The traditional bridal gown isn’t a skimpy silhouette: It’s long and typically without a plunging neckline or high slit. There’s often a whole lot of fabric. One of the few opportunities for brides to be a little bare is to go with a strapless or sleeveless dress — and go with them they do.
David Tutera, wedding planner, designer and host of WeTV’s "My Fair Wedding With David Tutera," says that except for those restricted by religious customs, few brides want to be more covered than they have to be. More often they want to show themselves off as youthful, pretty and sexy, he says.
New bridal collections are dominated by dresses with no sleeves, even though that takes many women out of their comfort zone.
Sleeves were hot for a brief period — after Kate Middleton wore a long-sleeve Alexander McQueen gown to become the Duchess of Cambridge — but it didn’t last. Bare arms are again the norm.
It wasn’t always that way.
"It feels like strapless has been the go-to in wedding dresses forever, but, historically speaking, it’s still a very recent trend," says Keija Minor, editor in chief of Brides magazine. "With some notable exceptions, gowns had high necks and long sleeves up through the 1990s. Just think about Princess Diana’s wedding gown in 1981 with those big puffy sleeves. It was larger than life to be sure, but still very on trend for the times."
The shift, she says, came about 20 years ago as tradition gave way to a hint of sex appeal.
Strapless wedding dresses "dominate in the stores and on every bridal magazine’s editorial pages. They are the easiest to try on and fit," says designer Romona Keveza.
Still, Keveza says there’s room for a few more sleeved and off-the-shoulder numbers. "Brides have come to believe a strapless gown is ‘the uniform’ even if it’s not what she wants," she says.
A compromise could be the strapless dress topped with a silk shawl or a dramatic cape, suggests designer Anne Bowen.
Bowen says balance is key. If it’s a "big ball of tulle ballgown," then the open neckline and bare arms might be the way to go, she says, but for a slim column gown, sleeves that go past the wrist can be delicate and feminine.
Tutera suggests another compromise: the detachable-sleeve gown he introduced into his collection. "You take them off after the ceremony. You can feel comfortable and confident when all eyes are on you, but you don’t have to have sleeves for the pictures."