evening gown and sheath silhouettes; all too form-fitting for your figure. *Three-quarter length and big puffy sleeves. Don’t even think about shoulder pads! * Off the shoulder necklines. Full-figures usually have broad shoulders and arms and this neckline adds volume there.

THE SHORT-WAISTED BRIDE My fiancée wants me in a traditional gown with the long train and veil. While I like the idea of going all out traditional, the problem is I’m short-waisted and most every big dress I’ve tried on has some kind of waist issue that leaves me looking boxy. I know that perfect gown is out there, I just haven’t found it. Sounds like you have the classic undefined, boy waistline. Focus on styles bringing all eyes up to the face, shoulders and bust line while minimizing or hiding your waist. Opt for styles like A-line and princess seams that elongate. Madonna is a fine example of someone who has done well at camouflaging this tricky boy midriff (I’m thinking Evita here not Truth or Dare). Check out her gown in Evita when she does a death waltz with Antonio Banderas—a white A-line shift with a V-neck. Stunning! GO FOR: *Empire Waists look great on you. This style hides the natural waist and focuses on the bust and neck area. An empire can have slim or full skirts, take your pick. *Sweetheart or V-necklines. They lengthen your bodice and extend your neck. *High Necklines like jewel and turtlenecks. They extend the bodice. *Vertical Lace patterns and Prints. Make sure the pattern travels upward. *A-line and Princess Styles. They flatter for the reason there is no defined waist. Fitted through the bodice, these styles taper down to a full skirt. *A Trapeze or Tent Style. *A Suit if the idea appeals to you. Make sure the jacket fits below your bottom. PASS UP: *Any Detail Pointing to the Waistline such as, wearing a gown that has a natural waist, a veil that ends there and any gloves or sleeves that are three-quarter length. *Lacy, Ruffled or Tiered designs.


The dress I’ve fallen in love with looks better on the hanger than on me. I’m narrow shouldered, small busted and have large hips so getting into a bodyhugging, bias-cut halter is out. Do I have other options? Concentrate on extending shoulders outward while concealing or minimizing hips. The idea is to match hip proportions with shoulders to create an hourglass. GO FOR: *Off the shoulder empire. Top extends shoulders out while the skirt hides your hips. *Any top that extends the shoulder line like bateau or Sabrina neckline. *Portrait collars *Consider a tailored look with padded shoulders like a long coat dress. A suit with a full or A-line skirt is another option. Any tailored look with shoulder pads will even out your silhouette. *Dropped or Basque-waist ball gown. The skirts hide full hips. Just remember to coordinate the top to your proportions as well . . . Sabrina neckline or off the shoulder.

Shades of White: The World of Bridal Fabrics

Once upon a time the only fabrics available were made up of natural fibers. Cotton came from a plant, silk worms wove silk cocoons, wool was sheared from sheep and linen came from the flax plant. Nowadays, we still have all these fibers plus something relatively new called synthetics. With scientific names like ‘cellulose triacetate’ and ‘polyamide’, synthetics were born in test tubes. Though synthetics aren’t considered by some purists to be the quintessential choice for bridal wear, many craft so beautifully even those purists are surprised once they see the end result. Synthetics can mimic real fabrics right down to a particular weave. So what’s a weave you ask? And how is a weave different than the fiber of which it is a part? Every

fabric has a particular weave whether it’s a natural fiber, blend or synthetic. Think of the weave as a threading process—warp threads going vertically, weft horizontally. Woven together they can be loose, tight or somewhere in between to produce a certain finish. For example, you hear the word twill all the time. Twill is a type of weave. It’s diagonal actually and can be either silk, cotton or wool. While silk twill generally produces a garment with an entirely different function than that of cotton twill, the weave is similar. It wasn’t until you started looking for you gown that you realized there were so many shades of white. To get a clearer picture of the actual weaves and weights of fibers, visit a fabric store. Sure, reading this post is helpful but getting out there, really seeing and feeling many bolts of satin will be your real learning experience. Have a salesperson show you the difference between crepe-backed satin and crepe de chine. Ask him or her to run you through all the weights available. Like something? Request swatches. They’re free and providing the one you want isn’t that exorbitantly priced one-of-a-kind rare import, most stores will oblige you. Metro areas like LA, New York and San Francisco have some great fabric emporiums—that is, bigger establishments with awesome inventories like Oriental Silks in Los Angeles and Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. Places like these are fabric gold mines worth visiting regardless of whether or not you’re going custom or ordering your gown through a salon. If nothing else you’ll come out with a new respect and appreciation for fabric. Below is your opportunity to get familiar with fabrics and their finishes. Since most bridal gowns are made of silk, we’ll go there first.

SILK When it comes to bridal wear, silks rule. Made from the cocoons of silkworms, around 2500 B.C. the Chinese discovered and developed the process of weaving it into fabric. China is still the largest producer and exporter of 80% of the world’s silks. Most silk weaves are luxe, opulent and suggest a certain formality ideal for the bridal gown. Tightly woven silks like duchesse satin have a luster and are a match for structured silhouettes, whereas loosely woven silks like charmeuse and crepe lend themselves to drapery. Choosing the right silk depends on the style of your gown in addition to time of day and year your wedding takes place. SILK WEAVES Brocade-Heavyweight fabric used in structured silhouettes. The elaborate patterns of this fabric are created by mixing muted and glossy yarns in matching (sometimes contrasting) colors. Most bridal gowns made out of brocade have a surface design of florals though I once saw a gown with some interesting geometric patterns. Brocade molds perfectly in sheath and A-line silhouettes. A fall/winter fabric, brocade is an excellent option for bridal suits. Charmeuse (aka crepe-backed satin)-Lightest weight of all the satins. This fabric has a glossy finish that clings and drapes the body beautifully. No other fabric evokes the image of the white, bias-cut evening gown quite like charmeuse. Works best in evening gown and slip dress styles. Chiffon-Lightweight and transparent, the delicacy of this fabric makes it best for billowing sleeves, cowl draped necklines, ruffles, ruched bodices and long, airy trains. See-through dresses worn over slips can be made of chiffon. Full skirts in chiffon are ethereal and can be layered. Crepe (aka crepe de chine)-Lightweight and drapey, the crinkled surface is achieved by a hard-twisted yarn process. To get a sense of what crepe is like, look at the subjects of any Maxfield Parish painting. Though it’s available in wool, cotton and rayon, silk reigns the favorite due to its incredible swathe and drape effect. Damask-Lighter weight than brocade, damask is a jacquard fabric with woven designs thorough out. Best for structured silhouettes.

Duchesse Satin-Medium weight satin with a glossy finish. A staple of traditional bridal wear, it has versatility whereas it works for strait as well as full silhouettes. Dupioni-(Above) Made from thick uneven yarns rolled from double cocoons. Has irregular slubbing and lustrous texture. Ideal for fuller silhouettes yet I have used this continually in sheath and modified A-lines with excellent results. Faille-Medium to heavy weight, cross-ribbed fabric with a tight weave. Structured silhouettes. Gauze-Lightest weight transparent fabric. Since it’s lighter than chiffon it has an airy quality perfect for light trains, veils and scarves. Georgette- (Following Page) Lightweight and sheer fabric made from twisted yarns. Somewhere between chiffon and crepe, it has a crinkly appearance surface. Marquisette-Very light mesh fabric. Drapes like chiffon and georgette. A very hard fabric to find. Mikado-Medium weight twill weave with beautiful luster. Ideal for both A-lines and full skirts. Used by more and more designers in recent years, brides love the surface sheen of this fabric.

Stephanie Williams Photography

Marquisette-Very light mesh fabric. Drapes like chiffon and georgette. A very hard fabric to find. Mikado-Medium weight twill weave with beautiful luster. Ideal for both A-lines and full skirts. Used by more and more designers in recent years, brides love the surface sheen of this fabric. MoirĂŠ-A treatment of watermarking given to fabric, leaving an undulating, watery finish. Most moirĂŠ is either faille or taffeta. Organza-Light, springy and transparent fabric. Once considered suitable only for summer, organza is now year-round and widely used in gowns requiring full skirts, Alines, trains, veils, drapes and overlays. Peau de Soie-Heavier-weight satin with dull finish. Structures well in either straight or full silhouettes. Ideal for tailored gowns and suits.

Pongee-Raw silk with a wild, natural feel. Typically comes in a natural tan shade. Once standard for men’s suit lining, pongee is the ideal lining for gown bodices wherever inner structure is needed. Though pongee can be the perfect lining choice, it shouldn’t be overlooked for shirtwaists, chemise styles and relaxed A-lines like the trapeze. Good option for the wedding party, especially the little ones. Satin Faced Organza It has the spring of regular organza and the luster of a satiny finish. Ideal for full A-line skirts. Shantung-Rough, plain weave with irregular slubs. Another ideal lining fabric depending on the weight. Silk as well as synthetic versions of shantung are often used for attendants. Taffeta- (Following page) Stiff, crisp, lightweight cross-rib weave. Taffeta can have either a slight luster or muted finish. It can be shaped, adding volume without bulk and weight, making it an ideal choice for A-lines and ball gowns. Nice in a sheath silhouette providing it has some kind train preferably of the same fabric with some degree of fullness.

Tulle-(above) Fine mesh netting with hexagonal pattern that comes in silk or nylon. Tulle is standard material for bridal veils. Also used in bouffant skirts proffering that layer upon layer ballerina look Vera

Wang popularized a few years back. While the big tulle skirt is classic, edgier versions of late suggest special effects like draping, ruching and pick-up treatments over more modified skirt silhouettes. Velvet- (Below) Heavy-weight, napped fabric. Perfect for the winter bridal suit. Pictured below is a cut velvet ensemble.

