Wedding dresses are trending traditional

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Classic, sophisticated, discriminating — that’s how bridal salon owners describe the Washingtonian bride. So it seems fitting that one of the top bridal trends gracing the nation’s capital this season involves a little less skin and a little more fabric.

“[B]rides have been calling and screaming out at the top of their lungs: they wanted sleeves, they wanted cap sleeves, they wanted something to cover their arms,” said Carine Krawiec, owner of Carine’s Bridal Atelier in Georgetown.

Krawiec, who opened her salon in 2006, said she’s noticed a trend toward more coverage, such as illusion necklines, long sleeves of Chantilly lace and “playful cap sleeves.”

“I guess maybe we have to thank Kate Middleton for that,” Krawiec said. 

Sandy Ferreira Leone, owner of Love Couture Bridal Boutique in Potomac, Md., said there’s been a vintage reboot, thanks to influences from Middleton’s 2011 wedding and the popular PBS television show “Downton Abbey.”

Much like Chelsea Clinton’s Vera Wang gown inspired brides to wear belts and beaded sashes, the worldwide coverage of Middleton’s nuptials may have sparked a more “traditional” look for local brides, said Ferreira Leone.

“It’s been about twenty years since long sleeves have been important, so to speak, in the bridal fashion industry, so I think that’s one of the new and exciting trends that brides are starting to ask for,” she said.

Hitched co-owner Carin Rosenberg Levine said that despite the credit given to Middleton, straps and sleeves have been on the rise for the last couple of years.

“I think there was a demand for that for a long time before it sort of came to fruition, so there was a lot of asking and sort of nothing and then it came, and it is, I think, more mainstream,” added co-owner Julia Lichtman Kepniss of Georgetown’s Hitched bridal salon. 

Bridal boutique owners point out that, above all else, brides want to be perceived as an individual on their wedding day.

“People want to do something different, so if you’ve already been to ten weddings where people had strapless dresses, one way that they envision that it could be different is to have sleeves,” said Rosenberg Levine.

She noted, however, that despite the rise in popularity of sleeves on wedding gowns, the majority of brides are still going strapless.

“As much as that trend has come, it’s not like it is dominating,” she added. 

Women have also been wearing high-lows and slits to accentuate their shoes, as well as playing with color and lace, Krawiec added.  

“You can’t say that everyone in D.C. is a conservative person — we also have our fashionistas out there,” Krawiec said. 

For the D.C. “fashionista,” Krawiec has her eye on open-backed dresses and exaggerated trumpet skirts. 

Stephanie Ward, the owner and designer of Punk Rock Bride, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, said her clientele is “trying to avoid trends.”

Brides are looking for a “classic” silhouette, said Ward, which isn’t to say boring or plain.

“D.C. brides definitely prefer more classic style — I don’t like the word ‘conservative,’ but I’ll just use the word ‘classic,’ to something more trendy or over the top,” Ward said. 

She’s also noticed a rise in destination weddings, and so creates dresses with fabric such as chiffon, silk charmeuse and cotton with a warm locale in mind. 

In 2011, nearly 1 in 4 couples in the United States had a destination wedding, up 20 percent since 2009, according to the 2012 The Knot Market Intelligence Destination Weddings Study. 

Hitched’s Rosenberg Levine said another trend on the rise has been the “opportunity to switch something up,” such as adding a train, statement necklace, bolero or sash to create a unique element. 

“The D.C. bride is a more practical bride, I would say. So when people say like, ‘are people buying two dresses?,’ no, no one is buying two dresses. But what they are doing is buying dresses that allow you to kind of switch your look,” she said. 

Over in Potomac, Ferreira Leone agrees that “D.C. brides, at the moment, are enjoying two looks in one.” 

Carine’s Bridal Atelier receives a lot of international brides, which Krawiec said can be fun because it allows you to “play with their region” while choosing a dress. 

“You know, getting married in London is different than getting married in Turkey or Asia, so we get to play with the cultures of the dress, so it’s entertaining for us,” she said. 

The city’s regional and international diversity is one of the highlights for salon owners, who also said they enjoy the savviness and sophistication of Washington, D.C., brides. 

“Their [D.C. brides] tastes, you know, their expectations are higher in D.C. I feel like they’re very discriminating. Their expectations are higher and it keeps us on our toes, and it’s wonderful,” said Ferreira Leone. 

Advice from salon owners

Owners from bridal salons around the Washington, D.C., area divulged their expert advice for brides on the hunt for the perfect dress. Here’s what they recommend:

• Bring people whose opinions you value to your consultation. A small group of trusted family members or friends may be more helpful than a large entourage.  

•  Choose your venue for the ceremony and reception before selecting your gown.

• Try on a lot of dresses. How often do you wear a floor-length dress? You may not know what style looks best on your body. 

• Be open-minded to suggestions from a stylist. 

• In the end, trust your instincts. You know yourself better than you think.  

• Don’t get discouraged. Shopping for a dress can be intimidating, but D.C. has a lot of bridal salons with a great deal of variety. 

•  Try to find something that looks like you and feels like you.