[Courtesy of Benjamin Dicaprio]

Walking Down The Aisle With Style

05:30 February 10, 2016
By: Kristal Blue

Now it's time to start planning for the big day. You're probably thinking, "What does fashion have to do with my wedding?" Well...everything. Fashion is all about structure, balance, and design. It is in every detail from the clothes, to the decorations and even the flowers. But, before you start shopping for dresses and picking out flowers, stop, think, and talk it over with your husband-to-be (a good practice anyway) and ask, "What makes us... us?"

"Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly." -Epictetus

Although men tend to not think about weddings until later on in life, as little girls, women begin to dream of white lace, pink flowers, and our very own prince charming. We imagine ourselves in the purest of whites from head to toe. Then, we wake up 15 years later realizing that white is not the most flattering color in the spectrum, our pinks are now a deep shade of red, and our prince charming is screaming obscenities at the refs in the other room. So, how do we take our dreams and fuse them with our reality? It's not impossible, but it does take a little more thought and planning.

Transitioning from the quaint, somewhat routine procedures of the past, couples are taking on more dramatic quests and turning their weddings into entire productions. The modern wedding is now focused more on personalization, coming together to present an artful expression of love and adventure, highlighting the elements of the couple, their experiences, their dreams, and their families. The wedding fashion should be no different. Your dress, your tuxedo or suit; everything should say, "this is us."

The major question is, "How can I make my wedding fun and personal, while also remaining within the social constructs of Southern charm?" Well, here are a few pointers to help you on your way.

Fashion, in the literal sense of the word, only lasts for about six months. So, when choosing your look for the big day, it's important to look at not only what is in now, but also what looks have already come to pass.

In 2010, the bridal industry was all about extravagance and glamour. On runways and across the country we saw a plethora of vintage inspired dresses from the 1930s mermaid silhouette to the over-the-top tulle explosions of a ball gown. Celebrities like Nicole Richie took this trend to heart by not only having one lace and tulle gown, but three Marchesa dresses. Each one ornate and over-the-top...even with their names embroidered into the lace.

Thankfully, this season has taken a drastic turn, and for the better. The 2011 bridal season can be summed up in three words: vintage, class, and romance. Many designers, such as Romona Keveza and Monique Lhullier, are seemingly turning toward timeless elegance and away from the previously popular (and rarely flattering) asymmetrical designs. Say goodbye to tiers, ruffles, and say hello to natural waists, modified A-line gowns, and beautiful simplicity. The presence of romantic elements is more prevalent than ever this season. Delicate lace, intricate bows, and an abundance of ethereal flowers took over the runways.

What is the most exciting trend this season? SHOULDERS! Whether you choose simple straps, a deep v-neck, or caplet sleeves, the typical strapless gown is now being transformed into the epitome of romance with a few small details to create effortless glamour and femininity. If you're looking for something more dramatic, follow the lead of artists such as Oscar de la Renta and Anna Maier who even used bridal jackets and sleeve alternatives to take the look one step further. Look for a sort of romanticism that evokes a scent of enchantment directly out of the French countryside, combined with the influence of style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O.

Quite possibly the most questionable design choice of the season would have to be patterned bridal gowns. I've seen numerous high-end designers like Lazaro, Carolina Herrera and St. Pucchi send models down the runway in what? Floral print. Don't let the high price tag trick you into buying something that looks like your Aunt Martha's old drapes. You will regret it. Trust me.

Still not sure which trends to follow? Here's a simple tip: establish some fashion ground rules. Find a designer you not only like, but trust, and use their line as a backdrop for your decisions. My personal bridal fashion compass for the past few years has been California-based designer Jenny Lee. A graduate of the Parson's School of Design, and featured designer at Town and Country Bridal on St. Charles Avenue, Jenny's fresh, elegant designs are consistently featured in the top bridal magazines such as InStyle Weddings, Modern Bride, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Year after year her line features classic, hand-made gowns, and 2015 is no different. The prevalence of sweetheart necklines coupled with natural waist bodices provide a line sure to flatter any body type.

Wedding fashion cannot simply be confined to the style of the bride's dress. Therefore, when discussing wedding fashion, I'd be amiss not to touch upon not only the bride, but also the groom, and the entire wedding party as well. Straying away from the stereotypical "It's all about the bride" focus has thankfully shifted to the entire wedding party looking their best. Just because you're the ones getting married doesn't mean you shouldn't have everyone else looking their best to enhance the overall effect. A great looking bridal party makes for a great photo album.