COTTON Most of us associate cotton with everyday wear. From durable work clothes to delicate casuals, PC Cotton Council ads hype how hip it is to step into good old versatile cotton. Since cotton is the ultimate in laid-back casual, we rarely think of it in terms of bridal wear. Think again. Especially about organdy and Swiss cotton. These are some of the finest fabrics in the world and not just for kiddy dresses anymore. First-rate cottons like these have always been a stylish option for summer brides and garden weddings. One of the most beautiful gowns I ever designed was a dotted Swiss ball gown with an asymmetrical neckline. Savvy and confident, my client amped her ‘look good’ factor by adding a dimity sash. Since not every bride wants the formality of silk on her wedding day, some designers are getting this message, offering at least one cotton option in their spring/summer collection. Bravo! Finally! COTTON WEAVES Batiste-Lightweight, fine cotton. Used mostly for freely-fitted summer dresses, bridesmaids and child attendants. Good lining alternative. Dimity-Sheer cotton with corded stripe or check. Great for a transparent dress worn over a slip, shirtwaists, sashes and veils. I’ve also seen this as an interesting lining. Dotted Swiss-Lightweight to sheer cotton. Made up of a lappet or swivel weave with woven dots. Used for shirtwaists, A-lines, shifts, chemises and hourglasses. Great in colors for outfitting the wedding party. Eyelet- (Following Page) Light to medium weight cotton with cutout patterns of embroidery along the border. A classic summer time favorite for informal brides. Makes up into pretty long or short hourglasses, sundresses, chemises, shifts, shells, Alines. Perfect in colors for attendants.

Muslin- Simple weave cotton, rather durable and heavy. Typically your test pattern will be in muslin because weight-wise, light, medium to heavy, it’s compatible with measuring out how corresponding silk choices will make up. Organdy-Light, plain weave cotton or poly that is transparent and permanently stiffened. Sometimes used for jacket interfacing and making lightweight hats. Lends itself well to the once popular daytime formal concept of afternoon garden receptions —the kind a Katherine Hepburn character would have attended. Crisp and pure, it makes up into lovely structured hourglass silhouettes and A-lines. Voile-means ‘veil’ in French so you get the idea of how light it is. Sheer, plain weave of cotton or polyester. Dubbed ‘poor man’s chiffon’ because of its less formal appearance than its counterpart, silk chiffon. In some cases, more expensive than silk chiffon for the reason it’s not as available as silk chiffon that you find everywhere.

WOOL Ordinarily when we think wool, we conjure images of coats and suits. Wool crepe and jersey drape beautifully though and are excellent choices for the gown or dress with a more modern feel. The wool dress is an excellent choice if you’re considering re-wearing after the wedding. Optimal for wedding suits and contemporary brides, wool offers a certain sophisticated chic. Wool is great for winter weddings especially if you don’t want that luxurious fabric finish that most silks proffer. WOOL WEAVES Crepe-Like silk crepe, wool crepe drapes closely to the body but has more body. Great look for evening gowns, bridal suits and more structured silhouettes. Jersey-Like silk jersey, this knit clings to the body. LINEN If you’re in a hot, humid climate and dress in linen, it’s something like wearing your own personal air conditioner. A great conductor of cool, the down side to wearing linen is that it constantly wrinkles. Regardless, years back those wrinkles suddenly went chic when Don Johnson of Miami Vice popularized the ‘creased linen jacket look’. I guess wrinkles were one of the occupational hazards of the way he moved around town. Eventually this look tiptoed into women’s wear. Linen jackets, dresses, pants, blouses—just about everything looked hip with wrinkles. Though not as widespread a look as it once was, the rumpled look has developed into more of a geographical thing. Warm and tropical climate brides opt for the lightest weight handkerchief linen. Medium and heavier weights are classic for the summer bridal suit. You have to admit, there’s something about real linen—wrinkles and all—that can’t be duplicated. Wear it in white and you’ll look as crisp and fresh as a Ralph Lauren ad from the 90s. While you can get it in synthetic blends that won’t show a crease, linen seems to have a following complete with die-hards who refuse to get into any of these crease-free pretenders


Lace as we know it evokes images of woven florals and scalloped edges on flounced skirts and collars. Though these time-honored looks will always be with us, lately we're seeing new spins on the use of lace in bridal wear. Not only are the traditionals like Alencon and Chantilly now used in cutting edge ways, new inventions in knit and revivals in cotton and crocheted laces are showing up. Some of it is being used discreetly on no more than a sleeve or yoke while the high drama of donning all over lace from collar to hemline is chic as well. The history of lace making deserves an entire book or docudrama in itself and the art of making it goes back in time further than some fabric weaving. Knotting techniques actually trace back to basket making. As lace making evolved into an art form, so did demand for it. Like fabric has a weave, lace has different patterns. Here are a few of the most common: Alencon-Floral patterns on mesh or net background outlined in cording. Has a three-dimensional look. Chantilly-Floral or foliage designs on a net background. Generally has a scalloped edge. Cluny-Crocheted lace in heavy cotton also known as Irish lace. Chic in the swinging 1960s for mini wedding dresses and granny gowns. Eyelet-Actually a woven cotton with eyelet cutouts and embroidery. Peau d'Ange-Delicate version of Chantilly lace made with a flossier yarn. Schiffli-Embroidered design on a mesh or organza background. Typically has a scalloped border.

Venice-Heavy lace with raised designs. Usually a single motif with an open background.

A blending of Chantilly and Venice laces on bodices and sleeves. Clockwise: Photo 1-a Chantilly lace corset with Venice lace appliqués and border//Photo by Shannon Grant//Photo 2: A Chantilly lace strapless bodice backed with blush satin//Photo by Strotz Photography//Photo 3: Chantilly lace camisole underneath a silk chiffon blouse with Venice lace appliqué sleeves Following Page: Allover Peau d’Ange lace dress in ecru//Photo by Carlene Imagery

Below: Val lace bodice//Following Page: Cluny Lace over-blouse--photo by Jim Vetter

THE INSIDE STORY: The Inner Life of Your Dress

The thing that makes a wedding gown so special is attention to detail inside as well as out. A wedding gown well made is indeed a work of art. While a bodice and skirt may look pretty straight-forward from the outside, there's a complex life of inner linings, facings, crinolines, slips and shaping materials we never see but sense by the way the gown holds its shape. For instance, the bodice on a typical wedding gown needs an underlining to give it that sculpted form in addition to becoming a strong foundation for lace, trim or embroidery. Also, an underlining can hide casements within the bodice for boning, a material used to hold that strapless bodice up. Realize most bodices whether draped or closely fitted to your body, frequently have some kind of foundation of reinforcement beneath. Contemporary bones are available in two forms- flat steel boning and spiral steel boning. Spiral is flat but thicker than flat boning because of the tips required on the ends. Flat boning bends in only one direction, while spiral steel boning bends easily in two directions. Spiral steel boning may be used on curved channeling or in light support areas. Both varieties are rigid lengthwise. Today, manufacturers use nylon or Rigiline bones. Steel is still optimal for 'real deal' corsetry and couture bodices. Nylon boning doesn't have the strength to hold up bodices the same way steel does. Nylon also is coarse and wrecks fabric over time. It is however, inexpensive so manufacturers do use it frequently. The skirt is where the most critical movement takes place. It goes into motion once you put one foot in front of the other and make your way down the aisle. And because the skirt is an action piece, it has a certain ‘living quality’ once you start moving around in it. For the gown to to look and move properly the right linings and under structure are necessary. Your gown won't look finished off without proper lining and/or a slip. For snug sheath and evening gown silhouettes an appropriate lining will suffice. Anything beyond an A-line requires a slip that provides structure. So what is structure? The ball gown above is shaped with a very wide and voluminous slip similar to the photo beside it. Whether you're going for an A-line, princess or full bouffant shape, your slip should be worn separately from your gown (read: yes, as in a whole separate piece). Why? You don't want to add bulk to the waistline. Wedding gowns have enough heavy duty handiwork going on inside, why add more? I know most gowns come with built-ins, but do ask your salon when placing the order to have the designer send your slip as a separate component from the gown. Trains and bustles have allot going on inside as well. Most built in trains double as bustles and are filled inside with layered crinoline or organdy to give shape. Ever wonder how the back extension of a gown glides so beautifully? The secret is horsehair. If you're looking at one of the more voluminous gowns, notice whether or not the skirt (read: skirt, not the under slip) seems to have a structure that can stand on its own. It should. This has

to do with how it is lined and hemmed. When you pick up the skirt—including the train—and look closely at the hemline, you’re likely to find a 3-6” wide band of horsehair. That’s the clear and meshy edging at the hemline that gives the bottom of the dress some flex as well as firmness. Notice how the skirt and train extension seem to hold that precision shape. It’s the horsehair that keeps the bottom of the skirt in shape and gliding when you move instead of swishing side to side (you’ll find this out once you try on the gown). Typically horsehair is sewn on the inside of the hem. Most designers are bringing the skirt lining over the horsehair edging completely, leaving as clean a finish inside as out. Keep in mind you’ll be walking over surfaces of stones and uneven pavements that might trip you up or get caught up in the horsehair. With clean finishing work inside, when you lift your skirt to walk up stairs, the horsehair stays hidden and show your gown to be as beautifully finished inside as out.

