By  on October 24, 2006

NEW YORK — Looking beyond the trappings of traditional wedding attire, several designers are kicking up the fashion quotient in their bridal collections.

Last week's bridal market packed plenty of options for fashion-minded brides-to-be, from deconstructed dresses at Vera Wang to laundered gowns at Lela Rose. Aside from having roomier silhouettes designed to look dramatic from a variety of angles, not just for the standard full-length portrait, some of Wang's dresses are also convertibles — essentially two dresses in one.

"I'm trying to push them away [from traditional dresses] to get them to go forward," Wang said of her customers. "Brides have to evolve from a fashion point of view — and why shouldn't they?"

The emphasis on more stylish dresses is more in step with brides who are jetting off to destination weddings, which continue to be a driving force in the $120 billion bridal industry. Many are more willing to spring for a designer dress since they are footing the bill for their weddings and often have more money to burn because they are tying the knot later in life. Even pets that follow the bride down the aisle now have dressier options. Hamptons Hound, the luxury pet accessories label, has introduced a bridal collection of hand-beaded leather collars.

Women have faced their own fashion challenges in choosing wedding gowns, according to William Calvert, who has been selling customized gowns for years and is now pursuing wholesale.

"It's either Cinderella or a slipdress," he said. "But now more people are thinking, ‘I'm smart. I want something interesting. I don't want to look like Barbie.'"

Calvert introduced his line of wedding gowns at a cocktail party in his Hell's Kitchen town house last week. The guest of honor was Oprah Winfrey's niece Chrishaunda Lee Perez, who appears in the current issue of Town & Country Weddings in the gown Calvert designed for her nuptials in the Bahamas. Her dress, which required 55 yards of fabric and featured white chiffon over layers of ivory habotai and gold habotai, was among the dresses displayed. The average retail price of one of Calvert's gowns is $10,000.

A newcomer to the wedding dress scene is Lela Rose, who approached the category from a ready-to-wear point of view.

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