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story.lead_photo.caption The Haland bridal gown, part of the La Sposa Collection, refl ects the current trend in bridalwear: Sleeves — a step away from the strapless looks that have been dominating wedding gowns. The gown is available at Proposals in Little Rock.

This time of year, the bling will be adorning more than the Christmas trees. According to statistics from multiple sources, December is the most popular month to get engaged, with popular dates for proposals including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

When it comes to jewelry, bigger and bolder is better … and for holiday jewelry looks, extra- long necklaces and chokers are in, says Michele “Boots” Shirey of Little Rock, jewelry designer and creator of the Oliver & Django jewelry collection. Shirey’s prominent Czech-crystal cross set on a dark mocha pearl necklace can be worn either way.
Fit for the holidays or for a bride: the Pearl Strand Statement Necklace by Little Rockbased Oliver & Django.

That translates to a lot of newly engaged women who will have wedding-dress shopping on their minds ... and who will be seeking out the latest trends in bridal wear, online and at such events as (shameless plug) the forthcoming Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Bridal Show, 12:30-5 p.m. Jan. 15 at Little Rock's Statehouse Convention Center. (Tickets, $10-$45, are available at

Although the strapless gown bodices that have dominated bridal wear for some time are still popular, "there's been an [evolution] in the last two years and the vendors are catching up with the demand" for gowns with more coverage, says Betsy Kemp, sales manager at Little Rock bridal boutique Proposals. Women who are getting their ideas from images on such websites as Pinterest are seeking gowns with long, short or three-quarter-length sleeves, Kemp says. Many of these are sheer sleeves with embellishments.

Ironically, plunging necklines are also in, along with very deep, low-cut backs. "They've still got to show some skin," Kemp says. Some of these necklines feature illusion (sheer) insets, but "we do have girls that want them all the way cut down."

And although a wedding may still feature white lace and promises -- to quote the old wedding song "We've Only Just Begun" -- look for a little less white lace on those dresses.

"There is a movement away from all lace to lace mixed with tulle, lace mixed with satin on the gown ... a little cleaner look than all lace," Kemp explains.

Wedding-gown silhouettes are highlighted by variations of the mermaid shape. This silhouette is adjusted to fit certain figure types. And, "we're selling just as many ball gowns, too. They're really liking the ball gowns," Kemp says.

Veils, of differing lengths, remain in demand, she says. "We're seeing a little bit of a trend where they're borrowing family veils."

And if you've noticed more weddings with bridesmaids wearing a matching color but different styles, yes, that's a thing. Bridesmaids dresses are also making a transition from being strapless to sporting sleeves and illusion necklines."We're getting back into more color -- jewel tones." At one time, everyone wanted some variation of blush. Now shades of blue and purple are popping up, Kemp says. "It's getting very individualistic."

All the trimmings

Don't be surprised to see those new wedding gowns -- and other apparel -- accessorized by some pretty eye-catching jewelry pieces.

''Fashion has been moving away from minimalism, so big and bold statement pieces are all the rage," says Michele "Boots" Shirey of Little Rock, jewelry designer and creator of the Oliver & Django jewelry collection. "Fashion Week was overflowing with big rings, huge earrings -- especially the one huge duster earring statement -- and layers and layers of necklaces. My new tag line is 'Go big or go home, girls!'"

Holiday jewelry fashion, Shirey says, involves the mixing of metals as well as lots of charms, ear climbers, those duster earrings, big stacking rings, and extra-long necklaces (some of the necklaces she offers are 24 inches or more long). And, she adds, "lots and lots of chokers."

Her pieces reflect a mix of the old and the new: jeweled crosses and antique-brooch-look pendants on pearl chains, juxtaposed with modern-looking, wire-wrapped rings. Gold chains interspersed with ceramic beads. Lots of pearl accents.

Shirey, whose company is named after two beloved pets, got into jewelry design "because a lot of people always complimented me on whatever jewelry I was wearing." She decided to begin making and purveying what she calls "affordable luxury" -- for instance, the type of piece that may look like a $2,500 Chanel necklace, but which costs only a fraction of what such a necklace would cost. Shirey particularly likes to design jewelry in sets. "It takes away the guesswork of putting pieces together," she says.

Oliver & Django, which can be found at and on Facebook, also features opulent jewelry belts, beaded hairpins and even fancy cocktail/fondue skewers.

Good reads

Are you, or is someone on your Christmas list, a lover of books as well as all things fashion and beauty-related? Here are a few titles, released within the past year, to consider:

American Dreamer: My Life in Fashion & Business by Tommy Hilfiger (Ballantine Books, $30). The autobiography is described as "a tale of grit and glamour, setbacks and comebacks." Here's proof that one's early life can't be too messy for them to become a fashion/pop-culture icon. Hilfiger had dyslexia, flunked 10th grade and couldn't get along with his father. He opened his first clothing store at 18, and, as they say, the rest is history.

All Natural Beauty: Organic & Homemade Beauty Products by London-based photographer Karin Berndl and art director Nici Hofer (Hardie Grant Books, $19.99). The authors are saying the same thing many who came before them have tried to tell us: We can make our own homemade, natural, chemical-free beauty products and treatments, usually out of the stuff they brag about putting in commercial products anyway: coconut oil, beeswax, aloe vera and such. Yep, gotta try that coffee body scrub. But how does one keep from eating one's own Chocolate Mousse Body Cream?

Fascinators: 25 Stylish Accessories to Top Off Your Look by Hannah Scheidig (Running Press, $20). Still thinking about going the Duchess Kate route and sporting a fascinator at some point ... and want to do it for less? "This collection of 25 projects will have you making fascinators, floral crowns [real ones, not those virtual ones that have popped up on your Facebook friends' heads] and tiaras in no time." For those newly engaged ladies who'll soon be pondering bridal wear, these projects include "fascinating" alternatives to the traditional bridal veil. Scotland-based Scheidig is, in fact, owner Arabella Bridal, a bridal millinery business accessible online (

Dressing Room now appears monthly. Send Arkansas fashion-related tips and news releases to:

High Profile on 12/11/2016

Print Headline: New bridal gowns feature more coverage, less lace

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