BRIDAL GOWN SHOPPING 101:Exploring Salons

What’s the first thing a bride usually does when the engagement is set? She heads out for the salons with hopes of finding the right dress. Of course, salons vary. Some feature apparel solely for brides; others branch out into special occasion and formalwear sections. In metro areas the focus gets more intense. Boutique chic lofts offering edgy innovations serve a different bride than the wall-to-wall plush of department stores like Bonwit Teller. All these places work in a like way though. Most keep a stock of designer samples in house. Once you decide on a gown, you're measured; any special requests are made (if the designer/manufacturer offers any) you put down a deposit then the order is placed with the designer or manufacturer. Turnaround time for delivery runs 4-6 months. This means once your order reaches the designer's workroom, eventually the gown is made according to your measurements. Upon delivery the salon can arrange (for a price) any necessary alterations. This is of course optional. You can take your dress to any outside seamstress you want. So the typical salon works by placing an order rather than simply wrapping up your gown, ringing up the transaction and sending you out the door with it. In other words, for all good things one must wait. So before you reach into your wallet and put down the proverbial deposit, here's a bit of inside info worth checking out. QUESTION: I love the top of one dress. It’s perfect for me except the skirt is way off what's ideal for my proportions. I do however like another version of skirt the designer offers on another gown. Is there some way I can exchange these pieces to get what I want? Did you know for an additional price, some manufacturers can customize your gown? Contrary to popular belief, your favorite designer's sample may not be the only version it comes in. That's right. If you love the top on one gown and the skirt of another, you may be able to switch them as long as that particular designer/manufacturer does what's called a 'swap' or 'change out'. Take into account the components do have to be from the same designer's collection for this to work. Designers vary though. Some may not swap components at all, offering modifications on color, sleeve or train lengths instead. All the same, this could be the opportunity to make inquiries about adornments they may offer: lace options, embroidery, etc. But be warned. Too many changes and/or additions and suddenly, cha-ching! Keep in mind too that designers don't like to rework their original concept too far off the mark. As one put it, "Jean Harlow's dress into Marie Antoinette's is asking just too much . . . ." MORE "LOVE THAT GOWN BUT IF ONLY. . . ." ISSUES #1 Love that gown but if only it wasn't a bridesmaid dress.

QUESTION: I found this great dress online. It's a simple, strapless sheath that's perfect for wearing under that white organza I'm having designed. The problem is, it's a bridesmaid dress and the lightest color it comes in is tan.

Believe it or not, stumbling across that bridesmaid dress broadened this bride's options. She'd planned on designing a sheath to go under the nearly finished organza dress but she hadn't decided on the exact style yet. That is, till she saw the abovementioned sheath online, which, incidentally, she found out did come in a white silk dupioni and cost a fraction of what most salons or custom designers would have charged. Wearing a bridesmaid dress when you're a bride is less of a mum's-the-word sort of thing than it used to be. You'll find bridesmaid dresses don't look so much like those Muriel's Wedding atrocities anymore; most have morphed into simple, unadorned styles, making them the perfect backdrop for customizing into a bridal gown. The bridesmaid dress option is the way to go if: 1.)

You're using it as a foundation on which to customize with other adornments.


You want a more low- key or informal look, sans the train, lace and beadwork.


You want color.

4.) You're price conscious. Bridesmaid dresses cost a fraction of what a bridal gown costs. For brides who don't want to be in white or ivory, bridesmaid dresses are perfect. They come in just about as many colors as Crayola crayons from the palest pastels to deepest jewel tones. Once you start looking online, keep in mind not all manufacturers use first-rate fabrics and/or construction. Try to find styles in high-grade silk or silk blends. Especially if you plan on customizing, where you'll need as clean and pure a background as possible. And always remember, the simpler the dress, the more perfectly it should be made. FYI: Most bridesmaid dresses can be ordered through your salon. Allow 3-4 months delivery. #2 Love that gown but if only it didn't have such a high price tag? QUESTION: I saw a dress online and thought I'd finally found The One. But once I checked out the price, I almost fell over backwards. The person who emailed back said the fabric was one of those hard to get imports and that's the reason for the high price. My question is, can I get this dress made in a less expensive fabric? Some designers are willing to swap fabrics. Imagine that imported 100% Italian silk peau de soie A-line in a less expensive rayon satin. This option works as long as you're not a fabric purist. If you're more prone to basing your decision on the overall silhouette instead of the fabric, go for it. That A-line going for $5500 could sell for a lot less in a synthetic alternative. If you're placing an order through a retail salon there is a catch to fabric swapping. Few designers offer this option. When and if they do, it may only apply to certain gowns in the collection. Add to that the overseas labor/competition/marketing issue

and swapping fabric is on its way to becoming a lost art. The most successful swaps have more to with the relationship between your salon and the manufacturer. Chances are if they've been solid through years of swapping, customizing, etc., then your salon may be able to swing you a deal. Just make sure you and your consultant have decent same page communication since you'll never interact with the designer actually making your gown. FYI: Private designer establishments are ideal for this sort of customizing, providing they have a collection you can look at either online or in house. They frequently work with clients who want to swap not only fabric but in some cases, entire silhouettes. However, if you're that price conscious, private designers may not be the way to go.

SAMPLE SALES Suppose your wedding is next month and you need that gown now? Or suppose you love the sample but it's just been discontinued? Or else you love the sample but can't afford to special order it? You do realize next season a whole new stock will be arriving? This means your salon needs to get the old out of the way. And all those gowns with full skirts just hanging there take up space, or haven't you noticed? While sizes are limited and samples mostly run sizes 6-8-10, the good news is sample markdowns usually go half off, sometimes less. Some salons have sample

sales they advertise a couple times a year while others offer marked down stock continually. Absolutely love that gown you just tried on? Offer to buy it. Yes, that same gown. Ordinarily samples are not for sale but this may be the time they're moving in all those spring confections, especially if it is in less than perfect shape, which, more than a few samples tend to be. Now, a word about wear and tear: Before you start bargaining, check out how much or how little that soon-to-be-yours gown has been tried on by others. This means really looking at it inside as well as out. Is it ripped, stained, the hem soiled and need cleaning? The overall condition of most samples has a lot to do with how the salon takes care of their stock. Still, figure on dry cleaning whether the gown looks like it needs it or not. After a good clean and press it will seem revived both inside and out and take on a new life of its own. So the question is, who pays the cleaning bill? In some cases, the more service oriented the establishment, the more accommodating they'll be. As for alterations, you might save them for when and if you have your gown customized. If you are customizing, any nipping in of the waist or shortening of the hemline might have to wait anyway.

TRUNK SHOWS Suppose you're in love with one particular designer's collection. Unfortunately, due to space and overhead issues, your salon can only stock one or two of her samplesnot her entire collection. Still, you want to actually get a real live look at those 15 other gowns you saw online. In that case keep a lookout for her trunk show. A trunk show is when a designer like Claire Pettibone makes a personal appearance at a nearby salon or department store, say Friday and Saturday only. What's great about this is she or her representative will be there along with the entire (yes entire) collection. So all those gowns the salon doesn't carry in sample form you can finally get a look at. In addition, you can actually meet and pick your favorite designer's brain-ask about any changes in fabric, lace, color, etc. The result: your best opportunity to get your dress customized. Keep in mind, just like Cinderella's Ball, trunk shows have a time line. You pretty much have to know what you want and make your choice before the weekend is over. Therefore trunk shows are not ideal for the browsing phase of your search. Hopefully you've shopped prior and at length so you know for sure that this is it, this is The Gown. If you think you'll be placing an order at the trunk show, be ready. Bring along the shoes and kind of underwear you'll be wearing your wedding day in order to have measurements taken correctly. And do make an appointment. Just imagine if Vera Wang showed up this Saturday at Saks. Enough said. FYI: Though this is an in-store event, gowns at trunk shows are rarely reduced and typically go full retail. FYI: Miss that trunk show last week? Or maybe no salon in your area carries the designer you want. If you absolutely love a particular designer consider traveling to her flagship store. There you can see her complete collection. Also, if you want something custom designed, think about becoming one of her private clients. True, you'd have to invest much more time and money, traveling to New York or LA. But if you happen to in be the metro area of your favorite star, do check into this. Although you won't hear it publicized much, most top designers have a flagship store as well as custom clientele they cater to. WHAT TO EXPECT ONCE YOUR GOWN IS DELIVERED Not long ago, the retail bridal salon not only offered alterations once a gown was delivered, most had customizing services available. Customizing services consisted of everything from making hand-rolled rosettes adorning a bodice, to adding layers of gossamer fabric over a train. Special effects and personal touches were the pride of many salons as well as designers and seamstresses practicing their craft there. Once the standard, it’s hard to find a salon these days willing to customize past the alteration stage. Figure your salon will alter your gown and most likely do a professional job of it. But generally, after that you're on your own.

So what's the difference between an alteration and customizing? An alteration is a necessity. You have your first fitting and find the waist too big once you get the gown on. Nip, tuck, and stitch. Customizing on the other hand is not a necessity. Customizing is ornamental. Customizing is a highly skilled artistic craft. There are a few salons, typically the boutique smaller ones-that will do some sort of customizing if you buy a gown there. My final words on this: Customizing is better left to specialists and sometimes a salon can recommend you to one. If you plan on customizing once your gown is delivered, get advice on whether the alterations should be factored in with the price of customizing.


