First and foremost, not ALL of this niche market is doomed for failure. As long as ladies are saying ‘I do,’ there will be a demand for wedding gowns. Carefully curated boutiques and socially present brands will remain a float, but big box brands are slowly but surely closing their doors. First it was Priscilla of Boston, and the most recent being Alfred Angelo. The price points and dress quality could not have been any more diverse, however, their business model remained the same: many corporate managed retail sites in various locations of the US following the same staging and showroom format. How this generic plan lasted for as long as it did, is beyond crazy. Think about it–what does every bride strive for..??? Individualist beauty on her one big day. Her personal runway in front of the most important people in her life, the moment that she is hoping to be her most breathtaking, a site for everybody to remember……now how does that translate to wearing the same (or extremely similar), white dress as thousands of other brides, styled in the same exact way, and still hoping to stand out?? Or how about the purchasing process-since when does a pushy sales staff, contested show room floors and opinionated spectators equal out to a lovely, memorable moment? Thanks to shows like SYTTD, brides have been given a false perception of how their appointment should go, and a certain amount of permission to barter with salon employees. It is a television show, ladies. Speaking of the rising interest in bridal shopping, social media has opened a whole other mess of issues in the system. Some big brands have mastered the art of position photography and creating a cult following. This is both a positive and negative. Positive in the fact that smaller indie brands have been given an big nod and the brides that understand their vision can seek out boutiques that represent the desired line. Negative in the way of bandwagon brides. There are girls that will eat up any sparkly bull shit thrown their way. Professional store owners and buyers get bombarded with these fan girls demanding the latest and greatest from their bridal heroes, without understand the process of seasonal markets or the hefty price these over designed and ill fitted poly gowns will cost them. Bloggers don’t help matters much. NY Bridal market was once the most coveted and best kept secret between industry professionals. Now, bridal bloggers sit at their prospective homes and ‘borrow’ pictures from those actually in attendance. I specifically remember taking pictures at an invitation only NY editorial bridal runway show, only to find that bloggers from my own city were reposting and claiming as their own. This removes all creditibitly from both myself and the designers that spent time money and endless resources presenting their vision to their consumer audience. These issues are a bit off topic as to why Alfred Angelo shut down, but the overall picture of the bridal industry is a saturated and antiquated mess….and I intend to do something about it. Stay tuned…..
Bridal shoes are sometimes one of the last minute decisions that need to be made to complete an overal style, and yet somehow, it always seems to be one of the hardest. Let’s be real. 99% of the time, you never really see the bride’s shoes. Yet, this selection has the ability to crack a bride’s sanity level. Many salons quit carrying shoes. It’s a space hog, an inventory nightmare, and quite frankly- a lot of bridal shoes are ugly. What goes on your feet is a pretty personal decision….and I can respect that. Plus, I don’t have the desire to mess with a strangers stinky toes. So, when styling a bride, I typically suggest that they search online or shoe boutiques that allow returns. This way, not only can the comfort be tested, but the heel height needs to be checked up against a gown’s hemline. Metallics are always a solid choice. Don’t box yourself into seeking out bridal specific shoes. You will end up paying too much, and never, ever wear them again.
There are some shoe ‘trends’ that I heard from brides on repeat. A few made me cringe, but I AM a really particular and very picky brat. Besides that, to each their own. I’m not going to nitpick or judge, just observe. (Judging will remain silent.) Heels, platforms are red bottoms are no brainers….we will be discussing the more controversial styles.
First one: Cowboy Boots.
After the marriage of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, this was a trend that went bananas. Especially with my Texas ladies. I have seen every pair; from white leather with sparkley initials to grass and poo stained ones that held a special nostalgia. (And stench.) It’s not for everybody, (especially not me), but everybody knows somebody that sported this look down the aisle.
Another notable mention: Flip Flops.
Undoubtingly, one of the most comfy of all trends…..not always the most flattering, though. I remember so vividly working with an adorably boho bride that expressed her desire to go sans formal shoes and sport flippies. Monte Durham happened to be in the salon with me at the time, and was quick to protest….quickly and rather loudly, in fact. I specifically recall him using the words ‘gross, stupid, and disgusting’ to proclaim his profound distaste of the bride’s styling choice. This incedent was before his tv days, but he was still famous in the industry for these sorts of unedited outbursts. After I diffused the aquardness of the situation, I listened to the reasoning for the casual choice. It seemed that she was the same height as her hubby to be, and she didn’t want to wear formal flats or ballet slippers. Her gown would cover her feet anyhow. I understood, talked her down from physically and verbally attacking Monte and sold her the dress of her dreams. Let’s get real, flippies are my go to as well when I want to chillax. Who doesn’t want that? (Just be aware of the ‘flip-flop’ sound coming down the aisle)
And there’s this: Ballet Slippers.
Debutantes, tall brides and flower girls feel right at home in these round toed numbers. On paper, this style makes sense; shiny satin, ivory, comfortable and formal. So, there you have it. It’s an option. (Can you tell, it is not my fav?)
