Any modern girl worth her Louboutins knows a dress is only a dress without the essential look-defining accessories. But when it comes to weddings, brides have often been shy about infusing their personality and fashion sense into the traditional all-white look.
Now, in an age when red-carpet stylists are as famous as the starlets they dress, styling one’s bridal look has become as pivotal as the event’s colors and venue. “They’re both very important events in a woman’s life — some go to red carpets all the time, and some go once and it’s their wedding,” said James Mischka, co-founder of Badgley Mischka, known for wedding gowns and eveningwear.
“The wedding day is like a fashion show for the bride,” said Tori Hendrix, co-founder of Sitting in a Tree, a California-based event styling firm. “It’s her one day to completely glam out.”
In the past, brides simply accessorized their gowns with the bridal-white basics: satin pumps, pearls and a veil. But lately, they’ve become more adventurous,
mixing in high-fashion pieces like colorful heels and skinny vintage belts to create a look reminiscent of a decade, runway trend or famous person.
But the most important inspiration seems to be the bride’s personality — which quirky, classic or sassy accents and expert styling can bring to light.
“A lot of things have changed in the last several years, and now brides are really into customizing themselves and basically breaking all traditions,” said Mara Urshel of New York’s Kleinfeld Bridal (where TLC’s “Say Yes To The Dress” is filmed).
“Years ago it was just about the dress, and she wore mother’s plain pearls and a basic white pump, and it wasn’t about all these charming, beautiful, personalized accessorizes that you see now,” said Mark Badgley, the other half of Badgley Mischka.
“We usually choose the venue first, and then we go to the dress,” said Wesley Swafford, a former Monique Lhuillier staffer and now the owner of the L.A.- and New York-based Wesley Swafford Event Design. “We kind of develop a storyboard and plan the whole wedding based on those two things.”
“Whether it’s a casual setting or elegant and traditional, I do think brides tend to play off the venue a lot, and we do too,” said Myka Haddad, the other co-founder of Sitting in a Tree.
Haddad and Hendrix were each recently married — in a barn in Carmel and in Mexico, respectively — and those environments were crucial to their whimsical looks. For her wedding, Haddad wore a short, flirty dress with ruffles that befitted the relaxed setting. She styled her look with off-white ankle booties with black ribbon bows, stacked bracelets and a giant flower headband.
“The rules have totally changed,” Haddad said. “You can shop for shoes, hair accessories and jewelry everywhere, because why would you be limited to specialty bridal stores when ... you want to add color and personality?
“You have to add that infusion of personality. It’s your wedding day, but you’re not dead,” she added with a laugh.
From head to heels
Shoes have evolved into perhaps the most expressive accessory. Brides are “definitely much more experimental in the shoe department.... They want something glamorous that suits their personality, and they’re using it as a really important detail,” said Badgley.
In fact, the tradition of dyeing shoes to match the gown is not advisable in the modern world of bridal styling. “I don’t think matching everything perfectly is the rule of thumb,” Swafford said. “Part of styling a bride comes from the ability to pull from different areas to create that particular style.”
And while the colors might not match, the overall look should be in sync. A short sequined dress with a 1970s glam look, for example, might be worn with gold heels and a gold net veil, but no jewelry, to keep it classic. Or a bride channeling a ’70s flower child style might pair a flowing dress with flat sandals and handcrafted earrings.
A lavish veil can make a statement all on its own, and requires a simple gown and few accessories, stylists said. Conversely, a bride who chooses an embellished gown needs to rein in the other elements to stay chic. And when it comes to jewelry, less is also usually more. The focus should be on the bride’s face and not her bling. Call attention to one spot — ears, neck or a wrist — and keep decoration on the others minimal.
“With all the fashion jewelry, you’ve got to pull back somewhere, otherwise it’s overkill. If you’re doing a lot of makeup, do a simple chignon without a necklace and chandelier earring,” Badgley said.
Something else that comes into play is the engagement ring. “Some women have those big, huge rings that almost speak for themselves from the waist-down, so that bride should play up her necklace or earrings,” said Swafford.
Wearing dainty gloves is one way to emphasize that stunning ring. “It’s all about the short, fingerless gloves that are really soft, sheer silk tulle or embroidered Chantilly lace, for the more edgy bride who wants the illusion that she’s sophisticated and ladylike but with a silent edge,” Swafford said. With a strapless gown, said Hendrix, try “a longer glove to play up that curvaceous film noir feeling.”
A gown can also be customized with a skinny belt. “It’s flattering on teeny little wasp waists and with the big, gorgeous skirt — those embellished belts are so dramatic and photogenic,” said Badgley.
Stylists encourage even conservative brides to personalize their look. “I’m big on trying to pop in an element of surprise if you’re traditional to the core,” said Swafford. “Throw in a pop of color with your shoe, or something quirky with your hair or a great vintage cuff — something that brings a modern approach to tradition and makes a bride feel fashion-forward.”
The magic ingredient is finding that balance, she said, “between being current [and] the timeless Grace Kelly look that everybody loves.”
— Emerson Patrick, Custom Publishing Writer
Photos from top:
- For her wedding to Georges Haddad, Myka Haddad kept her look fun with a short dress, booties and an oversized fabric flower in her hair. Photo by Melissa Diep, Melissadiep.com.
- The Lucas gown from Mark & James by Badgley Mischka has an asymmetrically placed flower, so the cuff bracelet was worn on the opposite wrist. Photo by Dan Lecca.
- Badgley Mischka’s Buttercup gown is so textured that it only needs chandelier earrings to set it off. Photo by Dan Lecca
- The Marie dress from Long Beach-based Quail Bridal is
given a ladylike edge with the collection’s Net Gloves. Photo courtesy
This story was edited and designed by the Custom Publishing staff of the Los Angeles Times Advertising Department. Questions or comments? Contact Darlene Gunther at 213.237.3133 or e-mail her at email@example.com.