Do cap sleeves, tea-length hems, lace, chiffon and grey sound more old-fashioned than high fashion to you? Local boutique owners explain that those “must nots” are now “must haves.”
“Tea-length is huge,” states Ruth Krass, owner of Bedazzled in Newtown Square. “Tea-length is back in a big way. And lace is everywhere.”
Lace is the biggest old-new style in special occasion garments, agrees Paul Virilli, co-owner of Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill. “Beautiful lace is the main trend this year and it will grow even more in 2014,” he says. “I was in New York yesterday seeing a designer’s work and the lace was so gorgeous that the dress was off-the-charts amazing.”
To be clear, this is not the lace of the 1880s — nor the 1980s. Neither stiff nor brightly colored, this lace is soft, sophisticated and sexy. Some dresses are completely made of lace, while others pair lace with beading, chiffon or other fabrics. Chiffon is, in and of itself, another big part of special occasion wear.
“Believe it or not, chiffon is very important now,” Virilli says. The reason it might seem unbelievable is that chiffon was thought of as more “bubbe” than “bubbly” for evening wear. Virilli explains that chiffon has had a makeover. “It is flowy, soft and very feminine without being old-fashioned. This coming year, we’re seeing more chiffon gowns than any other year that I can remember. That’s because customers are buying it, but also because chiffon dresses are less expensive to manufacture and can therefore be priced affordably, so it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Chiffon and lace aren’t the only old-new trends; — tea-length dresses have returned with an updated twist. Women raised in the 1940s and 1950s might think of tea-length as a hem that falls above the ankle or anywhere in the lower part of the calf. But the new tea-length is a tad higher: mid-calf or even just below the knee gets labeled tea-length. The benefit of tea-length, the experts explain, is that it is dressier than a mini skirt but not as formal as a full-length gown. It is appropriate for women of all ages and all occasions, including bridesmaids, mothers of the bride or groom, and B’nai Mitzvah mothers.
As for colors, there is a popular palette for bridesmaids, mothers of the bride or groom, and mothers of B’nai Mitzvah. Burgundy, purple/eggplant, emerald green and royal blue were the crown jewel tones from designers like Vera Wang, Angelina Faccenda, Monique Lhuillier, Mori Lee and Dessy. Mint green and blush pink are other fashionable choices. But no other color seems more popular than grey, in all of its shades. From dove to steel, grey is appropriate for all occasions and almost universally flattering, experts agree. Pop and sizzle can be added by pairing grey with colorful sashes or shoes. But don’t count out black, Krass advises. “Black is the new black,” she says, because nothing will replace it as a go-to classic.
But when it comes to Bat Mitzvah girls’ dresses, all of the above fashion trends do a 180-degree turn. And in an unsurprising development, ’tweens are doing the exact opposite of their mothers. For synagogue services, sleeves are in, says Wendy Moliken, owner of Party Girls in Newtown. “We’ve had a big trend with requests for dresses with sleeves for the ceremony,” she reports, “and we’re still doing dresses with jackets.”
For parties, mini-skirted dresses continue to be the standard, Moliken says. There is a new trend for Bat Mitzvah girls’ dresses and it comes down to one word: puffy. “It’s a puffy skirt,” explains Virilli, “with the puffiness coming from layers of tulle. Girls want the puffy look because it is more feminine and fun, and a little more youthful.”
Krass echoes that. “Flirty and flouncy is in,” she states. “Short, puffy tulle is really big.”
For black-tie parties, girls want ball gowns, says Moliken. But even then, poufiness in the skirt is wanted. “Big and poufy” is how she describes the request she gets most often from Bat Mitzvah girls. As for necklines, “strapless is still the preferred neckline for the party dress,” Moliken says. “We do almost no halters. Sometimes, we put on a spaghetti strap if they can’t hold the dress up, or their mother doesn’t want them tugging the dress up for four hours through the party.”
What is popular in dresses for girls attending B’nai Mitzvah other than their own? “Leather and pleather trim is very hot in the junior market,” Moliken says. “We’re doing a lot of dresses and jackets with leather binding around the neckline or the peplum. Leather skirts, tops trimmed in leather, jersey tops with leather sleeves — it’s everywhere.”
Krass is carrying a lot of leather at Bedazzled. “The biggest look is leather,” she reports. “Leather with lace, leather with knit, a touch of leather, full leather, real leather, vegan leather. It is for all ages and looks fabulous.”
As for hot colors, Moliken reports that aqua and teal are popular, as are various shades of pink. Pastels are all the rage now and will be into 2014, Virilli says. “Beautiful pastels are coming in and they are in shades that are feminine and soft but not ‘little girl-y,’ ” he says. “I’m talking about colors like mint green and soft orange. Actually, orange is all over the place, but it’s a pastel orange, not the bright gaudy orange. There are still vibrant colors, like watermelon, which is a really interesting red.”
The good news about the color variety, Virilli points out, is that there are dresses to flatter all types of complexions, from dark hair and eyes to fair skin and blue eyes. And one more thing about variety: Jan’s Boutique is about to have more of it.
Already one of the largest special-occasion shops in the tri-state area, Jan’s will become one of the largest dress boutiques on the East Coast. The Cherry Hill mainstay is undergoing an expansion that will add 7,000 square feet, bringing the shop to 13,000 square feet.
Scheduled for completion at the end of January 2014, the addition will feature 20 new dressing rooms and be dedicated to Bat Mitzvah girl dresses, homecoming and prom gowns. “It’ll be a ’tween and teen lovefest,” Virilli promises. “We took extra care in planning the dressing rooms. Each will have a three-way mirror so the girls can stay in their own room instead of sharing a mirror. Actually, the girls can stay in that juniors section for the entire time they are shopping. Meanwhile, their mothers can go into the women’s section and shop in peace and quiet in that area. I think that’s a win-win for everyone.”
Mimi James is the fashion mahoff for Special Sections and Inside. She has always believed in more flounce to the ounce.