Are you looking for ways to jazz up your wedding dress? Would you like more coverage, or textured & enigmatic layers? Are you looking for a few different looks without the expense of multiple dresses?
And, most importantly, are you in the mood to be the designer of your own unique bridal outfit?
Starting out with a simple wedding dress and layering on with fashion-forward cover-ups is the ultimate way to implement your own bridal vision. It will enhance your curves, sprinkle some sparkles, infuse your wedding theme into your look, and strategically sculpt with volume, lines and shapes.
You have a great variety of accessories to choose from – boleros, capes and capelets, shawls, stoles, jackets, sashes, belts and gloves. Each of these accessories comes in a variety of fun textures – netting, lace, beads, bows, feathers, fringes, fur, or flowers. Let’s dive in!
The regal bolero.
A bolero is a short, fitted top with an open front that gently circles behind your neck and tapers off just above the small of your back. A sensual, slimming staple, a bolero is masterful at presenting a woman’s body:
- It emphasizes the three main curves of the torso – the narrowing, inward slopes on each side and in the back. As the eyes glide down the shoulders, upper back and arms, a bolero counter-balances the eventual widening of the hips.
- It shapes the shoulders and upper arms for a balanced look, and longer sleeves cover any dark elbows or imperfections.
- It introduces vertical lines and has a slimming effect.
- An ordinary strapless dress is magically transformed into a regal Queen Anne, the neck appears longer, and your face and bosom become the focal point for the eyes.
Boleros can introduce a lot of visually interesting elements to your style: minimalist lapels, feminine ruching, playful lace or cozy fur. They are a popular choice to create a demure look for a church wedding and help you feel comfortable in cold temperatures!
When you are choosing a bolero, check its color. As you know, not all whites are the same. Your dress and the bolero may be subtly tinted with beige, tan, or pink, for example. The bolero will touch and overlap with your dress, and the different colors will be visible in broad daylight, possibly clashing and distracting the look. Staying with the same color is often the safest bet. You will want to physically compare the two colors in broad daylight to be sure they match.
Alternatively, go with complementary colors. Choose a bolero in a slightly lighter or darker tint of the same hue. Alternatively, look for a pale and subdued color that goes well with your eyes, does not detract from the purity of your dress, and can be echoed in your flowers and jewelry. Lavender blue, pale pink, dusty rose, peach orange or mauve, taupe or light chocolate are great options.
The mysterious cape.
Capes are not just for superheroes! In fact, they are one of the hottest trends in bridal looks and a modern substitute for a veil. Romantic, regal or playful – they can do it all.
Floor-length capes convey a certain stature, but certainly isn’t necessary. Capes have little sidekicks – capelets. A capelet is a small cape covering the shoulders and upper arms, often held together in the front with a button or fashioned like a small poncho.
Sheer, beaded or fur, capes come in great variety that can be suited to the season and the look. Often a cape will completely hide the chest area behind a much higher neckline, keeping you warm and demure-looking.
A cape also touches your dress, so same color considerations would apply to a cape as a bolero.
The beauty of the cape is its free flow. It is often an accessory of choice for tall, well-endowed ladies – it draws the eyes down and emphasizes the waist that stands out from its falling cascade.
A shawl is a supremely flexible, long piece of fabric that can be put around your shoulders and upper arms, slid down to your elbows and wrists, or artfully arranged with a brooch.
Gently gliding on your naked skin, easily shape-shifting between a bolero look-alike, a sash and anything else you want it to be, a shawl is great at showing off the most delicious curves. Place it around your shoulders, and it will enhance the small of your back and the hourglass curves on your sides. Lower it to your wrists, and it will emphasize the curves of your hips. Wrap a sparkly shawl around your arms and tie it under your bosom, and it will shine up every curve your upper body has. Spread it around for more volume, and it will serve as a counter-balance to wider hips.
Because it is clearly separate from your dress, a shawl gives you license to splash some color around. Even if you are up to the challenge of a bold color choice, try to stay within the color palette of your eyes, jewelry and/or your flowers. We talk more about colors when we talk about jewelry.
Centerpiece belts and sashes.
As you probably know, a sash is a long strip of cloth that can either hang diagonally from your shoulder or tie around your waist. With an artful bow, flowers or beads, at the front or the back of the dress, white or bright, there are so many ways a sash or a belt can take your look to the next level!
A sash or a belt draws attention to the gentle curve of the waist. If you are a tall lady, if your dress is a sheath without much waist embellishment (or otherwise nothing draws attention to the waist), show off your curves with a nice belt! Of course, keep an eye to make sure that you do not over-embellish the look. You don’t want the belt to compete for attention with the dress.
How to choose a sash or a belt:
- If it has metal in it, make sure it matches the tone of your bridal jewelry (ie, silver, gold, rose, pearl, or color).
- Make sure its color does not clash with the color of the dress. Speak with your seamstress about a custom-made sash.
- For a slimming visual effect, go for a wider belt, work with your seamstress to attach it a little on the diagonal, or arrange the ends of the sash to fall down artfully. A thin belt around your waist is a strong horizontal statement that draws some unnecessary attention to your width.
No longer a required or expected accessory, gloves will do wonders to a simple dress. They are a great accessory to evoke an era (Victorian or 1930-40s) or herald a timelessly classy event. Think strapless dress with dramatic opera gloves reaching above the elbow. Gloves come with a variety of traditional and modern adornments: buttons, bows, sheen, lace, leather, velvet and sequins – but believe me, even without all the adornments, gloves will steal the show.
BODY TYPE CONSIDERATIONS
Gloves balance out wide shoulders, but they require careful styling.
- Long, opera gloves tend to make the arms look wider, as they end at the widest part of the arm. To solve this problem, look into gloves that end just past your wrist – those end at the narrowest part of your arm.
- Gloves tend to break up the flow of the arms, making them look a little shorter. Ladies with shorter arms may find that they look better without gloves.
- Ladies with wide hips often find that gloves widen the hips even more.
DRESS TYPE CONSIDERATIONS
Balancing considerations often lead stylists to suggest the following:
- Strapless or thin spaghetti strap dresses go with opera gloves.
- Bateau or V-neckline dresses go with gloves that extend just past your wrist.
Celebrities inspire us towards bold choices – and red is a natural, but not the only, choice. Match your gloves to your lipstick, your jewelry, and your flowers.
If the bride wears gloves, perhaps the bridesmaids should as well! A fun way to coordinate the colors would be for the bride to wear gloves of the same color as the bridesmaids’ dresses. In order to keep all eyes on the bride, of course, the bridesmaids’ gloves shouldn’t be longer than the bride’s.
And maybe try to avoid Lady Gaga’s famous rubber gloves.
One common reason brides avoid gloves is the whole rings business. Etiquette insists that rings should not be worn over the gloves – and that makes sense, really. Rings should be sized to fit snugly enough without the glove… so it is not immediately clear how to solve the dilemma.
There is a way, of course. Bridal gloves can come with a slit that can release the ring finger. Long gloves called the gauntlets / mousquetaires have a wrist-level opening that allows the bride to slip her hand out without slipping the entire length of the glove (which, without practice and in the heat of the moment, may look a little awkward).
This may not seem ideal to some brides. After all, you want to keep flashing your rings all day long, not have lumps under your gloves. With very thin gloves, you could decide to wear your rings on top of the gloves – etiquette be damned. The best solution, perhaps, would be to wear fingerless gloves.