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Bridal Report: To Each Her Own

Kate Middleton certainly epitomized the princess bride, but her look isn’t for every woman headed down the aisle.

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Kate Middleton certainly epitomized the princess bride, but her look isn’t for every woman headed down the aisle. In fact, many brides are abandoning any trace of a fairy-tale motif in order to maintain their everyday sense of style.

This story first appeared in the October 20, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Designers, of course, many of whom have ready-to-wear collections, are more than happy to oblige. At the recent bridal shows, Vera Wang, for one, went so far as to offer 15 gowns in black and nude. Nicole Miller took more of an eveningwear route, serving up such understated styles as a strapless allover sequin gown. “My brides aren’t about froufrou, they aren’t about fitting the bridal mold,” said Miller. “They want their personality and personal style to shine through on their big day.”

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Lela Rose president Karen Scheck couldn’t agree more. “A bride wants to look like herself on her wedding day, and not step too far out of the box of what she normally wears,” she said, adding that the firm is about to shoot its first bridal ad campaign, to be styled by Tina Chai and shot by Steven Pan.

Rose’s wedding gown line, along with that of Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Jenny Packham, Reem Acra and Marchesa, drew upon fabrics and motifs from their signature collections. “We want to bring the same things to our bridal customer that we bring to our ready-to-wear customers,” said de la Renta, whose latest bridal line includes 13 shoe styles. “The two collections are made in exactly the same way. We use the same fabrics, the same embroiderers, the same sample-makers, and the same techniques.”

Marchesa co-designer Georgina Chapman said her wedding gowns are always a continuation of the label’s eveningwear, and this collection, she notes, “stays true to the ethereal, feminine mood we have been feeling this season.”

Marchesa’s fitted lace mermaidlike gown was one of the all-time standouts for Mark Ingram, whose New York atelier specializes in designer labels. “All of the designers really took a step back and looked at where the market is now. They got artful,” he said.

Even the more extended color palette, like blush at Monique Lhuillier or blues at Romona Keveza, seemed to be derivative of nonbridal clothes. “It’s not as though they just translated a dress from their collection for bridal,” said Kleinfeld owner Mara Urshel. “And blush works, so does apricot. We sell it when it’s done well.”

While black isn’t known as a go-to hue for brides, Wang said her undergarment-inspired “Witchcraft” themed presentation struck a chord with stores. With loads of natural light streaming into her new Madison Square Park showroom Sunday, guests at her runway show could zero in on the dégradé laddering detail, asymmetric sheared flange, hand-pieced Chantilly lace appliqué and other intricate touches. Editorially minded as the colors might have been, they appealed to buyers and indicated just how progressive some brides have become. “Many stores are writing order for the gowns in black and nude, even though all the styles will be issued in ivory as well,” Wang noted. “To me it was about a design concept and it turned out to be one that resonated with the stores.”

As for Herrera, she said her collection is “dedicated to all of the women who want to be unique on the day of their wedding.” She pointed to her Helena dress, a crinkle chiffon number with flutter sleeves and a crystal embroidered belt, as a look “for the bride who seeks a distinctive yet effortless gown with impeccable movement and style.”

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