Bridal fashions; Tradition sets the pace for 1984, but strong individualism accentuates styles

Tradition sets the pace in wedding attire for both bride and groom in 1984. But some surprising new looks and a strong sense of individualism will make every wedding memorable and distinctive.

Spring and summer brides will float down the aisle in off-the-shoulder Southern belle gowns lavished with ruffles and heirloom lace, or in basque-waisted Victorian styles with full bishop or leg-of-mutton sleeves.

But if it's a dramatic new silhouette you're hoping for, check Phyllis Bianchi's silk peau de soie gown of intermezzo length, just above the ankle in front. In back it sweeps to a chapel train. The gown also features a trendy elongated waist.

Flattering shoulder treatments, such as the jeweled petal clusters Ron LoVece uses to accent the bare shoulders of a silk peau de soie and organza dress, are particularly charming and fresh looking. For this style, the organza petals are repeated in delicate hem decoration.

Ruffles cascade over shoulders in many interesting ways, sometimes coming to a low V at the waist in back, other times creating an exaggerated pinafore look at each side.

A subtle change of a different nature is creeping into the wedding scene. It's the slightly increased age of many brides who will marry in this year's predicted 1.25 million ceremonies.

More and more women are putting off matrimony until they are established in careers. Brides today often are in their late 20s or early 30s before walking down the aisle.

Naturally, this has a direct bearing on the kind of bridal gown chosen. The more mature bride wants a romantic look, certainly, and a softly feminine style, but she'll probably favor sophistication over froufrou.

To meet this need, bridal departments and shops are stocking elegant but simplified dresses of tissue-weight taffeta, silk crepe, and chiffon.

Pure white is the No. 1 choice for brides of all ages, with ivory a close second because it has a softer, candlelight effect on the skin.

A new Italian-made lace called Milano, which features openwork and well defined re-embroidery, joins more traditional Alencon and Venise lace as the year's leading choices.

The American style in wedding veils began during the American Revolution when Molly Custis, the financee of General Washington's aide, Maj. Lawrence Lewis, wore a long white scarf as a veil. As the story goes, her husband-to-be had admired the flattering effect of a lace curtain as Molly stood next to it, so she set out to re-create the mood with a flowing scarf.

Now, nearly 300 years later, a beautiful veil is an important part of bridal finery. Veils come in different lengths for spring and summer, the newest being altar-length, falling just above the ankle.

Veils cascade gracefully from pretty wreaths of real or silk flowers, tiny caps or mantillas. Picture hats, although still a good choice for garden weddings, will not be seen as much as in past seasons.

Headdress styles are determined by becomingness to the bride's face and what goes well with her dress and hairstyle.

The bride who makes her own gown can cut costs considerably, but if she buys one readymade, she can expect to pay anywhere from $240 to $2,000.

Bridesmaid's dresses, on the other hand, start around $80 and usually go no higher than $160.

So it comes as no surprise that some brides opt to wear bridesmaid's dresses in white or cream.

Convertibility and versatility always have been important in the design of attendants' dresses, and two ideas surface this year that make the investment easier and ensure greater mileage.

One is a whole new range of two-piece dresses, designed so the tops can be worn tucked in or over full skirts, and sashed with wide ribbons for a fresh, very attractive look.

Removable shoulder ruffles on other styles create an instant strapless top. One such style comes in a pretty new ribbon organza.

Lovely colors like apricot, violet, peacock, ruby, peach, iris, shell pink, and pale blue give the bride greater leeway than ever before in planning the color theme of her wedding. Popular fabrics for spring and summer include tissue taffeta, summer weight moire, and chiffon.

Formal wear for men in the wedding party can be totally coordinated not only to the bride's dress, but also to those worn by the attendants and mothers of both bride and groom. Suit choice will depend on the type of wedding, formal or informal, and the hour it is held.

Proper for a formal daytime wedding, for example, is a handsome cutaway by Bill Blass in pearl gray. It is worn with a striped ascot and double-breasted vest.

Incidentally, all formal attire for men can be rented for the big day. Stores also carry scaled-down models for small boys who might have roles in the ceremony.

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