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This Dress Type is a Timeless Beauty

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This Dress Type is a Timeless Beauty

Balls gowns aren’t your ordinary dress. Keep comfort in mind when finding your style

As the perfect style for a wide range of brides, the ball gown remains a popular style.

“Ball gowns work for a wide range of figure types, which may be one of the reasons they’ve caught on,” says Kerri Rourke Hileman, owner of The White Magnolia, a designer gown boutique in Jacksonville, Fla. After years of form-fitting mermaid styles, brides with less-than-perfect hip lines can now revel in wide-skirted tulle. But even brides with model-thin proportions are embracing them. “I’m selling more ball gowns than mermaids now,” says Cait Courneya, a bridal consultant at the Monique Lhuillier flagship in Los Angeles. “I couldn’t say that several years ago.”

Innovative detailing sets today’s gowns apart from their Grace Kelly-era counterparts. “Skirt drama is a major trend, with fabric mixing, layers, ruffles, and pleats bringing a modern twist to this once traditional silhouette,” says Catalina Maddox, bridal fashion director for David’s Bridal. Depending on the skirt’s lavishness, bodices may be styled in a lower key, whether beaded, or designed corset style. Conversely, an unembellished satin skirt might be paired with a feathery or lavish crystal-encrusted lace top.

Regardless of surface embellishment, Hileman recommends structured bodices for clients choosing strapless ball gowns – and making sure to get the perfect fit. “You need the structure to counter the weight of these larger, fuller skirts,” she says. “You want to make sure that top will stay in place!”

While ball gowns are turning up everywhere, experts agree they’re not the best silhouettes for bridesmaids. If the bride will be wearing a ball-style statement dress, her attendants should go with “a sleeker, simpler style,” says Maddox. “The bride needs to stay in the spotlight on her special day.”

Bodice fit isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding on a ball-gown silhouette. Brides accustomed to wearing body-hugging long dresses to black tie events may find a super-sized gown requires learning to maneuver in new ways.

“A ball skirt can include layers of crinoline, even hoops,” says Hileman. Not to mention the long trains formal-style bridal ball gowns often have.

Which brings up a few wearability questions. For a ceremony and reception – six or more hours – is a major ball dress the most practical and comfortable way to go? Can a bride tear up the dance floor with a hooped ball skirt?

There’s always the option of switching into a second, reception-ready wedding dress, but budget and sentiment may rule against it. “Some brides can’t bear the thought of changing out of their dresses and choose to stay in their ball gowns for the entire wedding,” says Maddox. In these instances, long skirts and trains can be bustled, which will help a bride glide around her reception venue as if wearing a much trimmer silhouette.

Since long skirts and trains obviously require more fabric than trim mermaid and trumpet styles, fabric weight is another important factor to consider. While an organza ball dress can have a feathery feel, despite its yardage, one in duchess satin, or a heavy beaded lace, will likely tip the scales beyond the average 8 to 10 pounds a bridal gown weighs.

Are ball gown styles suitable for every climate? Hileman says brides marrying in warm-weather locales or during hot summer months should stick with lightweight organzas or tulles. Maddox feels personal style drives dress choice as much as the venue and weather temperature. “Today, it’s not uncommon to see ball gowns even on the beach.”

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