Dressing Up the Dress

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Brides show their personality with style-defining accessories on the big day.

By Lisa Marie Hart

Elizabeth Stephenson Table 6_statement necklace_Jesi Godwin 2

If there is one fashion truism for women these days, it is this: A dress is merely a dress until the wearer makes it her own. Even with magnificent wedding gowns, the “perfect dress” is just the beginning of a modern bride’s look, only the sketch of a full masterpiece—complete with accessories such as jewelry, headpieces, sashes and more—that will reflect her unmistakably personal style.

“We want every bride to feel special on her big day and, as many ladies wear the same gown, they should stand out as individuals,” says Lacy Pool, buyer for Serendipity Bridal, a bridal salon that has been serving Austin, Texas, for more than 20 years, and co-designer of a new bridal accessories collection called Grayson Elise. “The right accessories can achieve this. We Southern girls are often falsely accused of overaccessorizing, but this could not be further from the truth. For the most part … brides here choose one key piece and leave the rest of the style up to the dress.”

Just how many accessories any bride might pull together will depend upon her personal taste. As the glamorous world of bridal offerings takes its cues from current fashion trends, brides have more to consider than ever. From adding an embellished sash, dangling chandelier earrings or a forest-fresh crown of flowers to incorporating a keepsake of vintage lace, women are embracing the fact that it’s actually what they pair with that striking gown that defines their signature wedding-day look.

Elizabeth Killgallon, associate director of catering at Sea Island, has noticed this growing trend at the resort’s many weddings. “Sea Island brides are all about accessorizing, especially with pieces that carry a story,” Killgallon says. “Whether it be a pair of earrings that their husband-to-be bought them on their first date anniversary or grandmother’s lace gloves that the bride will wear down the aisle, those pieces give her a one-and-only look that comes with tradition and meaning.”
Accessories also allow the bride to easily make an intriguing transformation from ceremony to reception to after-party—adding, subtracting and redefining her look along the way. More than an updo that’s tousled loose or a bolder shade of lipstick, the bride employs accessories to complete her transition from one part of the big day to the next.

Sparkle and Shine

Some of these opulent touches do double or even triple duty. Take, for example, the Sophie, a highly desirable piece at wedding accessory rental website Happily Ever Borrowed (happilyeverborrowed.com). This gleaming strand of Swarovski crystal floral pendants on a ribbon tie can be worn as a headband, necklace or sash.
Crystals and pearls are just a few of the irresistible baubles that brides are slipping into as they layer their look with accessories.

Family mementos, antique jewelry, treasured lockets, charms and charm bracelets also appeal to many brides, says Keisha Scott, lead planner and designer at North Carolina-based K. Scott Weddings. “Southern weddings are all about heirlooms and traditions, so here you’ll see accessories that aren’t sold in stores but are instead passed down from generation to generation.”

Custom charms add flair to traditional bouquets.
Custom charms add flair to traditional bouquets.

In addition to pieces with some history, bridal jewelry of the moment falls right in line with fashion. Trending rose gold has lit up the scene in addition to ethereal touches produced by metallic trims or artistically structured feathers.

“Large statement necklaces, chandelier earrings and bracelets are bringing high-fashion style to simpler and modern bridal gowns,” says Brittany Haas, founder of Happily Ever Borrowed.

The site’s social media manager, Andrea Calvert, also points to romantic jewelry that has experienced a recent resurgence thanks to designers’ enduring fascination with “The Great Gatsby.”

“The buzz surrounding the film has yet to calm down, which means dazzling, art deco-inspired pieces are popping up everywhere—bracelets, earrings, even vintage engagement rings—you name it,” she says.

Framing the Face

Accessories even extend to the tresses, as brides begin to focus less on hairstyles than what accouterments can be added to those loose curls or sleek updos. Dramatic veils are back in the spotlight where they find fine company with embellished headpieces, sparkling headbands, feathers and bejeweled hair accessories—from encrusted hair combs to custom hair jewelry that mixes new and vintage or crystals and pearls.

Jodi Cohen and Sarah Lowy of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based JOWY Productions explain that most brides want something unique, but not too trendy or outrageous. Similar to dress shopping, choosing accessories simply based on trends could make wedding photos look dated only a year later.

