Wedding Dresses – Something Old, Something New
Something old, something new; From razzle-dazzle to refined, this year’s wedding dress styles do it all again.
Today when brides talk about something old and something new, they are referring to one and the same thing — their Wedding Dresses (bridal gowns). “What we’re seeing is a return to the ’50s and ’60s for inspiration,” says Patricia Kaneb of Priscilla. “The fabrics and silhouettes are modern interpretations of the trend-setting styles worn by the most glamorous women of those times, like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis and Grace Kelly.”
Why is this trend of Wedding Dresses resurfacing now?
For two reasons. One is the fashion industry’s renewed interest in the styles of Hepburn and Onassis. Hepburn’s chic has been the subject of numerous articles given the remake of her film “Sabrina” and the retirement this past year of her couturier Givenchy. The recent death of Onassis has brought all of her Kennedy-era photos out of retirement with a beautiful book, “A Thousand Days of Magic Dressing Jacqueline Kennedy for the White House,” written by clothing designer Oleg Cassini and published this fall. Reminiscences, lovely as they are, wouldn’t be enough to so heavily influence the fashion industry if it weren’t for the second reason these styles have captured the modern woman’s heart — their simplicity.
“Most women today are looking for simplicity and elegance in Wedding Dresses,” says Yolanda Celluci, owner of the Waltham store that bears her name. She has seen a return to sleeveless sheath dresses with geometric necklines and long gloves. “Brides feel very elegant and beautiful in these classic gowns, and can actually wear them again.” Simplicity of design doesn’t mean these wedding dresses look plain. At Priscilla, the bateau neckline of the Sabrina gowns are paired with a low V-back. “Brides like the look of being covered up in front, but getting the drama in back,” says Kaneb.
Another eye-catching touch is a thin line of pearl and crystal beading at the neckline and around the armholes of a simply styled wedding gown. But in general, beading is on the wane. “Brides today are not looking for glitter,” says Jim Shay of the House of Bianchi. “They’re into ‘less is more,’ and are going for understated elegance.” Bianchi is featuring a number of sleeveless wedding gowns this season, with a return to traditional fabrics such as silk organza and peau de soie.
But how about a bride who wants to dazzle as she walks down the aisle? Celluci suggests using accessories to add drama to simple wedding dresses. For starters, she recommends over-the-elbow gloves as the ideal finishing touch to a sleeveless, plain gown. This look was a favorite of Onassis during her White House years. Yolanda’s carries hard-to-find kidskin. Kaneb cautions brides to carefully match the color of their gloves to the exact shade of their gowns. She finds that if a dress is a bright white, sometimes a high-quality lycra-cotton is preferable to kid.
Kaneb also solves the problem of what to do when it’s time to place the ring on the bride’s finger. Rather than fussing with removing the glove, she recommends taking the front threads out of the ring finger prior to the ceremony. The material can be easily rolled up, allowing the groom to slip the ring on, and then quickly smoothed back into place.
In addition to long gloves, many brides are choosing ornate accessories to wear with their sleeveless sheath wedding gowns. “Simple wedding dresses can carry a more elaborate veil, such as one with layers of rhinestones and pearls,” says Celluci. She adds that one of the prettiest and most dramatic styles this season is an all-sequin design. Celluci also notes that most veils today are made of cascading layers that are attached to a comb rather than a headpiece. This way they can be worn with any hairstyle, up or down, and attractively frame the face. Kaneb sees a resurgence in long lace mantillas set back on the head, a wonderful way to add interest to a simple gown.
“They’re practical as well,” she explains. “You can start with a long train of lace for the ceremony, then with tiny hooks midway down, the fabric can be bustled up to either the length of the dress or shoulder height for ease of movement. That way you don’t have to remove the veil at the reception.”
Lace is also being featured as an accent on shoes, along with pearls and rhinestones. Celluci says the Louis shoe with a cabbage rose on the front is one of the more popular looks. A style borrowed from the wardrobes of 18th-century French royalty, this period shoe is as comfortable as it is good-looking, featuring a moderate-height heel with a wide base that’s great for dancing. Comfort is one of the reasons the Sabrina shoe, a pointy-toe pump with a feminine, midheight shaped heel, is also back in fashion. While many women buy shoes of the same material as their dress, Celluci warns that a lace dress can easily get caught on an all-lace shoe. She recommends accents of lace applique instead.
And speaking of lace, Kaneb points out that it is becoming more in demand for wedding dresses today — the flip side of the plain and simple trend. “We’re seeing more interest in the structured bodice with cummerbund look which accentuates a small waistline. It’s very regal like Grace Kelly’s wedding gown.” Celluci agrees. “For those who don’t like the bareness of the Audrey Hepburn styles, they often want the high-neck, long-sleeved dress that Grace Kelly made famous with lots of lace and an empire waist.”
Shay also sees a return to traditional French lace at the House of Bianchi, but as is true of this season’s simple sheath wedding dresses, the lace is unadorned so the understated beauty of the fabric becomes the focal point. One final reason the dresses of Hepburn, Onassis and Kelly are back in fashion: They recapture the fairy tale lives of a beloved actress-turned-princess, the First Lady of Camelot and a waif who charmed us all. Every bride should be so lucky.