Wedding wear

This year's wedding fashions reflect the trend towards the traditional and elegant, and there are many fashions obviously influenced by the current infatuation with royal and celebrity weddings. Yet, as always, there are enough options to make the event unique for each couple. ``Traditional is always in, but this year the trend is the fitted dress, one that is fitted all the way down, like a mermaid,'' says Maria Koufos, owner of Alyce's Bridals of Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Laurel Paul, sales manager and buyer for Mon Amie Bridal and Formal in Costa Mesa, Calif., agrees. ``Brides are a little bit older, a little bit more fashion conscious. Sheath gowns are very strong this year,'' she says. The slim-looking knits that have been so popular for the past two years have created a demand for a slimmer, sheath-type wedding gown, she says.

But since traditional gowns are still the overwhelming choice in wedding wear, there's no need to worry about committing a bridal fashion faux-pas. Wedding dresses will probably be fancy, long, and white for many years to come, even if there is an occasional foray into divergent territory.

Some interesting options this year: the colored bridal gown and the tea-length gown. For colors, pale is the key word. These dresses come in the palest of hues. Pink is by far most popular, with light blue following as a close second. As far as tea-length gowns go, this shorter version, which falls between the midcalf and ankle, is easier to walk, climb (altar steps!), and dance in than its floor-length counterpart - not to mention easier on the pocketbook.

Favorite colors for bridesmaids' wear this year seem to be deep jewel tones, as well as some old favorites like rose and mauve.

``Colors for bridesmaids change with the seasons,'' says Peggy Upshaw, counter manager of Mockingbird Bridal Boutique in Dallas, Texas. ``We are showing more yellow this year, along with teal, royal blue, and rose.'' Ms. Paul adds that aqua is the new color this year for her store.

Even men's formal wear is changing. The trend is away from the pastel shades of the '70s and back into the standard black or grey tuxedo or morning suit.

``Men are getting very sophisticated. There are men's formals that look like very elegant suits,'' says Ms. Koufos.

As far as price goes, most bridal retailers agree that the average range for a gown alone is from $400 to $700. Although they sell dresses for a bit less and a lot more, ``the majority of women buy in this range,'' according to Ms. Upshaw.

Again, celebrity weddings seem to influence bridal fashion in a big way. Koufos says that ``weddings on TV shows and celebrities generate many of the bridal trends.... Dynasty, soap operas, and so on.''

``Celebrity weddings bring out more flamboyance. We've seen a lot happen with headpieces because of the TV weddings, with pearls and sprays and things - they're dramatic, they're a lot more visible,'' says Paul.

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