SHOPPING OFF THE BEATEN PATH Want an edgier look than what you’re finding in the salons? White not quite your thing? Maybe you just want to go Art Deco or sport a to-the-floor suit you can’t get going the traditional route? You may need to go beyond the salon to find what you want. Where to start? INDIE DESIGNER SHOPS, those little places they used to call boutiques . . . . Because brides are changing so are designers. A couple off the charts bridal fashion sites have emerged the past few years. Not so many years back there were brick and mortar called designer boutiques. Example: Paraphernalia in New York during the 60s went trendy offering one-of-a-kind clothing with an edge. Since then boutiques have become the best fashion labs for designers as well as clients. Today's equivalent of course is the Etsy designer aka indie shop. No matter where you live in the world, I'm sure your area has more than a couple Etsy designers who open up their stores or in-home boutiques to clients. True, not all indie shops carry bridal but the extraordinary dresses they do have can sometimes be special ordered in white or ivory. Think about this: Almost any white dress has wedding day potential as long as it works with your accessories, fits within the scene and theme of your wedding and you absolutely adore it. Also, if you’re not into wearing white on your wedding day, indie shops and department stores might be your best option. Some stores work closely with up and coming specialty designers. With a little imagination and the help of professionals, you might be able to put some stunning looks together. Also a great option if you don’t want to wait 4-6 months for your gown. VINTAGE CLOTHING STORES Most Vintage clothing stores stock actual gowns from by-gone eras as well as ‘retroinspired’ selections that are brand new. The bride in love with a particular era of clothing usually checks vintage clothing stores first. Not all brides opt for an actual gown that survived her favorite era though. Some choose a newer style reflecting the period instead. Why? Because that authentic 1925 chemise may be so delicate, without proper restoration it could literally fall apart. Think of gowns belonging to the ages like you would certain antiques: some so precious to be considered museum quality. Depending on restoration, the rule of thumb is, the older the gown the less they should be worn. If you are set on wearing that 1910 dress find a specialist in restoration who can advise. Also know your1910 dress can be an expensive but wise investment. For instance, if you invest in an original 50s-60s style, you’ll pay a lot less than the 1880s-1913 originals that, if intact, could be the equivalent to some down payments on a house. THRIFT SHOPS AND FLEA MARKETS

Chances are, if you’ve gone this route to unearth real finds before, you already know your way around and what you’re doing, hopefully with the same eye that serious antique dealers and clothing collectors scout these markets often and with great skill. However, rummaging through flea markets and thrift stores takes a certain kind of bride—the kind who believes in recycling even on her wedding day; the kind that doesn’t give a damn whether she’s wearing hand-me-downs. If this is you, you’re a rarity. And yes, you’re likely to spend hours and days sorting through racks of Four Weddings and A Funeral cast-offs before you uncover that rare 1963 Priscilla of Boston original.

INDIE DESIGNERS Go custom. This way you can get exactly what you want custom made to your measurements and your dress will be like no other in the world. Most custom designers can be found online through Etsy. Your best bet in finding one is going the old fashioned route: Knowing a bride who had a custom designed


VEILED: Lengths, Styles and Fabrics

Wearing a veil dates back to ancient times and most cultures. The bridal veil in particular has been a symbol of purity as well as mystery in many traditions. Since Biblical times every era it seems has put its own spin on “the veil” and how it’s worn. Fourteenth century brides wore hoods of silk netting. Victorians donned yards of handmade laces passed on to daughters and granddaughters. 60s brides popularized the pouf veil still stylish today. The good news is, there’s no rule anymore what length veil goes with a particular style gown. Whatever guidelines exist have more to do with following your proportions and sense of style. So, veil lengths can vary from jazzy net bows to yards of tulle trailing the hemline.


Short Veils The shorter ‘fashionista' veil has gone trendy the past few years. Why? About ten years back short veils seemed out of the ordinary –very outside the traditional bridal box till a few vintage designers brought them back. There will always be something chic, even edgy about a bride sporting one. As early as the 1990s, Vera Wang paired up short, pouf and fly away veils with very formal gowns. Whether she wanted to show off the extraordinary back details of her gowns or usher in a new look, I don’t know; I only know the juxtaposition this duo created worked. Brides say the best thing about wearing a shorter veil is not having to do any adjusting in that switch from the solemnity of ceremony to partying hearty come reception. Short veils are easy to maneuver around in and stay put whether you’re exchanging vowels, cutting cake or dancing, Below: An array of cage veils. Photo 1: Rose Cage Veil by Amy-Jo Tatum//Photo by Sweet Light Studios//Photo 2: Cage by Batcakes Couture//Photo by Stephanie Williams//Photo 3: Three Flowers Veil by Amy-Jo Tatum//Photo by Sweet Light Studios

All veils by Amy-Jo Tatum/Top Row: Net Pouf Veils in tulle and netting. Photo 1: Net Pouf Veil//Photo by Chyna Darner//Photo 2: The Bubble Net Veil//Photo by Soot Photo//Photo 3: Rose Pouf Veil//Photo by Dominic Colacchio Row 2: Fly Away Veils. Photo 1: Fly Away shoulder veil//Photo by Pixamage//Dappled Rose Blusher Veil//Photo by Henley Photography//Photo 3: Traditional Fly Away Veil//Photo by Pixamage

Bird Cage or Net Pouf-Left: These have gone trendy the past few years thanks to vintage designers .Made of either netting or tulle, this veil falls above the shoulder line. Since it’s a shorter style, it tends to look structured, more hybrid of headpiece and veil. Great for fashionistas. Blusher or Flyaway- A fly away is typically attached to the back while the blusher is a short veil worn over the face during the ceremony. Can also be worn shoulder length in layers. Although considered informal, this is the choice of some chic, formal-gowned brides.

Long Veils If I were to define the quintessential bride, she'd definitely be sporting a long veil on her wedding day. To explain what’s considered long in veil chic, I’d start at the elbow and work all the way down to the twenty-five foot cathedral trail. Long veils convey a romantic mood by way of all that added gossamer sheer. Elbow-Extends to the elbow or a couple inches below. Fingertip-Most popular length; can be worn by nearly every figure type with most silhouettes. Waltz-Falls anywhere between knee and ankle. Chapel-Considered formal. Extends about two feet beyond the hemline. Cathedral-Most formal. Extends three feet or more beyond the hem. Double Tier-Two layers, typically the shorter one a blusher but not always.

Below Left: Waltz length veil//Right: Cathedral veil dappled in rosettes

Photo 1: Dropped veil worn low on the forehead secured by a headband a la 1920s style//Samantha Brancato Photography//Photo 2: Pouf finger tip length veil//Photo 3: Dropped/Mantilla veil//Photos 2,3 &4 by Pixamage Bottom PagePhoto 4: Cathedral veil//Photo 5: Cathedral length scarf veil//Photo 6: Double tier

cathedral veil//Photo by Larry Placido//Following Page: Cathedral veil dappled in Alencon Lace//Photo by Vetter Photography STYLES Pouf-Width of veil is gathered at the crown and can be attached to a headpiece. Generally made out of tulle or English netting. Dropped- Yes, actually dropped onto the head in a single layer of tulle or lace; often bordered with lace or ribbon. A Mantilla is a type of dropped veil. Long Scarf-Considered more an option in headwear than veil depending on the length of chiffon or silk gauze used to create it. A 5-yard length wrapped around the head framing the face creates a long band of train that works as an extraordinary veil. Perfect for Mosque weddings.

FABRICS Typically tulle is the most common fabric used though chiffon, silk gauze and different types of nettings are sometimes worn. Remember Julie Andrews’ wedding in The Sound of Music? Her veil was silk organza . . . a stunning choice. Another stunning choice—my favorite—is silk gauze. Though it’s not as transparent or springy as tulle, it has all the opposite characteristics: an opaqueness; it floats whenever you walk or the breeze blows.

Veils by fabric. Photo 1—Classic white tulle//Photo by Vetter Photography//Photo 2Lightweight chiffon drop veil//Photo by Pixamage//Photo 3-French Net Veil by Batcakes Couture//Photo by Stephanie Williams Photography//Photo 4—Wrapped veil inspired by the 1920s out of Chantilly Lace//Photo by Pixamage

CHOOSING YOUR VEIL Most brides wait till the gown is ordered before making a decision. In addition to complimenting your dress, you’ll need to consider your body type. Petite brides want to create the impression of height. They can wear pouf veils as long as the volume up top doesn’t imitate an Indian-headdress, dwarfing rather than extending height. Also if you’re short, a cathedral length veil isn’t the best choice—even a dropped version with zero density. You can get the drama and extension you need by scaling down to a waltz or chapel length to fit your proportion. Heavier and/or thick-waisted brides look best in a one layer dropped veil tacked onto a bun, falling in a swirl down the back. Try keeping your lines back and delicate, avoiding elbow length veils with lots of volume. Ditto veils edged in ribbon; they can form lines across the waist, creating width. If you’re tall you’ll want to keep the poise of your height intact without going over the edge. Go ahead and wear that cathedral veil with your long-trained ball gown. But realize even tall, sylph-like women have limitations. Princess Diana who was a stunning 5’10”, over-volumized her height her wedding day when she piled layers of tulle atop a dress already screaming of uber-pouf. Face it, we all have to work on getting the symmetry right. Generally, more ornamental gowns look best with simple veils, like one layer of tulle with narrow edging or no edging at all; whereas all over lace veils or ones edged with wide borders require a simple gown with little adornment. Your dress might have some exquisite back details you want to show off. If this is the case select a shorter veil like a fly away or net pouf. Want a more romantic look? Try a layer of tulle— preferably in a dropped style that doesn’t fall in creases and folds across your back. Tulle is the best fabric for this; it’s transparent enough without being so opaque to fog detail. If your gown has no train, wearing a chapel or cathedral length veil can create one—especially elegant when bordered in wide-edged lace or there’s a concentration of lacework on the train portion. AFTER THE CEREMONY If you’re in a long veil and want to remove part of it for the reception, have your salon work out the fastening system with you and whoever is helping you. Taking off the entire veil? Exactly when during the reception is up to you; it depends on whether you want to be veiled in photos cutting cake, toasting, dancing, etc. Some brides wear their veil the entire day. And I suppose this is because there is nothing quite like a white veil that says . . . Today is the only day I will ever be a Bride.


