Gowns Show Signs of the Times

Shorter bridal dress lengths as well as engagements, turnaround times for purchases and in some cases, patience with their mothers' fashion advice, was the...

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A Vera Wang voluminous gown.

Photo By John Aquino

Amsale's ethereal take on strapless.

Photo By Steve Eichner

NEW YORK — Shorter bridal dress lengths as well as engagements, turnaround times for purchases and in some cases, patience with their mothers' fashion advice, was the buzz at several of last week's fashion shows.

The jaunty music, hand-painted screens and cherry blossom stems that adorned Carolina Herrera's showroom hinted at how the designer's collection was inspired a bit by the Belle Epoque. A full-painted tulle dress with matching veil and a Parisian dress in dotted organza with lace and ribbon detail were additional evidence. Inventive as some of the pieces were, they stopped short of being trendy, which was essential to Herrera.

"I understand that it has to be traditional — it cannot be trendy,'' she said. "The dresses are a bit more classical, some have hand-painted embroidery or mother-of-pearl details. I know this has to be a very special dress, so I add little details."

Herrera was among the designers who offered short dresses, in her case a short embroidered organza dress, and other modern touches such as boleros. Designers like Amsale and Oscar de la Renta created a few dresses with pockets — another sign of today's more relaxed brides.

After his runway show, de la Renta said he approached wedding dresses differently than his signature collection, but that is a practice that he keeps with all his categories. "It is a special day for a girl," he said.

Unlike most, de la Renta prefers to show one collection a year instead of two. The way he sees it, wedding dresses don't change drastically in one year. What has changed is what the younger generations choose to wear compared with their mothers.

"In most instances, most mothers have a completely different idea of what their daughters would like to wear," de la Renta said.

His of-the-moment styles included a silk white brocade shift with a feathered hem, a white double-face bouclé suit with a portrait collar and a cream silk faille strapless gown with a detachable skirt.

At Vera Wang, executives sense that retailers are ready for a change, said Susan Sokol, president of Vera Wang Apparel. "There is a tremendous amount of interest in short cocktail-length dresses. It's for the bride who doesn't want something as full. Softer gowns for destination weddings continue to be an important part of our business. Fashion separates like a great jacket are also important. We like to think our bride is a very nondiscriminating bride."

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