Dress to Impress

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Sareh Nouri’s Claudette dress, seen at Sea Island during a Kleinfeld Bridal editorial photo shoot | Photo: Allan Zepeda

From full-bodied frocks and over-the-top embellishments to classic silhouettes with contemporary flair, the latest wedding dress trends offer exciting opportunities to showcase personal style.

By Ashley Breeding

While many ladies who wed at Sea Island value ceremonial and sartorial tradition, brides often covet trendier styles as well, says Caroline Grogan, associate director of event design at the resort, which hosts between 50 and 70 weddings each year.

Grogan notes that there is a fun mix of styles this year, with many brides traveling to Sea Island from destinations around the country. “We can go from a luxurious traditional wedding weekend to a modern, high-fashion one very quickly,” she says.

Genevieve gown by Kate McDonald Bridal | Photo: Kelly Symanski Photography

When setting the stage, be it on the resort lawn or a boat on the river, the Sea Island wedding design team often begins by asking to see a bride’s wedding dress. “We learn a lot about her style this way, and her sense of fashion is very much something the design of the wedding revolves around.”

Before shopping for your dream dress and the accessories to match, it’s important to know which style of bride you are, and what your big day will look like. Will your outdoor celebration warrant whimsical fabrics? Might you need two ensembles, or a two-in-one style that takes you from ceremony to soirée? Will you wear a veil? Do you want your dress to make a statement, or can you leave that to an accessory, like an unexpected shoe or hair piece?

Once you have determined the details that you won’t compromise on, grab your closest friends and family to support you in your ultimate shopping experience. Here, bridalwear experts reveal the top trends this season to help inspire your journey for the perfect ensemble.

Fit and Flair

As with everyday fashion, trends in weddingwear tend to repeat themselves, “but in a different way,” says Kelly Malone, manager of The White Magnolia Bridal Collection in Atlanta. From conventional cuts to the avant-garde, current incarnations pay homage to the past but with modern details. “Clean, architectural lines, for example, aren’t new, but this season they debut in updated fabrics and silhouettes,” Malone says.

The lace-covered Arabella gown from Isabelle Armstrong’s Spring 2020
collection, pictured during the Kleinfeld Bridal photo shoot at Sea Island | Photo: Allan Zepeda

This spring, her boutique is seeing a lot of silk crepes and mikados—“materials that are going to give a structured, clean look—with beautiful dart and princess seams,” she explains. Asymmetrical seaming on the skirt and bodice are big this season, while the classic neckline is also reemerging, this time with the straight cut that was popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Also big (literally) are old-fashioned ballgowns and 1950s A-line skirts, with the romantic fit-and-flare dress sweeping its way into the fold. These modernized styles, Malone adds, “have lots of texture that’s rough to the touch, giving gowns dimension and almost a three-dimensional look.” Find details like stamped jacquard, brocade, pearl beading, sequins, floral applique and custom embroidery that sparkles, and even feathers reminiscent of the early 2000s. Vera Wang, Hayley Paige and Lazaro are some designers flocking to this breezy trend.

All eyes are on modern two-in-one looks with detachable pieces that transition from formal to fun with the slip of a hook or button. “For the bride who wants that ‘wow’ feature of having two dresses, but who doesn’t want to change out of her dress, this is a perfect solution,” Malone explains. Think fitted silhouettes with voluminous overskirts, fit-and-flare skirts with removable trains, and even capes that instantly add drama or whimsy to a sleek, elegant base.

While last season’s jumpsuit is falling out of fashion, brides are now letting their bridesmaids wear the pants. “This works especially well for brides with a male best friend who is in the wedding party,” says Malone, noting that a pantsuit on all the men and women on her side lends a more cohesive look. “Bridesmaids also love [that] it’s not only more comfortable, but something they can wear over and over again.”

The White Magnolia Bridal Collection in Atlanta | Photo: Kelly Symanski Photography

Jennette Kruszka, director of marketing and public relations for New York City’s Kleinfeld Bridal—the set of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress”—adds that “many brides are saying yes to off-the-shoulder dresses, deep V-necklines, short hemlines and sleeves—from sleek to billowed.” At Kleinfeld, nontraditional brides still gravitate toward pantsuits in updated silhouettes, such as Pnina Tornai’s ivory wide-leg jumpsuit with an open back and micro-sequined pantsuit with illusion sleeves and cutouts at the leg.