Yes, veils are still in vogue and ever appealing. And yes, there are more styles out there than ever, but before you make the decision to wear one, consider your options. Some brides bypass the veil, going for special touches like wide brimmed hats, fresh flowers or jewels in their hair. The idea is, if you’d rather wear a feathered toque down the aisle and it works with your gown, go for it. Our grandmothers didn’t have choices like this. There were tight restrictions on what sort of headpiece was appropriate with the length veil she had to wear with her dress. Luckily times have changed. Wearing a veil with a headpiece is an option, not requirement anymore. Since being a bride these days is more about choices and making your own individual statement, let’s explore some alternatives to the traditional veil.

FLORALS in your hair. They compliment simple evening gown silhouettes with a tropical feel, A-lines and ball gowns with a touch of the romantic. There are three kinds of florals: Fresh, artificial and hand-rolled fabric flowers. All are beautiful choices. Fresh can be ordered through your florist possibly echoing some of those in your bouquet. Artificial flowers are typically silk, some so well made they look like they were just picked out of the garden. Hand-rolled flowers are made out of fabric like dupioni, organza or shantung, sometimes in the same fabric as your gown. These have a real haute couture look and are usually attached to a barrette or spongy wirewrap. You’ll need the help of a hairdresser incorporating fresh flowers into your hair. Artificial ones sometimes come with an attached comb—sometimes not. If not, you’ll

need help anchoring these in. Some hairstylists will even weave poufs of netting through the flowers, creating a real high-fashion look. SCARF- A beautifully draped scarf works something like a veil and can be made out of the same fabric as some veils. Take a 5-1/2 yard piece of 36-45” wide silk gauze or chiffon, frame the face with it like you would if you were putting on a regular scarf. Just make sure you drape it over both shoulders so the long part will move behind you like a train. Anchor it at your temple with decorative hairpins and invisibly at the shoulders so it stays on when you move. If this length is too dramatic, go for a shorter cut (about 3 yards). You’ll get the same ‘hooded’ effect. SNOOD-Another sophisticated look. A snood is a piece of openwork netting used to cover buns and chignons. They were highly popular in two eras: the Civil War and World War II. The contemporary versions that compliment evening and bridal wear often have pearls or crystals on them. Stunning once they reflect light.

HEADBAND- typically attached to a gathered pouf veil, you can wear the headband individually without the veiling. Headband brides have that fresh, Estee Lauder look. Bands range in style from simple, narrow satin ones to those covered in pearls and crystals. A great option for hair worn down, not quite shoulder length like a bob. TIARA-Just the tiara—no veil. This is a classic look. Most tiaras are made out of crystal and rhinestone. Best when the tiara sits upon a well-coiffed up-do. WREATH-Very romantic. A wreath circles the head and is interwoven with flowers, foliage and in some cases, ribbons. Florists can put these together either with fresh, artificial or dried flowers. Some variations would be those made exclusively of English Ivy or dried roses and baby’s breath. HATS are the choice of some of the world’s chicest brides. Once you start trying them on, you’ll see how each works with the shape of your face, your body type and gown. Hats are so chic I devoted the next chapter them. HAIR JEWELRY-These can range from Mother of Pearl hairpins to crystal adorned hair-sticks and clips. You can wear one or many sprinkled though a beautifully coiffed head. Top notch hair styling is a must to wear these properly.

THE HAT BRIDE: Workin’ That Chi Chi Alternative to the Veil

If Breakfast at Tiffany’s had a sequel, we’d probably find Holly Golightly sporting a hat on her wedding day. A hat bride is a bit Golightlyesque in the sense, once she makes her entrance; the hat is something unexpected and unique. Worn imaginatively, hats do make style-savvy statements. Did you know Rita Hayworth wore a cartwheel when she married Ali Kahn? And Bianca Jagger a picture hat when she married Mick? Celebrities and second time brides aren’t the only ones opting for a hat on their wedding day; a few first timers are bypassing the veil in favor of a hat. Ball gowns, A-lines, evening gowns and sheaths all look fantastic paired up with the right hat. Today topping off your gown has more to do with choice and whatever makes you look and feel your best STYLES Once upon a time about three generations back, the rule was whenever you went out the door, you had to cover your head. Better to have forgotten your purse than the hat since getting caught bare headed in public was considered a disgrace. Luckily times have changed and the decades have left behind a wealth of memorable head chic. Below are a few of the best styles that survived. Just wish we could cover them all. Picture Hat- The most classic hat for daytime formals. Wide brimmed and typically constructed out of straw or horsehair, they are sometimes swathed in netting and organza. Picture hats conjure up images of croquet parties at Jay Gatsby’s and all those 1930s movies situated in garden party chic. Evoking an edgier image is the wool felt picture hat synonymous with women in Irving Penn photos of the 1950s. Whatever look you want to create with this style, here are some things to consider when wearing it. Go ahead and put on your picture hat for the ceremony. Just do yourself a favor at the reception and take it off when you’re receiving guests. Unless your hat is made out of that bendy sort of horsehair with lots of give, when you reach out to hug and kiss people the hat will either fall off or scrape someone. Picture hats go great with most silhouettes, especially ball gowns. The wide brim balances the volume in the skirt. Pillbox-Round and brimless, its worn either centered or back on the head. Though this style was introduced in the 1930s, Jackie Kennedy revived the look. And guess what? Martha Stewart wore a pillbox when she got married in the early sixties? Her version had a wisp of dotted nose veil across the front. Generally this hat looks best with suits and fitted sheath designs; super with most other silhouettes. Cocktail Hats and Fascinators-Include toques, pancakes and beanies to name just a few. Small and brimless, these hats sit tilted or perched atop the head, usually accented with flowers or a spray of long feathers; a cover of net or nose veil typically wraps all or part of the face. To add a touch of fun to a simple gown, cover a cocktail hat fully in marabou or ostrich feathers. All cocktail hats look great with upswept hair and most silhouettes. Ideal as a headpiece attached to any length veil Turban-Adapted from Eastern headdress, the classic turban is a piece of fabric that wraps around the head. Trendy in the late 30s, the 40s ushered in some interesting variations on turban dressing, mixing functionality with chic. Factory workers wore scarves tied up turban style to keep hair in place while working machinery. Consequently, designers went on to glamorize this style in satin and velvet so it also complimented eveningwear. Tulle and net turban head wraps topped off with

bows or florals became quickly assembled head adornments for wartime brides. So if you think a ball gown and turban might look a bit odd, check out a Joan Crawford flick called, The Women (1939). Hollywood Designer, Adrian does some incredible things with headwear, especially turbans. Unfortunately you won’t see or get to try on too many turbans these days unless you check into a spa and have a facial. They aren’t real trendy right now. If you love this look you’ll be better off visiting a milliner and having one custom made. Cloche-Close fitting helmet-like hat worn low on the forehead with or without a brim. All the rage in the 1920s. Today’s versions are mostly felt and straw, complimenting vintage dresses and suits. Look best worn with a bob or other short hairstyles. Pagoda-Triangular shaped and based on the Cooley hat worn in China, this is the high-fashion version popularized by Dior in the 1950s. Great with A-line and sheath styles. Top Hat or Derby- Why not? If a man in a tux can wear one so can a bride in a gown.

A medley of cocktail hat/fascinators. Clockwise: Photo 1 Lirette Photography//Photo 2: Black Fascinator by Jeanne Simmons—Photography by Samantha Brancato//Photo 3: Lirette Photography

Two versions of a Pillbox hat//Left Photo by Strotz Photography//Right Photo by Rob Martel

You can use some of the same guidelines choosing hats that apply to veils: the more minimalist the gown is in detail, the more ornate the hat can be; whereas the more ornate the gown, the simpler the hat. Once you start trying them on, you’ll see it’s all just a matter of getting the symmetry right. You do need to get in front of a mirror, gown on and alterations done to rightly evaluate how the hat and gown work together. As far as accessorizing your gown with a hat, add gloves, earrings and pearls and you have a real vogue look. The length glove you choose has to do with preference and the style of your gown. Generally, long gloves and wide brims proffer more of a high fashion look—short gloves and little hats, a more lady-like appearance. Experiment. Getting the right look is all about personal choice and working out the proportions you like. And speaking of proportion, if you’re petite you can certainly take the width of a picture hat as long as you scale down the brim some to match your proportion. Also any hat that adds height like a derby or pillbox will work well. A taller bride with her heart set on one of these styles might have to experiment a bit—wearing a pillbox tilted to the side or back further on the head. She might have to forego the derby altogether and settle on something lower in the crown. Generally, fuller silhouettes like ball gowns need wider brims to balance out the skirts, although evening gowns and sheaths also look great with wide brims. Smaller hats work best with more columnar looks; try adding poufs of veil or netting to work with fuller skirts.

