Shul Chic



Something old, something new, something borrowed, something … neon blue? Designers of special occasion dresses showered their Fashion Week shows with a bounty of trends for spring and summer 2013. Bar Mitzvah moms, mothers of the bride and bridesmaids will have plenty of options. But what happens on the runways sometimes stays on the runways. Which styles will be walking down the aisle and heading for the bimah? Area boutique owners gave their opinions on what will be the year’s hottest styles.

Neon-ish Brights

“Technically, they might be neon, but neon is not the best word to describe these colors — that carries a bit of a bad connotation and these are really wonderful colors. I would say that they are bright. Or maybe hot. Like, hot blue, hot green.” That’s how Susan Cooper, co-owner of Gabrielle Special Occasion in Bala Cynwyd, explains one of 2013’s color trends. “I almost always wear navy, but I can see myself wearing one of these colors,” she says.

Less Wham! with more bam, the neon-ish colors have been updated from their 1980s heyday. Stacy Curtis, owner of Elegance By Edythe in the Northeast, is seeing a lot of gowns in lime green, coral, pink and orange. “It’s a burst of color that is fresh and different and fun,” Curtis says. “Black and navy are elegant choices. These brights provide an alternative to that for someone who is less traditional.”

But are neons hard colors for women to wear? “They are not for everyone,” Curtis agrees, “but they do look great against tan skin. That makes them good for summer or even spring.”

Tara Krawczuk, manager of Coronet Bridal Shoppe in Feasterville, offers a fashion solution for those who are neon-shy. “Use it as an accessory, like a shoe, belt or hair piece,” Krawczuk suggests. “That way, you get a pop of color but it’s not head-to-toe neon.”

Back Shawls

What this is: a one-shoulder gown with a piece of chiffon fastened to the back of the shoulder strap. The chiffon floats from the shoulder to the waist. Almost every special occasion designer showed back shawls on gowns for 2013.

“No way, no how,” Krawczuk reports. “Our customers are actually cutting the back shawls off of gowns.”

“It’s an evolution of the one-shoulder gown that has been popular in the last few years,” explains Joanne Downes, owner of Occasions Boutique in Malvern. “The designers were trying to update that trend with a new twist. I really don’t think that it will go over with women. For weddings, it almost mimics a veil, so bridesmaids and moms won’t want to wear it. For Bar Mitzvah moms, it’s too much like a gown from a beauty pageant, which is where I think the idea is borrowed from. But it probably should have stayed there.”

Cowl Sleeve

This is another evolution of the one-shoulder gown. A cowl sleeve is a piece of fabric that drops from one shoulder and wraps around the bicep. The shoulder pokes through, remaining bare. Unlike the back shawl, the cowl sleeve gets two arms up.

“It’s very smart designing,” Curtis explains. “Most women hate their arms, so this takes care of that in a way that is still sexy. The trick is to find a dress that has the cowl sleeve fall in the right place on your arm. Otherwise, that fabric will draw attention to the place you are trying to camouflage.”

“Arms are the number one thing that my customers want to hide, and this is an elegant solution,” Downes says. “I think it’s a great look that is here to stay.”

Taking Cover

Arms aren’t the only things that some women want to hide. Downes reports that her clients are finding new ways to be covered — and stylish. “A lot of moms have been wearing bolero jackets on top of strapless gowns — that look has been going on for years,” she says. “Women have gotten tired of wearing that jacket and the look is a bit dated. Now, there are new gowns that have sleeves — short or long — and panels of fabric on the back or across the chest. That sounds like a lot of material in one dress, but it is a less bulky look than wearing a jacket on top of a gown. I think it’s an excellent trend and very wearable for Bar Mitzvah moms and mothers of the bride and groom.”

Paul Virilli, co-owner of Jan’s Boutique in Cherry Hill, points out another coverage option: arms covered, shoulders revealed. Sleeves start at the bicep, leaving the shoulders and décolletage bare. “It is appropriate for Bar Mitzvah moms and mothers of the bride, but it is still very, very sexy,” Virilli says. “There is one dress from Terani that has a floor-length skirt and a lace bodice with almost three-quarter sleeves and bare shoulders in an almost strapless neckline. Women love this dress. I can’t keep it in stock.”

The frum-tastic look comes straight from Hollywood, Downes says. “Actresses in their 40s and older are wearing these gowns on the red carpet and women in our area want those modern, stylish looks,” he explains. Hollywood’s award season saw covered, chic, red carpet looks like Naomi Watts in Zac Posen, Helen Mirren in Badgley Mishka and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Jenny Packham.

High-Low Hems

“Not so high and much lower is the way to wear it,” says Krawczuk. She’s talking about dresses that are hemmed high in the front and low in the back. The trend began in casual wear and is big in special occasion gowns for 2013. 

“But in sportswear, the dresses were thigh-high, like mini skirts in the front, and that is way too short for weddings,” Krawczuk says. “What looks great on women of any age — and on plus-sized women — is having the front hem come to mid-calf and the back hem be to the ankle. That lets a bit of leg peek through and creates a beautiful skirt that flatters almost everyone.”


“Peplums are still wildly popular with moms and bridesmaids,” Curtis says. “There is a reason that peplums were so big in the 1800s and it’s the same reason that women still want them. They hide a multitude of flaws in a fashionable way. That, of course, is what we want from all of our clothes!”

Mimi James is the fashion mahoff for Special Sections. This article originally appeared in "Simchas," a Jewish Exponent special section.



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