Hey, grooms-to-be, think wedding fashion only applies to women? Think again. You have the opportunity to have fun with your wardrobe; feel free to add your own flair! Personal opinion: ditch the tux and go for the suit. Keep the look modern by choosing a well fitted, single-breasted jacket with flat-front trousers. What is the best part of choosing a suit? You get to wear it again! Specialty men's stores such as JoS A. Bank Clothiers not only have a wide selection of suits at amazing prices, but also have two locations: Metairie and New Orleans.

If you're getting married in spring or summer, feel free to choose a neutral color suit such as tan or kahki. A grey suit is tasteful for any season, while stepping aside from the traditional black and white. Now, if you're looking for a casual, yet sophisticated look spruce up any suit or outfit with a vest. Also, don't think the only way to personalize your gentleman's attire is to add some funky ties. One word: socks. Grooms and groomsmen across the country are expressing their individuality by donning fun, patterned socks and the ditching traditional men's loafers for the ever-popular chucks.
Regardless of your style or budget, a few things will still hit home across the board. The cost of textiles (material) is expected to skyrocket within the next few months, so prepare yourself to see the price of dresses rise considerably. Even given the smallest budget, don't EVER feel you have to sacrifice style or fashion for any cost. The key is you just have to know what you're looking for; more importantly, you need to know where to look.

Local consignment stores such as Prima Donna's Closet, with locations Uptown, Downtown and in Metairie; and online resale boutiques like RecycledBride.com offer more options than ever. Want something new without breaking the bank? Check out mainstream companies such as The Bridal Club at J. Crew and online Web sites such as RentTheRunway.com. Also, be on the lookout for Anthropologie's label, which will feature an all inclusive line of all things bridal from clothing to accessories and even gifts!

If you're still vying for the for the high-end boutique gown, make sure and check out local stores, such as Bustles and Bows in Metairie and Town and Country Bridal Salon on St. Charles for sample sales, which are usually published on their Web site.

Alright, now its time to have the tough-love talk. Here are a few things to ditch this season.

First: cookie-cutter bridesmaid dresses. Don't fall prey to the notion that you will look better if your best friends look like something out of Little Miss Muffet. Instead, allow your girls a chance to express their individuality by wearing a dress that best suits their body type. A friend of mine simply told her bridesmaids, "wear your best little black dress." Everyone looked fabulous, and the lack of uniformity was quite refreshing (just make sure and approve the dress beforehand).

Second: ditch that boring old veil. Choose a unique hair accessory like a hand-made embellished hair pin from TessaKim.com, which is not only unique but offers a functionality beyond your 20-aisle runner debut.

"Instead [of a veil] a flattering accessory can do the job to simplify, dress up or add the high fashion flare," advises Kristi Klemens, an award-winning international wedding photographer and founder of www.thesoilandsea.com. "Small things like a bright colored shoe, a change in the bridesmaid dresses, or just wearing the hair down can make a huge difference."

Third: keep in mind that when selecting your jewelry it's best to choose something versatile. Go with something you can wear for years to come so you can always carry with you a piece of your special day. Washington-based jewelry designer Neallie Walvatne of Vatne Designs offers handcrafted, one of a kind pieces with absolutely remarkable style. A few stand-out pieces from the Vatne collection are the antique silver filigree bracelet adorned with pearls and Swarovski rhinestones, creating a timeless elegance with a sophisticated twist. Pair that with the Kenady earrings for a glamorous, romantic look.

You may be hyperventilating when thinking of how you're going to pay for everything. Rest easy and remember the glorious Coco Chanel said that "luxury is not the opposite of poverty, it is the opposite of vulgarity". More people are turning to internet vendors to find the most things for their big day (not to mention the ability to avoid the crowds). Have you ever been to Pearl's Place on a Saturday? Exactly.

If you're more comfortable seeing all your choices in person, check out The Bride's Lounge, a full service bridal boutique located on Magazine Street.

"[We are] essentially a one stop shop for brides to be," says Emily Sullivan, owner. "We showcase the best of the best in New Orleans' weddings, as well as provide complimentary advice and guidance on anything from how to obtain a second line permit to how to maximize your budget."

What is the best part about this all-in-one bridal stop? It not only partners with and showcases the best local vendors, their services are open to all brides, regardless of budget!

All-in-all, the most important thing you can do is personalize your wedding style. Go for little things that can add a personal touch and give your look that something special. Because let's be honest, if you want the big poofy dress with the pink bow sleeves, you're going to get it. My best advice? Whatever look you go for, own it. You will be looking at the pictures for years to come. Always remember, the best accessory you could ever own is your own smile.

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