If that’s a concern, it’s always safe to go timeless and classic, experts say. “Vintage lace is elegant, significant and traditional—just like Sea Island,” Killgallon says. Using the lace in the bride’s veil, as part of her dress or even wrapped around her bouquet’s flower stems adds a chic yet showstopping texture. “We’ve even replicated a third-generation lace piece in the invitation, cake design and linens.”

Beyond lace, a Southern belle’s reigning favorite addition is the floral hairpiece, says Elizabeth Stephenson, owner of Table 6 Productions, an event planning company with locations in several states. Whether worn as a wreath, a crown or in a comb, the mix of flowers and color makes these accessories utterly charming paired with simple jewelry and no veil. “Recently, I worked on a photo shoot where we added a floral wreath to a Swarovski crystal tiara to merge the best of both worlds: sparkle and natural,” she says. “It was so beautiful.”

Annie Floral Headpiece from Happily Ever Borrowed

Autumn Headpiece  filigree metal leaf style encrusted with tiny Swarovski rhinestones from Happily Ever Borrowed
Hair accessories like those from Happily Ever Borrowed give ensembles an elegantly vintage feel.

From flowers to glittering gems, modern brides remain diverse in their styling choices, Pool says. “But we certainly don’t skimp on the bling!” she adds. “It is just less bedazzled and more shimmery.” One of her tips: Outdoor lighting works better with beadwork rather than rhinestones. “Your photos will prove more flattering with a softer shine [in your accessories].”

Unexpected Accents

A classic or simple silhouette is the ultimate starting point from which to personalize a bridal look with accessories.

“The most go-to add-on is hands down the bridal belt or sash,” Pool says. “It can totally change the overall look of a dress and, when used properly, can enhance the bride’s figure or hide any flaws.” As part of Pool’s Grayson Elise accessories line, the Reagan belt instantly adds a golden touch. With crystal details, floral threading and pearl accents, If there is one fashion truism for women these days, it is this: A dress is merely a dress until the wearer makes it her own. Even with magnificent wedding gowns, the “perfect dress” is just the beginning of a modern bride’s look, only the sketch of a full masterpiece—complete with accessories such as jewelry, headpieces, sashes and more—that will reflect her unmistakably personal style.

Reagan Headpiece by Grayson Elise
The Reagan by Grayson Elise is an embellished ribbon that transforms from a headband to a sash.

“We want every bride to feel special on her big day and, as many ladies wear the same gown, they should stand out as individuals,” says Lacy Pool, buyer for Serendipity Bridal, a bridal salon that has been serving Austin, Texas, for more than 20 years, and co-designer of a new bridal accessories collection called Grayson Elise. “The right accessories can achieve this. We Southern girls are often falsely accused of overaccessorizing, but this could not be further from the truth. For the most part … brides here choose one key piece and leave the rest of the style up to the dress.”

Just how many accessories any bride might pull together will depend upon her personal taste. As the glamorous world of bridal offerings takes its cues from current fashion trends, brides have more to consider than ever. From adding an embellished sash, dangling chandelier earrings or a forest-fresh crown of flowers to incorporating a keepsake of vintage lace, women are embracing the fact that it’s actually what they pair with that striking gown that defines their signature wedding-day look.

Elizabeth Killgallon, associate director of catering at Sea Island, has noticed this growing trend at the resort’s many weddings. “Sea Island brides are all about accessorizing, especially with pieces that carry a story,” Killgallon says. “Whether it be a pair of earrings that their husband-to-be bought them on their first date anniversary or grandmother’s lace gloves that the bride will wear down the aisle, those pieces give her a one-and-only look that comes with tradition and meaning.”
Accessories also allow the bride to easily make an intriguing transformation from ceremony to reception to after-party—adding, subtracting and redefining her look along the way. More than an updo that’s tousled loose or a bolder shade of lipstick, the bride employs accessories to complete her transition from one part of the big day to the next.

Sparkle and Shine

Some of these opulent touches do double or even triple duty. Take, for example, the Sophie, a highly desirable piece at wedding accessory rental website Happily Ever Borrowed (happilyeverborrowed.com). This gleaming strand of Swarovski crystal floral pendants on a ribbon tie can be worn as a headband, necklace or sash.
Crystals and pearls are just a few of the irresistible baubles that brides are slipping into as they layer their look with accessories.