Kruszka is also seeing fabrics like layered laces and tulles, as well as 3D floral detailing and asymmetrical skirts. A less obvious—and highly coveted—dress detail is the pocket, best hidden in designs with some volume below the waist. “Brides often don’t have handbags; planners are typically on hand to carry any belongings their client may need on the big day, but it’s nice to have that extra space for, say, a phone or handkerchief,” Malone says. Hands in the pockets of a gown, she adds, also make for cute poses for photos.

Daring Details

The Starlight dress by Tony Ward Couture is featured in this boho-chic look from the Kleinfeld Bridal photo shoot at Sea Island | Photo: Allan Zepeda

The easiest way to take a dress up a notch, from head-turning to jaw-dropping, is with the details you add to it. If you select a frock with feathers or tiers of flouncy tulle, those accents alone will do the trick, but if your dress design is more simplistic, there is a lot of room to accessorize. Veils, bows and footwear all provide opportunities to make a statement; the one you choose depends on the type of bride you are and where your nuptials will be held.

“The veil trend is stronger than ever, but we’re seeing much more creativity with it,” Malone says. While a traditional 110-inch, silk tulle cathedral veil completes the look of any dress without competing with its design, Malone and Kruszka are finding that this season’s embellishments are making their way from sleeves, bodices and skirts to this bold, classic accessory.

“Traditionally we might have seen details like hand-sewn pearls or embroidery around the trim of a veil to give it a more romantic, regal look,” Malone says. “What designers are doing now is extending these embellishments through the entire veil,” and the scale of embroidery or metallic lace is bolder than before. For those who don’t want a veil the length of a train, there are plenty of shorter styles to select from, too.

Pronovias x Kleinfeld illusion neckline embroidered floral lace sheath wedding dress | Photo: Courtesy of Kleinfeld

Also back from decades past is the bow, with styles borrowed from the 1800s to the 1980s. They’re appearing everywhere, from all sides of the waistline to the neckline, shoulders, back, bust, train and even down the front of the skirt, hem of the sleeves, along straps and on hairpieces. “Designers to look out for are Tony Ward, Sareh Nouri, Hayley Paige, Martina Liana, and Michelle Roth,” Kruszka says of those carried at Kleinfeld.

A nontraditional wedding shoe—think white tennis shoes or embellished kicks—are not only a fun way to add personality to an otherwise conservative look, but they offer practical appeal. “Many brides are opting to host their wedding on our natural lawn, without putting flooring down,” Grogan says. While a stiletto might send a bride falling right out of her heels while en route to the altar, a sneaker is a safe alternative that’s now trending. Plus, Kruszka says, “Comfort is key when you’re wearing shoes for 12 or more hours.”

Say “I Do” to a Hue

From subtle neutrals to custom watercolor patterns, the plain white dress is getting an artful makeover. In addition to an array of solid champagne and blush hues, which complement fair skin tones that can be washed out by classic ivory, Malone says some gowns are showing splashes of color we haven’t seen before. One popular trend is to add a punch of purple. “An amethyst underlay, for example, is a subtle way to add color that gives the embellishment of the skirt—like a French lace—more contrast,” Malone says.

Constance veil by Sara Gabriel | Photo: James + Schulze 2016

Kruszka’s brides are even going for blushes, blues and bold floral prints, such as Le Spose di Giò’s floral organza ballgown and Hayley Paige’s bolder colors, featuring pink hues falling down high-low hems and aqua blooms blown across ruffled skirts.

The veil has seen another trend this season, in the way of ombre. “It’s very cool to see how designers (like Toni Federici and Sara Gabriel) are incorporating modern trends into the veil,” Malone says, noting one style that begins subtly toward the top and becomes more pigmented as it reaches the bottom, such as Gabriel’s hand-dyed Constance design, which gradually turns from white to blush, plum or sky blue. Whether it’s a pop of pink in an accessory or a new hue for the dress itself, this season, the trends offer exciting opportunities to perfectly personalize your look for the big day.


The Perfect Match

Jennette Kruszka, director of marketing and public relations for Kleinfeld Bridal, shares her tips for success when shopping for your wedding dress.

1. Set a budget ahead of time, and be sure to include accessories like a veil, shoes and costume jewelry. Brides seeking savings can shop designer trunk shows, which often feature discounts between 10-15%, as well as sample sales

2. Start shopping nine months to a year before the wedding, providing a cushion of time for delivery and any alterations.

3. Select your shopping crew carefully. Any more than four people can mean too many opinions, often confusing the bride.

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