Byline: Nancy Brumback

CHICAGO — Two-piece bridal gowns are becoming increasingly popular, with a continuing trend to simpler looks with sleeveless styles, often accompanied by a matching shawl, according to retailers shopping the National Bridal Market at the Chicago Apparel Center Sept. 23-26.
Owners of bridal shops generally reported business has been good this past year, although most did not see the surge of “millennium brides” wanting to get married in the year 2000 that had been predicted a year ago. Most also reported business is continuing strong for the spring-summer 2001 wedding season.
While many manufacturers were showing some color on wedding gowns, most often in embroidered trim, retailers were skeptical how well that would play with brides in their markets.
Dori Klubertanz, buyer and manager for Yost’s in Madison, Wis., said she expected an excellent year.
“We’re selling well into June already,” Klubertanz said.
Her brides are looking for simple styles with some crystal beading rather than lacy trim.
“They’re starting to look at halter styles and sheaths again, and we’re selling a lot of shawls,” said Klubertanz, who said she was a little hesitant about two-piece styles. “That market is a little limited. We are not going to stock up on a lot of them.”
She did, however, like two-piece styles for bridesmaids’ dresses.
“They can buy the top and skirt in different sizes, and that can be wonderful,” she added.
Klubertanz liked some bridal gowns with colored embroidery from Monique Bridal, as well as some styles in larger sizes from Paloma Blanca. Most bridal gowns in her shop, which she described as moderately priced, are under $1,000, although some brides are willing to go up to $1,200.
Karen Chase, owner of Mecklenburg Bridal Gallery, Charlotte, N.C., had a strong year and has seen no drop-off in business for the coming season.
She finds brides putting “an emphasis on strapless” styles, with “some asking for more tulle.” Cleaner, simpler lines are popular, she added, and pastel colors, especially lilac, celadon, platinum and pewter, remain popular for bridesmaids’ dresses, and “two-piece is big for brides and maids.”
Chase was also looking for younger designs in mother-of-the-bride dresses.
“The mothers don’t want to look like mothers,” she added, citing strong styles from Daymor, Junnie Leigh and Montage.
Bobbie Ziffren, owner of Bobbie’s Bridal in Peoria, Ill., reported business “about doubled this year with no drop-off” for the coming months.
In this conservative Midwest market “a lot of girls are looking for dresses with sleeves or small sleeves.” Two-piece styles for bridesmaids are also popular, Ziffren said. While the top-selling colors for bridesmaids’ dresses are black and silver, any shade of purple and the darker tones of burgundy and navy are also strong.
Ziffren liked some rainbow colors like pastels shading into one another, which were shown at this market for bridesmaids’ dresses for summer.
Jo Graves, owner of Sher’s in Louisville, Ky., thought the 2000 wedding season was actually down slightly from the previous year, but that 2001 looks stronger.
Red and periwinkle have been strong colors for attendants in her market, but she expects the pastels to dominate in the spring. Brides are going more upscale in their dresses, Graves said, “with lots of high-fashion looks” and not much lace. “Contemporary, sleek, elegant” styles are important, said Graves, who expects to sell wedding gowns with color-touches of lilac, pink and green.
“The manufacturers are going into color and I think it’s great,” she said, giving brides an opportunity to coordinate their dress, attendants’ dresses and flowers.
Brides are also adopting a different headpiece, with porcelain flowers in pastel shades on a base that can be kept as a family heirloom, with veils separate on combs. Mothers, she noted, are looking at tailored suits with beaded or embroidered accents and a more youthful look. Graves said “high-end moms” are also looking for brighter colors, and she particularly liked lines from Maggie Sottero and Pronovias.
Jinny Bartusick, owner of Jinny’s Bridal, Huntington Beach, Calif., did see a boost in business from millennium brides that is continuing into the coming year.
She sells a lot of strapless styles “for beach and Las Vegas weddings.” Bartusick has also seen a “huge” two-piece business for bridesmaids’ gowns. Some weddings, she said, feature different styles in tops and skirts for bridesmaids, depending on their body type, but all in the same color.
“It’s nice because you can make the dress fit without a huge alteration bill,” Bartusick noted.
Periwinkle, silver and platinum remain popular colors for bridesmaids, she said.
Kym Sigler, vice president of Minton’s in Mobile, Ala., noted, “Millennium brides happened, but business is still great.”
Sleeveless bridal gowns in chiffon, georgette and silk, some with colored beading, are popular in her market, while bridemaids’ gowns are tending toward two-piece styles in periwinkle, lilac, sage and gold, with navy remaining strong.
Sigler said the average price for a wedding gown in her shop is $600 to $700, a price point that has held for several years.
Annette Kowalski, owner of Annette’s Bridal in St. Catharines, Ontario, noted her brides “really want the new look: two-piece, embroidery, beadwork.” Sleeveless is “big time,” she said, and the brides “love the shawls,” so much so that “We even make shawls for gowns that don’t come with them.”
Marty Boikess, vice president, sales and market development for Alfred Angelo, felt retailer attendance at this market was “off from last year,” but that the retailers at the market were buying.
“Millennium brides were a bust,” he added. “It was just a normal year.”
He expects a trend toward more color on bridal gowns to continue. For bridesmaids, Alfred Angelo was showing hot colors, including orange and coral.
Steve Siegel, manufacturer’s rep for headpiece company Edward Berger, agreed that “2000 was not what it was cracked up to be, with the first six months better than the last six.”
Siegel expressed some concern about Internet competition in the bridal business, with people offering styles from his catalog on a Web site, then calling to order the merchandise.
Marie Camp, owner of Just Adorable by Marie, a line of dresses and accessories for junior attendants, also noted a somewhat lower retailer attendance at this show.

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