That’s the newest trend in wedding gowns? Hoop, there it is: Hoop skirts are in midst of a revival. “It’s Gone With The Wind — again,” says Norma Buch, owner of Coronet Bridal in Feasterville. What spurred this hoopla? Several fashion hypotheses are circulating. John Kim, owner of Ashley’s Bridal in Warminster, thinks that it may be that a new generation of brides wants gowns that are different from those worn by women of the past.
“The look was straight and slinky,” Kim says, “and that was standard for quite a long time. I think young brides are going the other way with their wedding gown choices and opting for big, full, poufy skirts.”
Which is where the hoop skirt comes in, because they do have functional uses. “The brides want poufy skirts with extra crinolines to add volume,” Buch explains. “And they don’t want just a little volume. They want a lot of volume. Something has to hold up those layers or the crinolines will collapse on the brides’ legs. For a while, we were using slips that are for Quinceaneras,” the Hispanic coming-of-age celebrations held for 15-year-old girls. “But they are heavy and uncomfortable. The hoop skirt is a much better solution. It’s comfortable, comparatively speaking, and allows air to get to the legs so the brides don’t sweat to death.”
On the other end of the spectrum are the lightweight, simpler dresses that are also popular at Ashley’s Bridal. “They are slip overlay dresses, usually in lace, that weigh, literally, five pounds,” Kim says. “Brides who go for that option are interested in comfort — and many are.”
Covered shoulders — via straps or sleeves — are another trend. But Kim cautions brides against one look: off-the-shoulder straps. They look romantic in movies and magazines, but in reality, the straps have to be narrowly fitted, and that limits arm movement. “Brides say that they love the look until we put the dress on them and pin the straps — and then they realize that they can’t pick up their arms,” he says. “The fabric doesn’t move. And brides, generally speaking, do want to dance and to give hugs on their wedding day. So we find them different sleeve options.”
Luckily, options are plentiful. In fact, Buch says that 2014 is the first year she’s seen so many bridal sleeve options. There is also a trend towardsbuilt-up necklines that cover the chest, a dramatic difference from the dangerous dips of plunging sweetheart gowns. She credits the change to two factors: a new generation of brides that wants something other than strapless looks; and conservative religious movements. She’s not just talking about Jews. For traditional church weddings, the trend is for brides to be covered, Buch says. However, not all brides are on board with the new modesty. To accommodate them, many bridal gown manufacturers have created snap-in straps and sleeves that can be removed for the reception.
Modesty in price is another factor in bridal gowns. Both boutique owners say that the days of $10,000 gowns have ended. But it’s not the economy at work. It’s that designers are making their mid-price options look better. High-quality fabrics and couture-esque designs are now available in the $2,000 range from Maggie Sottero, Allure and other bridal brands. Another issue is that expensive gowns often take a long time to create and Kim says that many of his clients are shortening their engagements. “I see a lot of couples who have been together for a very long time and then decided to get married, so they are doing away with a traditional long engagement and just going straight to the wedding,” he explains. “Couples who are getting married at an older age often have family members who are also older, and everyone wants them to be at the wedding, so the wedding happens sooner than it might otherwise. In those cases, no one wants to delay a wedding just to wait for a gown to be ready when there are so many reasonably priced, beautiful options.”
Modesty is also chic for mothers of the bride and groom, and mothers of B’nai Mitzvah. Higher necklines and sleeves are among the top trends for the year, says Susan Cooper, co-owner of Gabrielle and G Lizzy in Bala Cynwyd. “For adults, I see a lot of jewel necks with cap sleeves and necklines that have a high criss-cross,” she says. “Long, lean lines that are simple, but with twists that make dresses interesting and elegant.”
Lightweight fabrics are also popular, Cooper reports. “We have a lot of gowns in crepes and silk,” she says. “What we’re seeing is that, for black-tie and cocktail affairs, women want long dresses — but they don’t want a lot of dress. That makes fabric choice important, so that dresses are not heavy and women can dance in them.”
Below-the-knee lengths are flattering on all figures, says Stacy Curtis, owner of Elegance By Edythe in the Northeast. Brocades are big, but lace is the most popular fabric choice. Wear it in gunmetal gray, navy or nude, Curtis advises.
As for Bat Mitzvah girl fashions, short and strapless are still the most popular looks. The fit and flair dress is in demand at G Lizzy, the Main Line’s must-go teen shop, and at Jan’s Boutique, the tween palace in Cherry Hill. Of course, Jan’s features much more than Bat Mitzvah girl dresses; outfits for all ages and all occasions fill the enormous space. And what is popular for tweens is also trendy for prom and sweet sixteen: Color, color, color, says Jan’s owner Paul Virilli. “Brilliant blues, bright oranges and every shade under the rainbow,” he says. “There are so many options that every girl can find the color that looks best on her — and so can her mom and grandmom.”
Mimi James is the fashion mahoff for Special Sections. This article originally appeared in Simchas, a Jewish Exponent publication.