Following hat trends isn't as typical in our culture anymore. There are styles out there and your initial research will probably start online and by going to the library, perusing books on Hollywood costume and fashion history. Bookmark and clip any photos and pictures you like. You’ll find the best selection of hats in millinery boutiques. Here you’ll get lots of personal attention from plugged-in aficionados passionate about headwear. Show any clippings and pictures to your salesperson so she’ll have an idea what sort of style you have in mind. Ideally, you should take along your gown. If it hasn’t been delivered, take fabric swatches since you’ll want to match the shade as closely as possible. If you don’t see anything you like in the store, chances are they can custom design a hat for you. Another option is the department store millinery salon. Here you might find exactly the style you want but say it’s in orange. If this is the case, they’ll usually check another one of their stores or with the manufacturer to see if it can be ordered or sent in white. Vintage clothing shops are another good source. True, most of the hats in these places are at least thirty years old but you might run across that rare and excellent find you never dreamed possible. Vintage shops also carry 'retro-inspired' hats. Simply put, these are new hats fresh out of the plant that have that fifty-sixty-seventy-year old look without the wear and tear. One of the questions a bride often asks is, “Can I wear a hat and veil all at once . . . together?” In other words, can you have the best of both? Of course. Wearing a hat by itself is one option you have. But choosing to wear a hat doesn’t necessarily mean having to do away with the veil entirely. Realize any length of tulle veiling can be attached to the crown, back or inside of almost any hat. And hats acting as headpieces—even big ones—look stunning. So the answer is yes. Wear both.

Left: Lace-bordered Picture Hat//Right: A Jeweled Turban//Photo by Sweet Light Studios

The most important thing to remember is, there’s a hat match for every face, body and gown style. In your search, you might find the perfect hat right off; you might have to try on many. And once you find the right one, you'll look back at your reflection . . . and you'll know it’s the right one.



by Loretta Photography

There's a focus on inventive hairdressing lately whether you decide to ditch the veil or not? Once you've got the gown, topping it all off is the next detail to dressing the part. Okay, so not every bride feels right doing the veil thing, lots are going for smaller headpieces, even hats. For those of you wanting to skip the cake top template of hairstyles all together and try something new, I talked with Northern Cal icon of hairdressing Kathie Rothkop of Salon Glam in Novato. Innovating hairstyles for years, I asked about her take on bridal hair in the here and now. Here's what she said: "I get inspired first by the style of the gown, second, the type of woman wearing the gown and the time of year of the wedding. "I put women in four categories: Sporty, classic, romantic and edgy. A sporty woman would want hair very simple, probably short and tailored. Her gown would be cleanlined. Classic would be very traditional, maybe a French twist, no ornamentation. Grace Kelly was a classic beauty. Romantic is my favorite. Lots of bling, flowers, height, softness and curls. Goldie Hawn, & Katherine Zeta Jones are good examples of this. Edgy is nontraditional, Lady GaGa really is this look." Kathie once told me something I'd never forget--"Before I go to sleep nights I envision all the kinds of things I can do with hair to make it art" . . .


BRIDESMAIDS Each bridesmaid is special in her own way so do her a favor: Consider whether she’ll actually be able to wear her dress after the wedding, especially if she’s shelling out the $250.00-300 going rate. Designers and manufacturers are introducing lines of bridesmaid dresses I’d get into in a minute if I were going someplace special. Did you know certain companies let you customize a design that will work for all your bridesmaids? New companies are introducing a three step process: 1. Choose a silhouette. 2. Select a fabric. 3. Pick a treatment (i.e. bows and belts). In other words you can shift silhouettes from bridesmaid to bridesmaid as long as they’re all in the same fabric or visa-versadifferent faric and same silhouettes. I also like this idea because some designers are offering styles in cotton and cotton in almost any style is something a woman can actually wear again. OPTIONS Suppose you’re going formal. Your gown is satin and you want your attendants in satin, as well. Go ahead. The whole wedding party will be stunning. Realize though the mileage they get out of their gowns later will be limited. The solution? Opt instead for formal fabrics like raw silks, shantungs and dupioni that can go either chic or casual later on. Also, if you’re not attached to the idea of floor-length, you can put your maids in a shorter hemline so in the future she can wear the dress with a casual pair of sandals or go dressier for cocktails and out to dinner. If your wedding is semiformal or outdoors, linen, cottons and rayons are nice choices. You don’t have to do the match-up- everyone-in-the-same silhouette and fabric thing. I’ve worked on these weddings and there is always one or two maids in the bunch who look lousy in the dress. Let each choose something complimentary. Go ahead and go for a color like light blue and have each attendant choose a silhouette that compliments her figure and texture fabric that she likes. Monochromatics are another option. Everyone in blue but say the maid of honor in royal blue, maids in varying shades of lighter blues. Or, go ahead and select a certain fabric and have different silhouettes made up. Department stores are great an option for brides who don’t want her maids in that formal- bridesmaid-look-you-see-all-the-time in the magazines.


What could be sweeter than adding a flock of kids to your wedding? Either making the trek down the aisle or weaving in and out of festivities, kids add a bright and energetic tone to any wedding. In Europe, kids make up the wedding party almost entirely. Diana's wedding to Prince Charles in 1981 had her eldest attendant a junior bridesmaid. The rest were taffeta-clad flower girls and pages dressed in the traditional costume of the English Court. Whatever theme or direction your wedding takes, children's fashion usually echoes that of the wedding party. If you're in a ball gown and your groom in a tux, the ring bearer can wear a diminutive version of the groom's tux. The flower girls could wear fluffy white dresses with a contrasting sash, The flower girls could wear fluffy white dresses with a contrasting sash, possibly combining some of

the laces from the bride's gown.

There are a lot of ways to dress kids so your wedding will be all the more special. You may be wearing a ball gown and like the storybook theme. Go all out. Dress your boy attendants in page costumes and girls in tulle dresses with floral wreaths on their heads. Present them the gift of ballet slippers to wear. They'll cherish these long after the wedding. Other ideas around the storybook could be a Scottish Wedding with all the groomsmen in kilts. Ditto the little groomsmen. There's no rule that says your ring bearer must be in a tux. Go ahead and put him in a nice navy blazer, tie and pants. If you are getting married in say, a vineyard setting, consider an Eaton Jacket with shorts, and flower Girl in linen or dupioni, the same shade as the bridesmaids. If it's a more casual wedding and/or money is tight, here are some options: he can go without a jacket and wear a dress shirt with tie. Find her a special little cotton or linen nightgown she can use afterwards. She'll look Kate Greenaway chic in it, especially if she goes barefoot. Remember, barefoot is okay on kids, particularly at an outdoor or beach wedding. The trick to getting away with this informality is making sure the rest of your little one's appearance looks festive enough — ribbons or wreaths on the head; possibly straw baskets of flowers

WHERE TO FIND ALL THIS KID CHIC Boy attendants can get their tuxes fitted right alongside the groomsmen. Most formal wear shops have boy's sizes available to rent or buy. Formal page outfits can be found online. Also, you can go online and order direct from manufacturers. Specialty kid's shops can order or have suits

made. If you have an idea of what you want but can't find it in the right color or fabric, consider going custom and having a suit made or making it yourself. If this is beyond your expertise or you don't have time, find the right tailor or dressmaker. He/she can help put together patterns and fabrics. Flower Girl's dresses are easier to find. As mentioned above, bridal sites and Etsy stores have special sections devoted to your little attendants. Still, if you can't find the dresses you want, go custom. Once you go the custom route there are some things you need to know about fabrics, particularly fabrics flattering on children. If you use silks, use medium-weight ones like dupioni or shantung. These will work for winter weddings too, provided you pick a style with long sleeves, jackets, etc. Heavier satins and brocades are out —too weighty for a child to carry off and be comfortable in all day. Instead try lightweight velvets in deep jewel tones for those Christmas/Winter weddings. For spring/ summer dresses, lightweight fabrics like organza, chiffon, and tulle can overlay medium weight silks like those mentioned above. Linen is great for casual and beach weddings. Prices for children's readymade dresses and suits run from $50.00 to 400.00. Custom will cost about 200.00-450.00 and up. If you have the budget, it's worth it. On the other hand, if a dress or suit is lovingly put together and accessorized, regardless of price, a kid will always look great


Lately I'm stoked when I see less restriction in men's wedding wear and more comfort as well as character added into the mix.. Let me add the guys do a pretty good job of showing up and looking beautiful considering they don't spend hours shopping in groups with their groomsmen. Nor do they contemplate days before saying 'Yes' to the tux (or ensemble).. True though, most modern gents are shopping alongside their fiancé, getting into the whole palette of colors and sharing in the overall wedding experience. The formality of a groom's wedding attire will probably depend on the bride’s choice of gown and time of day the ceremony takes place. Luckily, there are no hard and fast rules you have to follow, only guidelines. And the most important I’d stress is, the bride and groom’s look should be in simpatico. This means if she’s in a formal gown and long veil, the groom can’t show up in a casual linen suit without setting your unity as a couple off-balance. Realize this day is symbolic; you’re creating the harmony you hope follows the rest of your life. If you happen to like tradition and want to follow the rules to the letter, below you’ll find them outlined; on the other hand, if you wish to add a twist on those traditions to demonstrate your creativity or make a statement, go for it!

HIGH DRESS FORMAL - aka ultra-formal. Generally when the bride is in a formal gown with a long train and corresponding veil after 4PM, the groom is in white-tie/tails. Think symphony conductor in full dress and you’ve nailed this look. The overcoat is black and can be single or double breasted. Shorter in front, it narrows down to two tails hanging to the knees in back. Typically a white pique shirt and white vest are worn underneath with white bow tie. White gloves and a pocket silk or boutonnière really complete the


FORMAL - Time of day (11AM-4PM), location and size of the guest list usually distinguish this from the High Dress Formal wedding. The bride wears a gown with a long train and the groom is usually in a tuxedo. Single or double-breasted, the tux is worn for formal and semi-formal weddings with matching trousers that have a satin stripe running down the outside leg. Under the jacket is a wing tip or spread collared shirt, vest or cummerbund and bow tie. Contemporary versions with vests can be worn with necktie replacing bow tie. An alternative to the tux is the traditional morning coat, once standard for formal daytime weddings. To picture this look think Ascot. You know those races in England with all the guys in top hats? Like tails, this coat is short in front, tapering to a long split panel in back. Can be in black, but gray is the traditional shade. The coat is worn with corresponding gray or gray pinstripe trousers, a gray vest and white spread collared or wing-tip shirt, topped off with an ascot tie.

