Wedding Gown Runway Report

Emma Frankart Henterly
Caitlyn Otey's lacy, long-sleeve Justin Alexander gown worked well with her December date.

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

Halter necks or long sleeves; pearl beading or structural details; full horsehair skirts or slit-to-there sheaths—current trends in bridal run the gamut from sweet to sexy and everything in between. One thing's for sure: There is no such thing as a “typical” wedding gown anymore.

“I think, for the last decade, the entire industry has been so heavily focused on strapless, and I think people are just kind of strapless-fatigued,” says Beth Rocks, store manager at David's Bridal in Easton Gateway. Longer sleeves in particular are trending, thanks in part to style influence from figures such as First Lady Melania Trump, who favors voluminous sleeves, and Meghan Markle, who famously wore three-quarter sleeves at her May wedding to Prince Henry of Wales.

“They have been in probably for the last year; they're not going anywhere,” says Heather DiMasi, owner of White of Dublin. “Now, though, you're seeing interesting types of sleeves. You're seeing more of a bell sleeve, or something that has a little flutter to it, or something that's just super-unique.”

But options abound for brides who want to rock their Michelle Obama arms, too, thanks to the proliferation of high necklines and halter styles—like the second gown Markle wore for her wedding reception.

“High necks have been trending in our store for a good year, year and a half,” says Laura Wingfield, owner of Twirl in Kenton. “It's just such a flattering neckline.” Many brides are opting for a high, choker-style neckline that utilizes lace details in a nod to Victorian styles, while others are incorporating the choker aesthetic through a halter detail.

“Some girls don't want the high neck look all [day],” notes DiMasi, “but you can achieve that with a cape or capelet” that fastens at the throat—another major trend both on and off the runway. A sheer cape is a great alternative to a veil, for example, and can help a bride switch up her aesthetic between the ceremony and reception. “That's been really fun, to see [brides] transform a simple dress and put an elaborate cape with it, with the intention of then ditching it for the reception,” notes Rocks. “That way, they have that total glamour look at a really affordable price.”

Interestingly enough, a stark opposite of the high neckline—a plunging V-neck—also is gaining popularity. Brides are “really going for it” with a dramatic, deep V, says Rocks, though she notes more modest brides often opt to reel in the drama with an illusion mesh or lace detail.

“Brides do want to kind of be like, ‘Hey, I can do this. I'm brave, I'm fearless, and I am woman,' ” notes DiMasi. “You can have it in such a way that you're not falling out; it's still modest. But it's deep, and it's low, and they love it.”

Another hot look is so pervasive that it's almost evolved beyond trend to become a bridal staple: “Lace just continues to be so heavily requested,” says Rocks. But forget about standards of old, such as Chantilly or Alençon laces. “They're changing the patterns a little bit,” notes Wingfield. “They might still be using a corded lace or something to build that pattern, but for the most part, it's interesting fleur-de-lis or more floral patterns.”

Other incorporations, Wingfield adds, include layered lace—sheet lace under a tulle layer with lace appliqués on top, for example—and illusion treatments, either a loose lace as the illusion cover itself, or a more standard mesh treatment with carefully placed, 3D lace appliqué accents.

Color, too, is seeing a continued rise in popularity. And while blush and metallic hues remain staples, Rocks has seen an increase in brides embracing more unusual hues, including mauve and lavender. DiMasi's brides have been even more daring, venturing into the world of black and steely-blue gowns.

And, as evidenced in our photo shoot on Page 26, there's also a strong affinity for simple, structural gowns among today's brides. “Simple never goes out, but we're seeing a resurgence,” says DiMasi. “The classic, streamlined, very clean look [is in], but with a little bit of something—whether that's an architectural detail in the back or a bow or something like that.”

Among her brides, she notes, the “little something” often takes the form of a pearl detail: a string draped across an open back or a pearl-encrusted bodice. “That's kind of a softer look” than the blingy, bedazzled bodices of years past, she says, “but it's still embellished, and it's really pretty.”

Of course, the A-line ballgown with a sweetheart neckline remains a top choice for many brides, and with good reason: The design is universally flattering and is a classic option for the conventional bride.

Nervous about going trendy instead of traditional? Don't be, says DiMasi. “I think brides are afraid to embrace trends because they think it's going to date them, but we always advise our brides: If you love something that's trending, you should incorporate that element with more classic elements.” She suggests pairing an ultra-trendy detail such as feathers or fringe with a more classic silhouette, like a drop-waist A-line. “That way, you are maintaining the timelessness of [your look], but you still have a little attitude,” she explains.

“You've seen these girls that have come in that have wanted to be unique and different; still timeless, but they want to make a statement,” DiMasi continues. “I'm so happy to see more of that. I'm happy to see these brides coming in and really embracing what they want to rock on their wedding day.”