Hand-worked dresses of pure quality that will be difficult to mass reproduce set apart the designer bridal collections for 2016. The recent shows debuted a new, highly refined mood among designers pitching for the luxurious end of the market. Whimsical yet detailed designs featured transparent layers of lace and delicately embroidered embellishments. These were dresses fit for exiled princesses and those with a love of culture. Next season, a gentle formality returns. Inspiration comes from the faded splendor of a downtown ballroom, or an overgrown palace garden, rather than glamming it up in a daisy crown and broderie anglaise in a muddy country field.
Marchesa presented ethereal dresses accentuated by the drama of sunset-light filtered through transparent layers, just as it would for a bride exchanging vows as the sun does down. Offsetting the softness, designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig paired structured floral crowns with chandelier earrings to convey an opulent look.
Truly Zac Posen played with sculptural volumes, curves and transparency, lightness and movement–drawn from the garden of impressionism. Mr. Posen’s low-back, sensual, body-hugging gown with graphic crisscross grosgrain ribbon revealed just the right amount of skin for a modern yet subtle bride.
Israeli designer Alon Livne presented his first major runway bridal show in the U.S. His collection was called the Swan, inspired by the 19th-century Russian ballet. His hand-beaded illusion top matched with ostrich-feather sleeves and silk crepe skirt would be a powerful look for a bold bride.
Focusing on a variety of playful combinations, Reem Acra delivered a magical moment of lace, tulle and organza. Ms. Acra’s embroidered strapless florals on tulle will give any bride a soft yet polished look. She styled her show with headphones that were sparkly and fun (and could drown out any wedding-day jitters… or unsolicited advice from one’s soon-to-be in-laws).
A Latin influence channeling Frieda Kahlo, with floral crown-like headpieces and statement earrings, Naeem Kahn‘s collection was rich with embroideries, beaded lace appliqués and touches of gold and pink. Mr. Kahn’s Sabrina neckline, floral on organza in soft ivory, will inspire brides wanting a “new classic” look.
Ines di Santo was inspired by the ethereal qualities of light and movement. Embellished lace body-conscious gowns with trumpet organza textured skirts, Chantilly boleros and finally, the dramatic Watteau train were fit for an angelic entrance.
Carolina Herrera showed a variety of necklines for her collection. In her mind, a bride should be seductive while leaving much to the imagination, and above all should feel confident that she has found the perfect dress. Here, a modern two-piece of hand painted tulle taffeta, with a racer back detail.
Monique Lhuillier was inspired by an opulent garden, featuring ultra-feminine gowns with layers of upon layers of beaded tulle, playing homage to the romantic, ethereal dream. Ms. Lhuillier’s dress of white silk, nude Chantilly and re-embroidered lace features a removable feather overskirt—revealing one of bridal’s most consistent and ongoing trends.
Peter Copping’s second collection for Oscar de la Renta paid extra-close attention to detail, maintaining the house’s traditionally feminine and classic designs. Mr. Copping’s delicately tailored looks fall expertly “just so” – meaning a no-fuss bride won’t need maids following her around all day to adjust a train. Here, a high-neck ruffled removable halter is paired with a strapless, tiered ribbon-edged Chantilly lace dress.
Houghton creates a ready-to-wear for brides with a daytime City Hall wedding or an off-the-cuff mountaintop escape. Here, separates mix and match for a modern ’70s boho look. Ivory linen off-the-shoulder tops with ribbons and hand-embroidered detail pair with tiered skirts with wide bands of hand-made openwork embroideries.
Rachel Leonard, former fashion director of Brides Magazine is editorial director for The Bridal Council. Rachel can be followed on Instagram @_rachelleonard