SEMI-FORMAL - Typically, the bride is still in a formal gown, only she dons a shorter train or ball gown sans the train. This less traditional wedding gives you both the flexibility to tone down the formality of your attire. Here you can go with a different shade or

unconventional cut tux like a Nehru jacket. During summer months, how about a white dinner jacket with black trousers, matching cummerbund and tie? This is a great look at most West Coast or island weddings—compliments beachy/evening gown silhouettes so trendy now. GROOMSMEN So who gets outfitted besides the groom? Best man and ushers in a style and shade the groom picks out. This can include fathers of bride and groom and in some cases grandfathers, who get ushered in and seated prior to the ceremony. Do grandfathers and fathers suits have to match the groomsmen exactly? No. But if the wedding is formal they are customarily in formal dress. Here are some more guidelines to keep in mind when outfitting your guys. In the high dress formal wedding, ushers and best man’s attire matches exactly that of the groom right down to boutonnière and gloves. This excludes the little guys. Tradition dictates boy attendants belong in the bride’s party; usually they wear page costumes or Eaton Suits. Formalwear Stores however do outfit ring bearers as small as size 3. In the formal and semi-formal wedding, the groomsmen are still matched in attire but the groom can set himself apart by wearing a different color cummerbund, vest, tie, boutonnière, etc. A more radical but acceptable variation would be if he’s in a morning suit, and puts the guys in tuxes. RENTING FORMALWEAR It’s never been easier. Just point and click. Since most formalwear rentals are connected to nationwide chains, this means you can go online to register and shop for the look you want right at your computer. You enter your choice, click the store nearest you and they have all your information in their system within seconds. Then whenever you’re ready, you go in and get measured. Ideally you should do this 3-5 months before the wedding. A couple days before the wedding is when you pick up your suit. This is when minor alterations are taken if any are needed like pant legs taken up or jacket hem adjusted. Groomsmen follow the same procedure. But suppose your guys are scattered as far and wide as San Diego and Atlantic City? Not a problem. Since you’re probably dealing with a nationwide chain, they can go to the nearest store and have their measurements taken. No store nearby? Again, not a problem.

They just get themselves professionally measured and fax or email those measurements into the store. A word here about taking measurements. Have your groomsman find a professional tailor or pay a finer men’s store to do it. Having a friend or relative do it is not okay. Precision and experience is the key to fitting men’s wear. When it comes to cost, be glad you’re a man. Whereas a bride can shell out anywhere from $3-10,000.00 for a quality designer gown, her groom can rent a white-tie package for about a 300.00. And that’s everything, including shoes and pocket silk. Morning coat packages run a little less; tux packages even lower. If you and your bride plan to ‘Put on the Ritz’ at future ‘Black Tie’ celebrations, consider purchasing. Purchase price on a classic black tux from a formalwear dealer runs about $500.00 to $600.00. Tonier haberdasheries start them around $900.00 and can go over $2000.00. Following Page: Chyna Darner Photography


We're living in an era where destination weddings are on trend, almost the rule rather than exception. Your dress and you in it are the main event of your wedding day. Getting not only your dress and all your accessories from one point to another is something you need to ponder whether you're navigating across town or half way around the world. Albeit, the process might be easier if you've invested in a dress made out of microfibers (yes silk can be microfiber); you'll have little concern about

wrinkling. In most cases your dress will consist of delicate silk with length and volume (many under slips and linings) that need to be kept intact.

By Car Getting your gown home safely from the shop is the first step. You’re going to have to treat it with all the love and care of a newborn. No, you won’t need an infant seat but just about any size back seat of an automobile will do. In all probability once delivered, your gown will be packed in plastic, the bodice stuffed with tissue. Hang it on the hook above the back door draped across the back seat. This applies if you're going on a two block or two thousand mile trip. AIR TRAVEL- With so many far and away weddings these days, salons and stores have special procedures preparing your dress not only for that car trip home but air travel as well. Very important: You need to decide whether you're checking your gown as baggage or carrying it on board the plane. Either way there are pros and cons. Once upon a time carry on was a given. No matter how BIG your dress--and some dresses are gargantuan-- the flight attendants found a way to look after it. Since then the friendly skies have become so heavily booked, unless you travel first class, space is going to be tight. If your gown isn't too puffy and more of a sheath than ball gown, the overhead bin will work. Take into mind this a good-to-go situation only if there's no other baggage crushing your gown. To avoid hassles during check in, be certain beforehand the box or bag holding your gown is an approved size. Yes, some airplanes don't have additional room for oversize carry-on pieces so make arrangements with them before buying your ticket. Some airlines allow the cabin coat closets in first-class to be used for bridal gowns even if you're flying coach. However, doing my research I found some airlines are better than others on this. Again, MAKE ARRANGEMENTS BEFOREHAND! CHECK IN You've met folks who never check in luggage; they're afraid once they land in Boston their bags will turn up in Cleveland. Well, imagine asking a bride to check her dress as baggage. If you're brave enough to consider it, think of little old me, a fashion designer who must fly with five dresses at a time, that BTW, just like your gown, need to arrive in New York in pristine condition (otherwise they don't sell). I have no choice but to check them as baggage so here's what I do. Since I'm a pro I know just how to pack them. Your store can do this for you. All you need do is decide on whether you want to pack the gown in a box (salon's job but you can do it) or suitcase

(your job). I've done both. Box Use a large box, about one-third the length of the front of your gown. Line the box with tissue and lay the gown over it. Your gown should be centered in the box and laid face down, spread flat out. This way you can avoid any wrinkles or creases from forming. Now, start with the side seams and fold your skirt length-wise all the way over the tissue. Your skirt should not exceed the width of the box. This is when you add more tissue and fold the top of the gown over into the box. The top of the gown (bodice) will be facing up. Now use more tissue and pack the bodice, cushioning anything else (florals, bows, belts, sleeves) that should be protected. When you are finished, the dress should really be packed in tight so as not to move around in the box. Suitcase If your gown is a generous A-line or ball gown complete with petticoat, you need to go for the biggest suitcase you can find. Otherwise, like the box, find a suitcase about a third of the size of your gown. Your gown should be the only piece of anything you pack in the case other than tissue. Follow the same procedure you would for packing your gown in a box, especially the part about stuffing the bodice with tissue. This way your gown can retain its shape. Garment Bag The first thing about bagging a gown in a garment bag is finding out where the dress hangers are. Most gowns have these little hangers resembling straps that keep the stress off the shoulders. They are typically found at either the armhole or waistline. After hanging the gown up on a padded hanger and securing it with safety pins, pack the gown with tissue in the bodice so it keeps the shape. If there is a full skirt, pack the bottom of the bag so the skirt rests on it to eliminate stress to the hemline.

CRUSIN' Brides either marrying on board or sailing to their destination via cruise ship generally have few worries. Closet space is available and pressing services on board ship are top notch. This of course depends on the cruise line. I've heard horror stories about cheap cruise lines with bathrooms so small your shower is in the toilet. Think Cunard, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and you're in a major city floating on water, everything you ever wanted readily available. Same goes without saying for private yachts. Shorter cruises on, say, ferries are trickier but usually have more closet space than that aboard a plane or train.

ALL ABOARD! THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAINS Once upon a time in America this was one of the most common and luxurious forms of long distance travel. No more. Over time trains have lost their chic factor. But for those who have a morbid fear of flying or just plain love going by train, here's the low down. Trains offer a little more space for moving around from compartment to compartment than planes do. You'd think this would mean more room to hang a gown but when I spoke to the Amtrack agent she said it's either the overhead bin or baggage car for the gown. Since Amtrack is the only game in town if you're getting from point to point in the USA, please avoid coach unless you are going a short distance. Then, use the above info to box your gown and check it in as baggage (yes box--your gown. The way they throw baggage around your gown will be packed tight in the box) If you're going a little further than say Buffalo to NYC, go for one of the larger compartments like a sleeping car or roomette if you can. That way you'll have your own space to guard your prized possession. A word about train travel through Europe--it is a little different and more common. Schedules there actually run on time and go faster than their American cousins. Going short distances via coach, the space problem still exists so you can do one of two things: either box your gown and check it in as baggage or buy an extra seat on which to put it. Take into mind there are many more train routes that go through Europe. This means whether your destination is a major city or smaller village, a train either runs through it or nearby. Check online if you are traveling through Europe or Asia and find out as much as you can about space.

Once you reach your destination remove the dress from the bag and make sure to put it on a padded hanger. An alternative to the padded hanger is a hanging dress form like the one above. This is a display hanger I use in the studio to show off my designs. They have another function: keeping your gown shaped and taking the stress off the shoulders or from whatever point your dress hangs. You can order one that is similar from Firefly. If you can invest in a portable steamer, do it. They're twice as fast as the conventional iron and give a clean, finished look. As with over pressing, the steamer if held too close can water spot silk. Be sure to use distilled water to prevent spotting on silk. BTW a small travel iron is great for getting all those corners and pleats (see

opposite). Having a portable steamer and travel iron both is ideal. Of course the optimal choice if you can arrange it is getting your gown professionally pressed once you reach your destination.

