The ball gown never really went out of style.
It was, for a little while, simply overshadowed.
Blame all those brides who arrived at the altar in sinuous trumpet and fishtail silhouettes. Or those who craved cap-sleeve sheaths. Don’t forget the betrothed bohemians who, for the better part of five years, whispered “I do” in yards and yards of flowing tulle.
These days, however, whether the bride is taking her vows in the vineyard or the barnyard, the cathedral or the courthouse, more is definitely more. Full skirts are back. The princess gown is on the cusp of a comeback.
“We are seeing a return to regalness and grace,” said Lori Conley, division merchandise manager for David’s Bridal in Conshohocken. “Everything is now amplified. She is commanding her moment in the spotlight.”
Pop culture, Conley said, had a major hand in showing brides that it’s high time they reembrace the pouf.
First daughter Ivanka Trump danced into her new role as America’s princess in a champagne-hued Carolina Herrera gown. Some even argued that her dress upstaged the first lady’s straight gown, which she designed with Herve Pierre.
Volume also outdid slinky on Hollywood’s red carpets this year. The mauve Zuhair Murad dress actress Lily Collins wore to the Golden Globes was unforgettable. Kirstin Dunst chose a colossal vintage Dior for the Academy Awards — a beautiful and certainly bulbous departure from the actress’ body-skimming looks.
“Opulence is influencing couture after a long period of all things soft and muted,” Conley said, citing the young celebrities who attended last month’s Cannes Film Festival. Elle Fanning and Ashley Benson both went the billowing, strapless-gown route. “Glamour is making its way back to couture, and we all know that bridal takes its cues from that.”
Sofia Vergara in 2015 wore an embroidered Zuhair Murad gown for her extravagant wedding ceremony to Joe Manganiello. The sheath, in total form-fitting Vergara style, featured a come-hither sweetheart neckline. But in a surprisingly outside-the-box decision, the actress added a removable ball gown.
“That was the move that started to bring attention back to fullness in bridal,” said Ashley Corbett, owner of Center City’s Philadelphia Bridal Co. “She really brought the drama with that.”
Shortly after, Corbett said, the tubular silhouettes began to expand to slim A-lines, and then fuller A-lines. (In the fashion world, this is called collapsed volume.) From there emerged the two-piece: a midriff — mostly with a cap-sleeve shirt — paired with an abundant A-line. Finally, at March’s Bridal Fashion Week, the full-on ball gown emerged.
“You started to see designers like Marchesa make volume-friendly gowns that brides were wearing to their rustic and barnyard weddings,” Conley said. “Slowly but surely, brides stopped being afraid.”
Brides’ willful pivot toward classic volume doesn’t mean today’s princess gowns are the same one-trick ponies they were in the late 1990s — an indistinguishable collection of strapless bodices that featured a straight neckline and a cinched waist.
Instead, voluminous skirts are attached to illusion-lace halters. Sleeves are capped or three-quarter length. In sleeveless gowns, the decolletage drifts from the center of the cleavage to just above the belly button, although the latter requires a mesh overlay.
“The ball gown has been reinvented in a variety of different ways,” says Ivy Kaplin, owner of Old City boutique Lovely Bride. “Sweetheart necklines and less-structured silhouettes provide a goddess vibe. Those with cutouts are considered edgy. It allows for women who want a classic look to feel like herself on her wedding day.”
It’s not just the variety of bodices that makes today’s swelled skirts looks special. Texture plays a role, too.
Sheer linens are threaded with metallics for maiden bridal looks, and stiffer silks — like mikado and embroidered or embossed faille — create crisp, elegant frocks. Laces are thicker, more guipure than chantilly. Even ropes and cords are twisted into gowns by the very artistic.
When it comes to embellishment, crystals are starting to take a backseat to pearls.
“The freshest thing that we are seeing emerge as part of this magnificent gown trend is structure,” Conley said. “It stands stiffly on its own, creating a clean, more modern silhouette that just has that little bit of something.”
Finally, although rose and metallic gold are still a part of the bridal hue mix, those who like color are leaning toward the macaron color palette — think dusty purple, ocean blue, and even mint green.
So you have the best of both worlds: a classic look with individual touches. A bridal gown redux, if you will.
“Everything is just swinging more conservative,” Corbett said. “In order to seize their moment, their center of attention, the full ball gown kind of had to come back into play.”
Clothing and Accessories
Bernie Robbins Jewelers, 775 E. Lancaster Ave., Villanova, www.bernierobbins.com, 610-971-2446; Conrad Booker, email@example.com; David’s Bridal, Great Northeast Plaza, 215-744-9651, www.davidsbridal.com; Evantine Design, 715 Walnut St., 215-790-2576, evantinedesign.com; Lovely Bride, 237 Market St., 215-627-1800, www.lovelybride.com; Philadelphia Bridal Co., 1218 Spruce St., 267-239-5443, www.philadelphiabridalcompany.com; Plain Elain; plainelain.weebly.com.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Cira Green, a one-acre, elevated urban park that provides sweeping views of Center City, University City, and the Schuylkill. For more information, contact Clayre Cardi, 610-964-9600.
Hair and makeup : Hector Rodriguez, 215-375-2470.
Stylist: Mark Barksdale, @romanwarriorstyle Instagram.
Model: Ayana Wildgoose, W Talent Management.