Family mementos, antique jewelry, treasured lockets, charms and charm bracelets also appeal to many brides, says Keisha Scott, lead planner and designer at North Carolina-based K. Scott Weddings. “Southern weddings are all about heirlooms and traditions, so here you’ll see accessories that aren’t sold in stores but are instead passed down from generation to generation.”

In addition to pieces with some history, bridal jewelry of the moment falls right in line with fashion. Trending rose gold has lit up the scene in addition to ethereal touches produced by metallic trims or artistically structured feathers.

“Large statement necklaces, chandelier earrings and bracelets are bringing high-fashion style to simpler and modern bridal gowns,” says Brittany Haas, founder of Happily Ever Borrowed.

The site’s social media manager, Andrea Calvert, also points to romantic jewelry that has experienced a recent resurgence thanks to designers’ enduring fascination with “The Great Gatsby.”

“The buzz surrounding the film has yet to calm down, which means dazzling, art deco-inspired pieces are popping up everywhere—bracelets, earrings, even vintage engagement rings—you name it,” she says.

Framing the Face

Accessories even extend to the tresses, as brides begin to focus less on hairstyles than what accouterments can be added to those loose curls or sleek updos. Dramatic veils are back in the spotlight where they find fine company with embellished headpieces, sparkling headbands, feathers and bejeweled hair accessories—from encrusted hair combs to custom hair jewelry that mixes new and vintage or crystals and pearls.

Jodi Cohen and Sarah Lowy of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based JOWY Productions explain that most brides want something unique, but not too trendy or outrageous. Similar to dress shopping, choosing accessories simply based on trends could make wedding photos look dated only a year later.

If that’s a concern, it’s always safe to go timeless and classic, experts say. “Vintage lace is elegant, significant and traditional—just like Sea Island,” Killgallon says. Using the lace in the bride’s veil, as part of her dress or even wrapped around her bouquet’s flower stems adds a chic yet showstopping texture. “We’ve even replicated a third-generation lace piece in the invitation, cake design and linens.”

Beyond lace, a Southern belle’s reigning favorite addition is the floral hairpiece, says Elizabeth Stephenson, owner of Table 6 Productions, an event planning company with locations in several states. Whether worn as a wreath, a crown or in a comb, the mix of flowers and color makes these accessories utterly charming paired with simple jewelry and no veil. “Recently, I worked on a photo shoot where we added a floral wreath to a Swarovski crystal tiara to merge the best of both worlds: sparkle and natural,” she says. “It was so beautiful.”

From flowers to glittering gems, modern brides remain diverse in their styling choices, Pool says. “But we certainly don’t skimp on the bling!” she adds. “It is just less bedazzled and more shimmery.” One of her tips: Outdoor lighting works better with beadwork rather than rhinestones. “Your photos will prove more flattering with a softer shine [in your accessories].”

Unexpected Accents

A classic or simple silhouette is the ultimate starting point from which to personalize a bridal look with accessories.

“The most go-to add-on is hands down the bridal belt or sash,” Pool says. “It can totally change the overall look of a dress and, when used properly, can enhance the bride’s figure or hide any flaws.” As part of Pool’s Grayson Elise accessories line, the Reagan belt instantly adds a golden touch. With crystal details, floral threading and pearl accents, this stunning applique glistens like sunlight off a barely-there sheer organza ribbon.

In addition to belts, dainty bolero jackets, capes of all cuts and fanciful cuffs each have their place with the right dress. Add to the list vibrant shoes peeking beneath a hem in “something blue” or the bride’s favorite color. To transform a sleeveless dress, just add cap sleeves—either permanently or in a way that allows them to be detached. The scalloped ivory tulle Lena cap sleeves by Grayson Elise are adorned with floating floral rhinestones for a look that’s lighter than air.

It’s often tempting to immediately follow an engagement ring with dress and accessory shopping. Still, many pros suggest booking the venue first. “More and more, the accessories are inspired by the actual feel of the wedding,” says Texas-based wedding stylist Lindsey Zamora. “If I’m designing a wedding with an Old World feel, I want to source a vintage headpiece that looks worn and has character. For a modern wedding, it makes sense that any accessories be simple and minimal in design.”

No matter what design a bride ultimately chooses, the key is to add accessories that reflect her own signature style. Jewelry, headpieces, sashes and bolero jackets all help to customize an ensemble and create a look that’s as one-of-a-kind as the bride.

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