Brides Call the Shots More Than Ever

With more brides-to-be wanting their wedding days to be unlike any others, bridal designers are stepping up to meet their demands.

with contributions from Marc Karimzadeh
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Next year, three more Priscilla of Boston stores are expected to open, with major West Coast cities of particular interest, Schwartz said, although he declined to be more specific. Having stores enables Priscilla executives to see what's working and what brides are looking for. Pool's collection is "a nice addition to Priscilla of Boston stores and to the suite of designers we already have," Schwartz said.

Designer Amsale Aberra said women are favoring more risqué looks. "I think more and more brides today are going for a sexier look. Even with traditional styles, it is now about a closer fit, a plunging neckline, or a bare back," she said.

Ulla Maja chairman and ceo Charles W. Bunstine 2nd noted there is a split between traditional bridal design houses and those that have a broader fashion sense of design. "Bridal gowns are more in keeping with the woman's individual sense of style and current fashion than the historic definition of a bridal gown. It seems that the more design-driven businesses like ours are experiencing their greatest growth, while the others are losing their historic market share."

Joseph L. Murphy, president and ceo of Jim Hjelm, has noticed some interesting changes underfoot — silhouettes are more eveningwear-inspired within the boundaries of good taste; wedding gowns in blush-type colors are becoming increasingly popular; brides are moving away from simple looks, and tea-length dresses are still catching on with bridesmaids. His $26 million company makes dresses under the Alvina Valenta, Jim Hjelm, Jim Hjelm Occasions, Occasions Bride and the Lazaro labels.

He said he is seeing more reorders for nonwhite dresses and chalked up the interest in color to the idea that "fashion trendsetters are now more multicultural."

"Instead of having the monolithic view of fashion that we have had for so long, we're seeing more trumpet skirts and other fitted silhouettes," he said.

Junko Yoshioka, the designer behind the Junko Yoshioka for Bonaparte label, said she, too, is dealing with more brides having destination weddings than she was a few years ago. To that end, women are favoring nontraditional gowns with clean lines, minimal beading, and figure-flattering silhouettes.

In addition, Tara Maietta, the company's director of sales and marketing, said she has noticed in dealing with shoppers at trunk shows that they are no longer as "name conscious" about wedding gowns as they once were. "The 21st-century woman feels confident enough to wear something that is fashion-forward and one of a kind. They don't want to look like everyone else."

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