They're still talking about Princess Diana in bridal circles.
"Everything about her wedding was grandiose," recalls Paul Diamond, visions of the royal event dancing in his head. "It had a tremendous impact. It hit at the right time and brought back the traditional wedding."
Diamond says statistics show weddings in America aren't on the increase. But splendor is. As president of the Diamond Collection, he provides brides with elaborate gowns priced from $1,200 to $2,500. The underlying theme is "tradition with a twist," he says. "Even the most high-fashion woman wants some tradition."
But she wants it on the sexy side, and even colorful, according to the New York-based executive, who gets much of his inside information from visiting stores and talking to customers.
Surrounded by future brides at Bullocks Wilshire recently, he was having a typical day, answering what he called "the usual questions."
A tall, sophisticated woman, on the verge of saying yes to a figure-revealing lace dress, asked if the sumptuous shoulder ruffles could be reduced. "They're way too poufy for me," she complained.
Another bride-to-be paused before Diamond in a detail-laden gown. The lavishly beaded bodice dropped down to a silk Shantung skirt, which ended in a bubble effect. But the woman asked for a longer bodice--and got it.
"I would say no if I didn't agree," Diamond explained later. "But all she's doing is enhancing the design."
Any changes are ultimately tackled by designer Frank Masandrea, who last year won the first Bride's magazine Award for Excellence. Because Masandrea doesn't like road work, it is Diamond who annually makes as many as 30 trunk-show appearances.
When he went around the country last year, he learned brides wanted to show more skin. And--shades of the '50s--they wanted colors in addition to ivory and white.
As a result, many styles in the fall collection "definitely have more sex appeal." For the color seekers, there is rum pink, created by putting ivory silk Shantung over a peach taffeta lining.
Diamond is in a business where the product "is difficult to understand." Whenever he can, he likes to tell the facts.
Depending upon details, such as hand beading, one of his gowns requires anywhere from 15 to 20 hours of labor. The outside is made of silk Shantung, silk taffeta or silk satin. The inside is made with "clean seams and lined so it's soft next to the skin." He believes all the extras "are something mothers can relate to."
The mothers usually arrive when a final decision is at hand. "We're aiming at a career woman, 25 to 35 years old," the executive explained. "The first time, she comes into a store without her mother, and when she brings her in, it's to say: 'Look, Mom, this is what I'm getting.' She ultimately wants her approval, not necessarily her taste."
Diamond proudly claimed his gowns had always gotten to the wedding on time. Normal delivery takes 12 weeks, but in a pinch--and for an extra charge--the company can produce a gown in one week.
Faced with a crisis, Diamond has done even better. Once, a bride picked up her dress, grabbed a cab, rushed to the airport and flew to her wedding destination. But she left the boxed gown in the taxi.
"The driver kept it," Diamond reported. "I stopped the whole factory, made a dress in one day and shipped it out.
"Missing a wedding," he solemnly added, "is unheard of."