Back to Basics in Bridal Style

Jillian Span Hofbauer
Columbus Monthly
Ally Graves's Jenny Yoo dress featured a sweetheart neckline and a sparkly belt.

Simple certainly doesn't mean boring when it comes to choosing the right gown for your big day. While embellished and edgy looks continue to trend, some brides are returning to pared-down styles in classic silhouettes—without sacrificing the “wow” factor. Season, setting and theme may all influence the design decision, but ultimately, many brides are looking for ways to express their true uniqueness.

“ ‘Simple' means different things to different brides,” says Heather DiMasi, co-owner of White of Dublin. For some brides, it may mean casual and relaxed; for others, timeless and classic or sexy and sophisticated. It may even say, “I want my dress to look as if it belongs in an art gallery, with its crisp lines and structure.” With so many interpretations of simplicity, simple is not really so simple after all, DiMasi says.

Many brides are looking for styles that give them the flexibility to be selective with accents and details that personalize their look. Fit-and-flare styles, A-lines and drop-waist A-lines are all popular silhouettes, enhanced with features like unique trims at the hemline, straps or sleeves that add interest.

Low backs with beading or buttons and long trains also are popular, because they make a statement during the ceremony that guests can appreciate from their position behind the bride and groom.

“Trains turn a simple gown from evening formal to bridal,” says Kelsey Brown, owner of Ivy Bridal Studio in Dublin. “I think brides love having that freedom and simplicity to their gowns.”

Understated styles also offer the ability to play around with dramatic accessories, she adds. That might include a cathedral-length veil with Swarovski crystals or heavy lace, or a belt or sash that adds a touch of glitz. Pops of color can also be brought in with jewelry or shoes.

Vanessa Foreman Carter, who wed Matthew Carter on March 11, 2017, says a simpler gown style enabled her to don different looks at the ceremony and reception.

“I didn't necessarily have an exact vision of my dress,” she says. “I wanted my look to be cohesive with the tone of our wedding: timeless classic. But most importantly, I wanted to feel like myself.”

Gravitating toward A-line styles, Foreman Carter knew she wanted lace detailing and a little bit of sparkle. When her bridal consultant paired a lace jacket with one of the gowns she tried on, it led her to the notion of two looks: the lace piece for a more conservative look at the ceremony and a sparkly belt for a bit more fun at the reception. “To make this work,” she says, “the dress needed to be simple.”

A faille de soie scoop neckline gown with a pleated skirt and pockets from LUXEredux Bridal Boutique in Columbus achieved Foreman Carter's goals for style and comfort.

“[I was] overwhelmed by the response from my family and friends, especially given its simplicity,” she says. “Brides, including myself, put a lot of pressure on themselves to find ‘the dress.' When everything finally came together, it was the perfect dress for me!”

A simple dress provides a blank canvas for brides to achieve their vision and really shine, says DiMasi. “You know yourself, your venue and how a dress makes you feel when you put it on,” she says, advising brides to be true to that feeling.

Consider fabric choices that fit your comfort level and the season of your celebration. Lace, crêpe, satin, chiffon, silk and even tulle are all great options for simpler gowns and offer pros and cons depending on your needs and wants.

And don't assume that simple comes with a lower price tag, advises Brown. The price of a gown depends on the quality of the material it is made out of, the designer and how it was constructed, so it's a good idea to work with your bridal consultants to focus on dresses within your budget regardless of their outward aesthetic complexity.

While a number of factors may affect your decision, choosing the right dress ultimately comes down to finding the one you feel the best in.

“More times than not, brides find more than one beautiful gown,” says Brown, “but if she doesn't feel that bridal feeling, it's not ‘the one.' ”

Kortney Belt, who married Andrew Belt on Oct. 7, 2016, at the High Line Car House in the Brewery District, had a vision for the perfect dress but says that nothing was immediately grabbing her attention.

“We wanted our wedding to have an old Hollywood feel, and choosing a dress that would complement my body and stand the test of time was important,” she says. Her goal was to find something unique that would work well with her bridesmaids' peplum-style dresses and fit with a rustic venue, but after having little luck in stores, she turned to the David's Bridal website.

A chic, contoured dress with a sleek silhouette caught her eye. “When I saw it, I knew it was the one,” she says. The ivory dress, made of a heavy polyester, had a high neckline and T-strap racerback, with a thick silk belt wrapped behind to become a trailing bow.

One of the benefits of selecting a simpler gown was the unexpectedness of it, says Kortney. “Having an evening wedding meant we needed to up the glam factor, and this dress really wowed.”

She recalls a compliment she received about the dress in a memorable email from their photographer, Dan Buckley, after the wedding. “He said my dress was one of the best he's ever seen, because it wasn't just bridal; it was high-fashion. Hearing that from someone who's around brides all the time meant so much to me and further confirmed I chose the right gown for our day,” she says.

When choosing your dress, sometimes less is more, says DiMasi. “Having a simple wedding dress, whether structured or flowy, can often have more of an impact than a dress that is overly fussy.” While you may hear competing opinions about different styles, the only opinion that really matters is your own.

“Whatever style you choose—simple or extravagant—the important part is that you love your gown and that it is a representation of you,” says Brown. 

Know Your Fabrics

Not sure which material options to consider? Think about the pros and cons of these favorite fabrics for simple wedding gown styles.

Crêpe: This lightweight fabric has a textured appearance and is known for its versatility. Used in styles from sleek to flowy, it's generally wrinkle-free and works in various seasons.

Chiffon: Soft, lightweight and flowy, this ethereal fabric is often used as an overlay or in layers. Its delicacy can lead to snags or wrinkles.

Lace: A longtime favorite, lace comes in a variety of weaves, from simple to intricate, and can look vintage or modern. For a simplified style, look for lace necklines or bodices.

Satin: With a smooth and lustrous surface, this fabric is strong and available in different weights but can be unforgiving and pricey.

Silk: A breathable, comfortable fabric ideal for any season, silk is loved for its elegance and versatility. It often requires smooth lines in undergarments and can be expensive.

Tulle: A fine, lightweight netting available in a variety of materials. Like chiffon, it's often used in layers or as an overlay or underlay.