Byline: Julee Greenberg

Accessories may not account for a huge portion of the $32 billion bridal industry — which includes everything from clothing and catering to banquet halls and balloon centerpieces — but that may change if a handful of matrimonial-minded designers and retailers have their way.
Inspired by the category’s growth potential, many vendors are upping their bridal accessories offerings and shipping the pieces to an expanding number of bridal-hungry stores.
Lincoln Moore, designer eveningwear and bridal buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue, said the most popular bridal accessories are those that are simple and elegant.
“Small tiaras that are understated and conservative do well, as do those in great colors like yellow and blue, but never over-the-top,” he said.
The retailer’s other bestsellers include elaborate veils with simple dresses and veils that are made to match a specific dress. “Sometimes the veil will sell the dress, Moore said. “Reem Acra makes veils that match her dresses, and those do very well.”
As for handbags, Moore said that customers prefer simple pieces, including small satin pouches designed by Elizabeth Filmore.
“Bags are sometimes important to a bride, but I think a bridal shoe and headpiece are most important,” he said. “A bag needs to be matching and really something special — but unobtrusive.”
At Nordstrom, bridal jewelry drives the bride-to-be business.
“Most of our bridal business is done in jewelry, both fashion and fine, with a little bit in accessories such as hair goods, wraps and gloves,” said Paul Begich, Nordstrom’s divisional merchandise manager for accessories. “We’ve noticed [there is] a more contemporary bride who is going for more color, not just clear crystal and white pearl. They are experimenting with colored crystals from lines like Liz Palacios and Blair Delmonico. And Swarovski provides great classics with some cleaner, more contemporary designs for the more modern bride. The Swarovski four-row choker a la Jackie O is very strong.”
Begich said customer demand for bridal accessories increased after the company placed an ad in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. The ad featured Nordstrom accessories resources Blair Delmonico, Judith Jack, Nadri and Swarovski.
With demand for bridal accessories on the rise, designers are busily working to increase their offerings in the category.
When viewers of NBC’s “Today” show in July voted to clothe the bride of the program’s September televised wedding in a Reem Acra gown, the designer’s business increased, she said, with brides all over the country taking notice of her work as a bridal gown designer.
But what many shoppers do not know about Acra is that when she launched her business six years ago, she started with accessories.
“I think I started the tiara trend, and they are still the most popular type of headpiece,” said Acra, whose brother, Max, designs the tiara collection.
Acra designs veils to match each of her dresses and this fall added to her accessories collection light tulle and beaded jackets and shawls.
“The shawls are perfect to go with a strapless dress for the ceremony, and she can take it off for the reception,” she said.
While Acra said she is moving slowly with her bridal accessories, she said she is considering launching a line of handbags and shoes.
With Judith Leiber’s first bridal bag collection in stores now, designer Drusilla Plunkett said it has been well received at retail. “We have had requests for bridal for so long, it seemed like a natural for us,” she said.
The collection consists of a variety of styles, some more extravagant than others. There are a few traditional Judith Leiber crystal boxes mixed in with beaded and embroidered bags. Plunkett said that all bags in the bridal collection will continue in the collection and more will be added.
Although bags for the bride have become increasingly popular, bridal shoes will always be most important, said Mark Badgley, co-designer at Badgley Mischka.
“There is always a huge focus on the bridal shoe,” he said. “They are sexy and open-toed. No one wants closed-toe, no matter what the season is.”
As far as bags are concerned, Badgley said brides look for small pieces.
“This is the one time when she can get away with having a small bag. She doesn’t need her cell phone at her wedding,” he said. “Our bags are slightly vintage-inspired, beaded with sterling frames. Most of them have dainty chains, but there are some clutches. I think the bride should have her hands free.”
Badgley said that while there are some veils in the collection, he usually does not recommend the veil.
“About half the girls I see want a veil. Ours are very basic and simple, nothing fussy,” he said. “A big veil takes away from her and from the gown; I think they are too much.”