Choosing a wedding gown may be almost as challenging as choosing the groom! HAIR’S HOW caught up with Mara Urshel, co-owner of Kleinfeld Manhattan and, for the past four seasons, the revered wedding gown guru for TLC’s smash series, “Say Yes to the Dress.”
Mara and her team of more than 250 consultants offer brides gowns from 85 designers, as well as accessories and other bridal services. She is optimistic about the future of bridal fashion. Because today's bride is often older than in generations past-Mara's typical client is 28 or 29 years old, or even a bit older-today's bride brings a level of independence to the decision-making.
The predominant trend in gown styles today, she says, is glamour, meaning frankly, openly, unabashedly sexy. This translates to a closely fitted bodice which hugs the body down to the hip-line. According to Mara, two specific features demanded by today's brides make this fit possible:
The "mermaid" silhouette, which flares out below the knee to accentuate the bride's curves.
The corset, either incorporated as part of the dress, or wo beneath. "The lace-up aspect of the corset is very seductive, so many brides choose a gown which actually has this feature. And they are designed to be laced in as tightly as any Southe belle of centuries past."
Today's glamorous bride, however, shows far more skin than any proper Southe lady would have dared, especially on her wedding day. It's not unusual, according to Mara, for a bride to "debut" a breast augmentation just in time for the wedding, and thus chooses a gown to accentuate her frontal assets.
"How much skin to show is a highly personal choice," she says. "Sometimes I may gently recommend something less revealing, but many brides really do want to appear quite sexy."
Covered-up isn't necessarily a good thing, though. Long sleeves aren't on Mara's preferred list-"they're clumsy, they limit your mobility, and after a few hours you feel like you're wearing a coat." Ditto for flamboyant portrait collars: "These look great on the hanger, but they only work on a wedding gown if they're removable."
Mara's favorite wedding gown innovation: "Gowns with pockets, as introduced by one of our designers, Anne Barge. What a breakthrough!." She also loves the trend toward lightweight, breathable taffeta. She says. "A well-constructed gown feels light, not heavy. You should be able to hold it one hand."
Here's Mara's basic checklist for matching your body-type with your best silhouette:
Petite : Sheath, A-line, strapless, Empire waist. It's best to keep it simple and avoid big ball gowns that might look like they're wearing you!
Tall : Sheath or A-lines with a fitted bodice, halter or open neckline to accentuate your collarbone
Pear-shaped : Strapless A-line, strapless ball gown to accentuate your top half and cover your bottom half
Hourglass : Depending if you want to hide your curves or accentuate them. Fitted bodice with an A-line or full skirt
Full-figured : A-line, ball gown with v-neckline and/or Basque waist (dropped, elongated waist which comes to a point in the center) for slimming effect.
Thin: Sheath, mermaid, slim A-line
Not really sure of your shape? Consult with an expert. Share any plans to lose weight, have cosmetic surgery, etc. before the big day. And allow time, patience and budget for fine-tuning-Mara tells clients to plan on an average of 2 to 4 fittings. "A good creative team can make every bride absolutely stunning," she says, "Often, what seems like a small change in the fit will make an enormous difference in the effect of the gown."