Behind the Dress | Olivia

Behind the Dress | Olivia

Behind the Dress | Olivia

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Ivory strapless mermaid gown with hand-appliqué lace, flower embroidery and silk organza crescent technique.

I’m always drawn back to lace in bridal. Visually, it’s simply such a powerful symbol of the covenant of sanctity and purity. There’s a reason why it’s been around in our bridal vocabulary for so long.

Olivia begins with a base of Chantilly lace, which is layered over with another type of lace constructed especially for this dress. This is a very elaborate take on a favorite motif of mine: three-dimensional lace. Here, we’ve taken Chantilly and embroidery and layered it with pieces of lace cording, producing an effect so soft and whispery it’s like a little private incantation or magic spell. You can see, close up, how it takes on a three-dimensional shape in space, while remaining weightless and transparent. It’s just a beautiful, fine complication on a dress that’s so straightforward in terms of silhouette.

Olivia has a classic full mermaid shape, and then the lace embroidery takes over, moving from the side and around to the back of the gown, and swirling around in big, generous crescent leaves. This is one of my favorite ways to work. You have the contrast between the clean, minimal line of the silhouette, and then you have the close-up splendor of all this magnificent hand-worked artistic detail, just spiraling and weaving its way around. There’s movement, there’s allure, there’s playfulness.

Floating at the neckline are flowers made of organza, and inside each flower you’ll find a perfect little crystal. In meditation you hear about ‘the jewel in the lotus’ — well, here it is.

Behind the Dress | Olivia

Behind The Dress | Nanon

Behind the Dress | Nanon

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Strapless faille ball gown with hand draped bodice and coral floral beaded embroidery.

At first glance, Nanon gives off a highly classic air—there’s ball gown grandeur giving the gown sophisticated drama. The fullness of an A-line skirt and the beauty of a simply draped sweetheart neckline appeal to a traditional sensibility. Family heirloom jewels would not be out of place on Nanon.

What makes this dress modern, however,    is the way Nanon is constructed—I’ve created a dynamic split between tulle and faille, with both fabrics revealed simultaneously. Nanon is an elegantly draped, crisp faille gown, with a slight rustle as it moves. But she’s also a bouyant, ecstastic tulle gown underneath, full of softly swaying layers. It’s as if a faille dress were peeled back to reveal a cross-section of the tulle layers at its foundation. I love revealing a bit of the structure of a gown—it becomes symbolic of how multilayered and complex a marriage is. I’ve always tried to communicate a bit of that feeling in my designs.

I love the way the combination of tulle and faille work together—they create a very voluminous, dramatic shape in the skirt without appearing overly inflated. I’ve draped and folded everything in Nanon so that it’s very flat, almost the way a kimono wraps around the body. It’s so flattering—these smooth, diagonal drapes sculpting the bodice to create a sleek transition from the waist to the hip.

Other than a very light touch of beaded embroidery decorating the side of the bodice, Nanon has no other decoration. The dress is just about the impact of those gorgeous fabrics, all their movement and volume, and the contrast of the opaque faille against the more airy tulle.

Nanon is so timeless—I can picture her seamlessly blending into any type of wedding. She’s the all-American debutante ready to waltz out onto the dance floor!

Behind the Dress | Nannette

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Strapless hand pleated silk faille and honeycomb tulle mermaid gown with horsehair ribbons, organic flower detail and floral beaded embroidery.

There’s so much dreaminess and froth in the other dresses I designed for Fall, that with Nanette I wanted to explore a different approach to volume and decoration. She’s very sophisticated.

Made from featherweight silk faille, Nanette is a mermaid gown, but a much more subtle one. Like a classic mermaid, the dress cuts very close to the body on top, with smooth, diagonal draping around the waist that is embellished with a sprinkling of floral embroidery at the sides. But at the hip, the dress flares out with a cage-like tiered horsehair and tulle overlay. It’s almost as though the gown is wearing a veil on top of it, a gown within a gown. I love this unexpected way of designing a mermaid gown—the overlay is just like a halo, floating off the mermaid-shaped underlayer.