A Few Really Great Tips *If you don't want to travel with your gown have your salon, dressmaker or yourself ship the gown ahead to its destination. Out of the big three--UPS, Fed Ex and the US Postal Service, the latter is the cheapest way to go. Brides have always exercised this 'Send my things on ahead' option by arranging for a friend, family member or hotel/venue/consultant to sign for it. Thus, this has become so convenient for destination brides, many hotels and venues are signing for the wedding dress as part of their service. *Pack your bridal accessories for travel separately from your gown. Once you reach that beautiful destination you can assemble your whole ensemble. *More suggestions about pressing: If your gown is made out of tulle, don’t you dare press it! Steam it instead. The same goes for your veil; ironing scorches tulle.


One of my clients recently asked, 'What do I do with my gown once the wedding is over?" I suggested she might display the gown in her living room or bedroom on a dress form. I was glad she liked the idea because it roused the spark in me to develop a concept around that, 'What's next?' question all you brides are asking. Okay, so, let's start with the display idea. Display is actually one way of storing a gown as a soft furnishing that everyone sees. If you have room in your home and are open to a new and unique way of creating a decorating statement, go for it. Displaying your gown on dress form makes for great conversation when folks come over to visit. It also looks pretty. These photos display different ways of arranging a dress form as well as giving you other display ideas.

Not just your bridal jewelry can go into this kind of display.

Left: A fine example of separates dressing (and display). This bodice is actually a Chantilly lace blouse worn over a strapless gown. Can you imagine this stunner New Years Eve over a cami with a black velvet skirt? Because my clients have been looking for more options on recycling their gowns post wedding, donating or incorporating it into everyday wear is becoming more the eco-conscious thing than storing it in a box. Keep in mind you do have the option of choosing a design you can re-wear. Working your gown into your wardrobe can mean planning separates, elements that can be customized and transformed as double duty pieces. Maybe you’re into cotton and linen. A cotton eyelet dress or linen suit can work well as reusable bridal attire. If you’re drawn to simpler silhouettes in functional fabrics like wool and silk jersey this works too. Knowing how to work a veil with some opera length gloves and the right shoes can really pull a simple dress into a ‘bridal look’. Consequently, the more practical you are, (as opposed to sentimental) the more likely you are to re-wear your dress.

This cotton eyelet dress can work well as reusable bridal attire.

Working your gown into your wardrobe can mean planning separates. This is actually a tulle skirt paired with a white jersey tank top

Bassinets in particular intrigue me, they keep the gown sentiment going as a story told through laces and silk. The bulk of the skirt wraps around the bassinet and your veil hangs as a head draping. If you wore a tiara you’ve created a real fairy tale. I’ve actually known brides who have fashioned table runners out of galloons of lace removed from hemlines; others lined shelves in china cabinets with smaller pieces. And don’t laugh. The skirts of some gowns have made some of the most gorgeous tablecloths I’ve ever seen.. Last season a client brought me an exquisite antique tablecloth and asked me to fashion her wedding gown out of it. I was awestruck. First by the cloth. It was an allover and rare Cluny Lace. Ten years ago this would have been considered by most as ‘chintzing it’ on your wedding day whereas these days it is not only applauded but even considered a sentimental gesture—in my client’s case —the tablecloth was lovingly left to her by her great-grandmother.

AFTERWORD Summing it all up I’m reminded of a post I wrote for one of my favorite photographers of all time, Jim Vetter a few years back. He asked me as an industry pro to share a few tips about everything from pre-wedding jitters to finding a great shooter. Mostly he wanted me to encapsulate and share my know-how about the wedding dress. Rereading the post and looking back, I realized what a great addition it would be to my own book as well. So here it is, my most important advice beyond hemlines and what to wear. PHOTOGRAPHERS By engagement time, many of my clients/brides already know their photographer through friends and/or family–someone who’s already hooked up in their network. But not always. My husband and I fell in love with our photographer years back at a wedding fair. We took one look at her work and knew her style was exactly what we were looking for. I can’t stress enough how important finding the right photographer is. These images will be family keepsakes a hundred years from now so choose your shooter carefully. These days the web is a treasure trove of wedding blogs and images I know can be totally overwhelming at first. Info overload aside, you really need to zone-in on the photographers and style you like. By the time you’re ready to interview candidates you’ll have a clearer picture of how you want your wedding shot. TIPS Look for Great editing. I find the best photographers know when to stop with all the special effects so the picture looks natural. Think of a great makeup artist and how and where he/she knows just where to enhance. For me over edited pics are the equivalent of digital paintings–great for a Grace Coddington editorial but typically not the thing for chronicling a wedding. Easy. Yes, you need a shooter who’s easy to work with. Primadonnas behind the lens last about as long as disposable cameras. Timelessness. Is your photographer too trendy? Ten, fifty, a hundred years down the timeline will these pictures look too dated– Instagramed? Photographers who stand the test of time are the ones

who create pictures that generations later, the viewer recognizes something familiar and timeless . . . . THE DRESS Most of what I have to say here you’ve heard from me many chapters back. Reiterating it all, I’m happy to say, “You’ve come a long way baby!” Think back to all the restrictions there used to be on weddings starting with the dress. Can you believe some women (though not as many as there used to be) are still asking if it’s okay to wear a white gown without being a virgin? Add to this once upon a time you couldn’t bare back, arms, décolletage, legs, etc. in a proper church wedding. You had to be covered up and veiled almost completely. The result was those cookie-cutter satin uniforms of yesteryear they called, bridal gowns. Thanks to a new generation of women saying, “I’m gonna wear what I want when I tie the knot,” a wedding can be on the beach in the sand, bride sporting bare feet. It can also be in a barn in a polka dot dress with your groom in spurs. The point is, you can pretty much do and wear whatever you want as long as it’s all about you and your true love on your wedding day. TIPS Look for easy to wear. Go for natural and micro fibers if you can. It’s going to be a long day so opt for something that breathes well. I once read a great Yelp review on a designer who created a gown so comfortable the bride didn’t want to take it off . . . Wear what you want. If you fancy a red dress go all out and find a custom designer who will indulge you. If you’re lucky you’re only gonna do this wedding thing once so you mind as well wear the dress you want . . . THE SEASON The Etiquette Police have passed on. Those old dowagers who wrote and kept the books have left their mark via grand dame actresses like Maggie Smith reminding us women like this really did run society. It used to be the season you got married dictated almost everything about your wedding: Whether your fiancé wore a morning suit or if those bridesmaids could wear pink in the dead of winter. All I can say about sporting colors, wearing formals and even carrying an out-of-season bouquet is, you and your groom need to do what makes you happy. I’ve seen some very beautiful pastel winter weddings and grooms in

relaxed attire in grand ball rooms and it all worked. The key is, it’s all about you guys . . . Most important tip of all: Eliminate stress. Yes eliminate. Relax. You’ve planned this out a long time and want to share your joy with everyone! I know weddings can be like one big family reunion and what family doesn’t have its own special tremors that rock the scale? But if you tune into the right headset from the start, you’ll realize this is all about you and your life partner–not them or any outside influence like a cake not being delivered or the officiant being late. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what goes down at your wedding but how you handle the marriage. And by the end of the day you’ll already be married. What more could you ask . . .?

ACKNOWLEGEMENTS At last, no project large or small can be a success without the help and inspiration of others. Here are the pros who brought their very best to these shoots and made them all truly wonderful collaborations . . . . All dresses are by designer, Amy-Jo Tatum. Unless otherwise noted in the credits, all head chic is by the designer as well. PHOTOGRAPHERS Nathan Larimer of Winter Tree Studios Taralynn Lawton Photography Stephanie Williams Photography Strotz Photography S1 Studios Shona Nystrom of Studio 7teen Dominic Colacchio Photography Jim Vetter Photography Pixamage Lirette Photography John T Photography Chyna Darner Photography Greystar Pictures Sweet Light Studios Hayden Housini Photography Carlene Imagery Grace Kathryn Loic Photography SE Photography & Imaging Jennifer Low Photography Scott Williams Photography Samantha Brancato Smoot Photo Henley Photography Larry Placido Photography Antonio Crutchley Photo Rob Martel Amy Perl Photography Hope Stewart Photography

ejones Photography Eleven Orchids Photography Ryan Chua Photography DRESSES AND HEAD CHIC Amy Jo Tatum Batcakes Couture Jeanne Simmons MAKE UP AND HAIR Julie Morgan Prettyologie Make Up by Teena Liz Washer Makeup Artist Kat Louis Make Up Artist Pins and Curls Alicia Desmaris Flores of Vogue Salon and Spa Kathi Rothkop of Salon Glam Christal Clear Salon Kao Vey Tricia Greenwood Hair Design Moderne Beauty Necia Whitmore Skin and Brows Intertwine Hair Design Elite Stylish Make Up and Hair Make Up by Cherese Christine Wicked C Make Up Wedding and Event Hair Audrey Mendoza Make Up Artist Nida Nafees Bridal Make Up and Hair Design

FLORAL DESIGNERS JL Designs Stems of Vaccaville

Rhapsody Floral Ingela Floral Design Flower Divas Victoria's Florals and Events Soulflower Floral Design Abigail's Flowers Flowers by Cindy Sheridan Verde Flowers

BRIDE CHIC: The Book  

Bridal designer and bloggerr, Amy Jo Tatum's comprehensive guide to putting together a wedding day look.

BRIDE CHIC: The Book  

Bridal designer and bloggerr, Amy Jo Tatum's comprehensive guide to putting together a wedding day look.