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Designers Offer More Options for the Wedding March

Try as designers might to show more progressive wedding gowns, they often have to maintain a degree of modesty to satisfy traditional bridal specialty stores.

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...and Vineyard.

Photo By George Chinsee

NEW YORK — Try as designers might to show more progressive wedding gowns, they often have to maintain a degree of modesty to satisfy traditional bridal specialty stores.

Despite that caution, designers such as Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang and Lela Rose managed to show off their creativity during the bridal market here last week even as they heeded buyers' requests for nonstrapless gowns and more coverage. The robust euro proved to be another challenge for companies sourcing fabrics from Europe, and China and India's booming economies have ratcheted up the cost of getting embellished pieces from suppliers there.

But that isn't enough to discourage new labels from getting into this overcrowded market. The wedding industry as a whole is said to generate $120 billion in sales annually.

Gilles Mendel has created a five-piece capsule collection that he will sell to customers through his J.Mendel stores in a month. Melissa Sweet plans to introduce a yet-to-be-named introductory priced collection this spring. Pronovias is gearing up for the opening of its first U.S. store in Midtown Manhattan. Perhaps the certitude of weddings has something to do with it, with more than two million U.S. couples marrying each year.

"People are still getting married, never mind what is happening with the stock market, the economy or in politics," James Mischka said.

Even Vera Wang was in the mood to celebrate, and did so by staging a runway show at the Ukrainian Institute — the first to be held outside her showroom in years. Before things got started, she mingled with guests in the French Renaissance building's main floor. "I'd like to have a party, but unfortunately I have to show some clothes," said Wang, with drink in hand.

Her collection toasted gentility with a nod to the "otherworldly glamour of high society, Social Register debutantes from Jacqueline and Lee Bouvier to such infamous heiresses as Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton." Gowns were decorated with cabbage rose adornments, silk faille sashes and velvet ribbons. The designer's collection was an ode to "a period of unparalleled wealth, privilege and social aspiration that still captivates us today," according to her show notes.

Trying to make New York more of a destination for weddings, city officials are getting rid of the old to make room for the new. Interior designer Jamie Drake, who has done work for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been tapped to spruce up the city clerk's office, including the marriage bureau and its small chapel. The project is expected to cost about $13 million.

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