NEW YORK — Choosing a wedding dress is quite possibly the most important fashion decision in a woman’s life.
With that kind of pressure, it makes sense to turn to an expert, and designer Oscar de la Renta is offering his services.
De la Renta, well regarded for his ready-to-wear and couture clothing, recently unveiled a collection of bridal gowns that included an elegant-yet-striking strapless gown with bias hem ruffle and matching sheer cathedral cape, and a strapless, fitted lace gown with a flared circle ruffle hemline.
The gowns might sound as if they have a lot of detail — and they do, which is the norm in bridal designs — but the overall look seems almost restrained for de la Renta whose current fall ready-to-wear collection features elaborately embroidered coats.
“I don’t really like some overly ornate bridal gowns. I think a bridal gown is something extremely special, the gown has to be really romantic and soft,” de la Renta explains.
This sensibility dates back to de la Renta’s childhood in the Dominican Republic. He was born on the island in 1932, arriving in New York, after detours through France and Spain, in 1963.
“Being from a strict Catholic country, there is an essence of dignity and romance that a bride represents,” he says.
De la Renta says he senses modern brides are once again interested in traditional weddings and traditional wedding gowns — which is part of the reason he decided the time was right to do a collection.
He also hints at his desire to offer a fashion democracy. “People like Vera (Wang), I like Vera, but it’s nice to have a choice,” he says.
Deborah Moses, editor-in-chief of Elegant Bride magazine, is pleased to see so many well-known designers, including de la Renta and John Galliano for Christian Dior, doing gowns. “It’s very exciting for the bridal industry and, more to the point, it’s exciting for brides.”
And the designs seem to come naturally to de la Renta, she adds. “Oscar has stayed modern over the years and he has such an incredible feminine hand. ... He captures the spirit of well-bred America.”
De la Renta says his bridal gowns feature fabrics of high quality because the dresses are standing on their own without any camouflage for any fabric flaws.
Silk satin organza, duchess satin and French alencon lace don’t come cheap, but de la Renta says he learned from a previous experience in the bridal business that the quality and integrity of the dress are more important than price.
“I used to do a bridal collection years ago but we ended the relationship over price. They wanted to me to do less expensive gowns and then I didn’t want my name on them,” he explains. “But I continued to do (wedding dresses) for people who came to me for special gowns.”
De la Renta adds: “I haven’t lost my hand.”
In fact, he says, the gowns in his bridal line really are a “recollection” of what all the brides-to-be have told him over the years. De la Renta’s contribution is adding stylish elements from the life that these young women want to lead: The designer is a happily married, successful world traveler who has a craving for experiencing new things while maintaining traditions.
“Ninety percent of the time girls know exactly how they want to look on their wedding day,” he says.
“They’ve been dreaming about it for so long.”
Their dream dress, however, isn’t always what their mother or fiance had in mind.
“When I’ve done gowns for private customers, the girl usually comes with her mother to the fitting. I ask the mother to leave because mothers have their own vision of what their daughters should look like, and the girls want to please their mothers,” de la Renta says.
As for the soon-to-be husbands, de la Renta encourages the brides to be considerate and thoughtful of the men’s tastes but not to make a huge sacrifice either. “Every girl has the thought ‘On the day I get married, this is how I want to look.’ And that thought comes long before the boyfriend. ... If he doesn’t like anything tight, and she wears everything tight, the marriage is in bigger trouble than a fight over the dress.”