Can’t leave this one out: Barefoot.
There are a lot of feelings about this one. It’s either praised or poo-pooed. This is a very venue specific choice. Beach? No question. If it’s on the sand, it is the only viable option. Outdoors? Still acceptable. If a bride goes with exposed piggies, free the whole wedding party and have them remove their shoes too. It’s only fair. Most of my barefoot brides did bring a pair of shoes for the reception. Dancing can get dicey, unless EVERYBODY is without…..and then you would have to worry about smelly feet and it becomes a whole thing. Just take my advice and pack some shoes.
As in so many other areas of life, the men are behind….case in point: Romphims. The male version of the romper. (Jumpsuit, onesie, jumper..etc. ) Now, I am never one to turn my nose on a trend without giving it a few moments of spotlight, but the romphim, I am just NOT down with. I put it right up there with spandex biker pants, speedos and 70s basketball shorts. No need. Not necessary. Not ever. Bridal jumpsuits, however——-HUGE FAN!
Now, not every lady has the chutzpah to pull off this bold fashion, but for those bad enough, it is a look that will not soon be forgotten. Overall styling is uber crucial when sporting this attention grabbing garb. Depending on the formality of the event, jewelry and accessories should reflect as such. Don’t overdo it. Veils can be tricky when paired with pants, so I would opt for a modern headpiece or trailing cape. Makeup and hair should remain soft an ultra fem. (unless of coarse, it’s the androgynous feel of these outfits that appeal to you)
How would I introduce the formal adult onesie?? I would choose one with a super fitted bodice and straight (not skinny) pants to keep it all tailored and tight. For the ceremony, I would add an overskirt with a thick waist band to accentuate the waist, or an overskirt that attachces in front so the pants peek out a bit. Removal of the skirt for the recpetion is an instant second look. As a bonus- this also immediatly eliminates the garter toss….which is a terribly antiquated tradition anyhow.
Surprising as it may be, I happen to LOVE a good pageant. Yes, the hair, makeup, swimsuit and sparkles are all a bit extra and antiquated, but it is still a competition…..and I am all about it. Much like a red carpet, these ladies’ choice in garment are picked apart, compared and ultimately one is crowned as the best. I happen to take this part very seriously, as many of the gowns are designed specifically for each contestant; much like bridal. Allow me to judge, (in alphabetical order, obviously)—–
Red. Cherry red in fact. My least favorite palette. Miss Alaska is obviously not the typical pageant person. She is more rugged and muscular than her fellow contestants, which hinders her ability to glide as femininely as one would prefer. Don’t get me wrong, I am totally behind the #strongisthenewskinny movement and all, but in a beauty pageant, it could pose a problem. To counter act her contoured frame, a softer shade of pale pink, blue or even yellow would have been a better choice. The halter is ago to for girls with great shoulders, but these thicker bust proportions makes her appear too broad. Needless to say, would not be my first pick. This brunette is a bombshell and deserved better.
This gown hit close to home. Bridal introduced this pattern of what I refer to as, ‘a sparkly fence’. This geometric choice paired with the pointy bust line AND mesh sleeve overpowered this poor girl. My eye went everywhere besides her glowing face. The beaded belt was also a bit low on her torso. Raising it an inch or so would have emphasized her tiny waist and created an overall more curvy sillouette. Swing and a miss for Miss Cali.
Miss District of Columbia
This smarty pants scientist was crowned the winner, and I am 100% behind that decision. Her choice in gown was a strategically strong choice. The beadwork pattern was not my favorite, however, the movement of the skirt and the low cut key hole were perfect. She was gliding on that stage and although the dress was not revolutionary, it did it’s job by bringing the enhancing her beauty rather than overpowering it. The slit was sexy, but not slutty and the narrow cut bodice was the perfect amount of flirty. Beauty and brains.
Hmmm. No quite sure what she was thinking with this one. There ARE aspect of the design that are intriguing, and the color is fab….but the fringe is too long and the the top is too stiff. This is a bit of a helter-skelter look. I love a good fringe, but starting at the hips on a straight skirt can only add width, and I’m guessing that was not the goal. It resembled hair rather than tassel. The bodice actually fit her well, but the structured chain mail pattern only confused matters. Not sure what if she was going for a modern, boho or hollywood look.
This beauty nailed it. When describing this gown, the host mentioned that she had to create this look from two gowns. She had a skirt from one dress combined with the bodice of another. I can’t tell you how many times brides wanted to do this. Many times is was a construction nightmare, but in this case, it worked. I personally would have left off the beads from the top and removed the exaggerated push up bra, but it IS a pageant and I get it. The skirt is PERFECTION! We all know that the sheer trend has been played out, but the addition of the textured pant and opaque panty is awesome, awesome, awesome. She looked beyond confident and cool. She knew it was a home run. I am a big fan.
