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Fashion Police

Don't Shed a Tear for the Highly Frilly Bride

April 27, 2001|JEANINE STEIN

Dear Fashion Police: I wonder if you would comment on the current style of wedding gowns. They seem to be no more than prom dresses. Nothing distinguishes them as wedding gowns. While I realize that "modest" seems like a word from the past, don't you agree that it would be more elegant to have a little more covering of the bodice and sleeves? Wedding dresses used to be a mark of purity, and though that may be out of fashion, it seems they could at least be distinguishable as a wedding gown.

--THERE GOES THE BRIDE

Dear There: Wedding gowns are subject to changes in styles, trends and cultural shifts as much as any other aspect of fashion. In the past several years we've seen a huge evolution of bridal gown design, from the traditional cream-puffy, lace-encrusted, 8-foot train gown to one that's sleeker, less embellished and, yes, sexier. These days, some first-time brides are forgoing a white or ivory dress in favor of color. Others are opting out of the traditional Western bridal look altogether and choosing dresses that reflect their birth country or ethnic heritage.

We can credit designer Vera Wang for being one of the first to recognize that not every bride wants to glide down the aisle in 27 layers of taffeta. In fact, Wang, a former fashion magazine editor, began designing wedding dresses when she couldn't find a sophisticated gown for her own nuptials. Today, designers such as Amy Michelson, Romona Keveza and Richard Tyler continue to redefine and update the bridal gown. What celebs wear for their weddings also has an enormous influence on bridal trends. The late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's slip dress by Narciso Rodriguez and Jennifer Aniston's beaded, low-backed gown by Lawrence Steele had women running for similar looks.

Today's brides are not all blushing 20-year-olds dreaming of some fairy-tale wedding to Prince Charming. More women are choosing to marry for the first time in their 30s and 40s and 50s, when their sense of style is well-defined. They want gowns that reflect their taste, whether it's classic, avant-garde or thrift-shop vintage. Perhaps some of those "prom dresses" you've seen are more modern interpretations in plain satin or chiffon, with a touch of beading, lace, or pearl details. There are still plenty of traditional gowns out there, but now there are more choices--literally thousands--to appeal to every bride.

As for the modesty issue, that too can be chalked up to changing trends. Years ago no bride would think of baring her shoulders or showing off copious cleavage. But as clothing in general has gotten more daring and body-baring, so have wedding gowns, and strapless, off-the-shoulder or low-cut gowns are hardly raising eyebrows anymore. Many that we've seen are elegant and tasteful, and as along as the bride doesn't look like a stripper, we think showing a bit of skin isn't a fashion crime. Should a woman want some coverage, many gowns come with matching jackets, stoles or wraps that can be worn during the ceremony.

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WEB SITE ALERT: Plus-size gals should check out Uniquely Me (http://www.uniquelyme.com), which bills itself as a "Plus Size Liaison." It's a comprehensive site that includes resources for clothes, from sportswear to bras to bridal, coverage of fashion shows (i.e., Emme's launch of her new line), tips from experts, beauty information and inspirational stories. The site also offers a personal shopping service, so customers looking for a specific item can inquire via e-mail where to find it. Among the company's goals is creating better communication among consumers, manufacturers and retailers, which is done through customer surveys.

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Write to Fashion Police, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles CA 90012, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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