Meh. This mermaid, rouched style has been done so many times, there really isn’t much to say about it. It’s red. It’s fitted. It’s strapless. The pointy bodice resembles a devil’s horns, combined with the color palette…?? Give her a tail and pitch fork. It’s unfortunate, because she is as cute as a button. Something ivory and flowy would have suited her angelic face much better.
Miss New Jersey
I was pulling for her from the beginning. There was nothing wrong, per say, with this look. Nothing memerable either. The fit and tailoring is spot on, the proportions of the halter are great too. It was just a bit safe. Now if anyone could pull off a jewel tone, it would be this girl. Even a bit more of a sheer skirt could have given it a bit of pizazz. And I have to say…the shoe is kind of an odd choice. The platform is obviously worn and nicked up a bit, and the color is totally off. Maybe there was a wardrobe malfunction. This whole look bummed me out.
Miss New York
Not sure why red heads always go with green. It’s too expected. Now, this girl is insanely gorgeous, but from the intro, I was distracted with the styling of her hair. Why oh why did they add the eighties’ oversprayed wings? This aged her and stole the spotlight from her amazing face. I digress. The dress is fine. The sheer underlay with a beaded pattern is pretty. The deep v is flattering to her neckline, and her body is obviously banging. The barely there panty line is not necessary. She is wearing what looks like an ivory granny panty. Why highlight that in an obscure way. Doesn’t seem intentional. On this stage- it is ‘go big or go home.’ She should have either gone sans or spanx. Did I mention how much I disliked her hair?
Miss South Carolina
Yea, sooooo. I know it sounds like I am Nancy Negative, but really?!?! Royal blue?? Not sure it’s possible to pick a more pageant predictable color. I will say, that this cut on the arm is by far the most flattering for any strap. Not great for hugs or the YMCA dance, but looks damn good on some well cut shoulders. The skirt has an added train beginning from each side seam…again, a frequented design element in bridal as well. The reasoning behind it is that the skirt remains slim and flattering from from front and isn’t compromised when adding volume and length to the back. I would have preferred a heavier fabric than the tulle with this particular gown. The end result would have been more dramatic. This falls a bit flat.
I happen to really like this gown. It’s cool, elegant without a lot of contrived elements….BUT, it is not fitted properly at the bodice. With stakes this high- I find that completely unacceptable. This blonde beauty is lean and narrow but with every step the side of her dress pertrudes at the waistline, widening her overall stature. I doubt that is what she is going for. Now if last minute alterations couldn’t happen, I am sure that some double sided tape was readily available at a Miss USA pageant. Be better than that Miss T. Be better.
Well, that’s the top 10, people. There you have it.
Oh, the stories I could tell. Behind the fluff and fuss, the bridal industry is beyond fickle and flawed. Many other ‘f’ words come to mind, but I digress. I stumbled upon my position as a bridal consultant as a young 20 something, and was immediately drawn to the possibilities of an alternative career path that the industry might allow. I dabbled in it all….corporate, behind the scenes runway, accessory design, business consulting, and eventually found my sweet spot with buying. This was my ultimate. Buffy the Vampire Slayer said it best, “I just think it sounds cool, you know? Buyer, buying, to buy….” As far as I was concerned, I had hit the top. I was in the mix. Heading to New York Markets twice a year, catching editorial runway shows, chatting it up with designers, discovering new talent…I mean it was awesome. I was hella good at it too. Then, it started to become a bit of a spectacle and a scene. The exclusivity and allure of the collection releases became readily available to anybody with a smartphone. The buying crowd became clones of the same squeaky-toned newbies that bought into identical ‘innovative’ styles scattered with unicorns and glitter. Barf. Then, the clients….?? Some brides became, (how should I put this), complicated. Shows like ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ allowed a sort of hazy insight into the inner workings of a salon as well as a green light to act like an asshole during an appointment. ‘Bridezillas’ offered assurance that they are, in fact, not the worst bride in the universe. Many appointments fell into a gray area somewhere in between the two realms. It has become a cat and mouse game at this point. Bridal Consultants are not given the respect that they deserve and there is no longer such thing as line exclusivity or loyalty between designer and boutique. Most designers are available online, and cheap knockoffs are everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE design houses that are still reputable, innovative. Genuinely good people still exist…. After all, these select individuals are the reason I stayed in the business for over 12 years. And yes, there are sweet, wonderful and lovely brides as well. My favorite ladies would allow me to give educated guidance while adhhearing to their specific wants and needs. These ended up being the best dressed brides. Obvi. I even styled Brie Bella head to toe on her big day. On television in fact. See? I am not completely jaded. I am however, too old, too smart and too level headed to become complacent, and this what I feel the industry has become. Bridal is due for a complete overhaul. So now I want to chat about it. I invite all brides, industry insiders and anybody else for that matter to chime in. Let’s trade stories, ideas and innovation. Perhaps together we can shed light on this business that chooses to reside in the dark.