In many of my gowns this season, I’ve used a bold motif of engineered, pleated tissue organza roses. They form the decorative focal point of Nanette, floating on top of the overlay and wrapping around the gown in a bouquet-like cluster. I love the dimension this collage of rosettes adds to the dress. It’s such a striking counterpoint to the crisp, sleek overlay.

Another overlay I’ve used in the gown is actually a removable element—a delicate piece of tulle embroidered with circle and floral Chantilly lace along with bits of floral embroidery. It almost looks painted onto the bride’s skin. The bride can wear the underlay during the ceremony and totally transform the dress for her reception afterwards. The convertible aspect of the dress makes it wonderfully versatile.

The way everything floats in Nanette, from the floral decoration of the underlay at the neck, to the horsehair-structured skirt—it’s sophisticated elegance at its best.

Behind the Dress – Macy

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Ivory and nude V-neck sleeveless lace mermaid gown with hand appliquéd Chantilly lace accents and guipure lace back.

Macy is a very soft, really sensual, feminine Luxe dress. It really highlights all the different ways I played with texture in this collection through a collage of so many gorgeous varieties of lace.

I used the mermaid silhouette as a way to combine the laces in an organic way. The body of the gown is made up of two types of laces: fern-patterned guipure lace on the back of the bodice, then pieced together with abstract corded rose lace the entire length of the front.

I placed the corded lace very precisely so that the curves of the exaggerated roses hit the body in all the right places—as a delicate modesty piece at the neckline, and then as a subtle waist-defining element. As that rose lace floats down the top layer of the skirt, suddenly there’s a rich explosion of Chantilly lace accents, all hand-appliquéd onto tulle on top of a nude under layer. It’s a very multidimensional way of collaging the lace. With all the different ways for light to pass through these layers of the skirt, you have such an incredible depth of color tones. And all from such a simple palette of nude and ivory.

This season many of my gowns feature a plunging V in the front and in the back. I really wanted to explore a new way of augmenting the shoulders, different from how a strapless gown would do it. I think having the lace-covered straps here is a wonderful way to accent the shoulders and back—the linear corded lace becomes a drawing against the skin.

Everything about Macy is so soft, from the construction, to the ethereal quality of the lace patterns—geometrically precise, yet still a totally romantic expression of lace.


Behind the Dress – Lisbeth

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Strapless floating tulip and rose lace ball gown with open back and classic corset detailing.

Lisbeth is the pinnacle of fairy-tale romance. Imagine Marie Antoinette’s voluminous yet structured ball gowns in the court of Versailles. Lisbeth possesses exactly the same kind of regal elegance.

At the heart of this Luxe gown, as with the other dresses in this collection, is an applique of tulip and rose lace, one of my boldest lace patterns yet. Oversized tulip and rose blossoms are cut apart and fused together to create the ultimate floral symbol of love. The combination of the two types of flowers gives the lace a rich, tonal pattern.

When I set out to design this collection, I wanted to re-examine lace, such a traditional, quintessential fabric, but I also wanted to reinvent it with a pattern that really popped. So I love the extreme size of these flowers. There’s a kind of drama you don’t get from more traditional lace patterns, and it’s very different from the more spidery, delicate laces I’ve used in the past. I didn’t completely abandon tradition, however. I still love the delicacy that a really fine Chantilly lace adds, so there are flashes of that appliquéd onto the gown, too. It’s subtle, and so sophisticated.

Covered with dense, tonal lace appliqué, Lisbeth’s classic corseted bodice delicately nips and sculpts the waist with boning into a V-shape, really drawing the eye to the center. The hourglass shape of the bodice is a beautiful contrast to the airy, frothy layers of tulle in the skirt. The open keyhole back is especially alluring. I have always felt that just a hint of skin adds such a modern touch.

Then there’s that dramatic, classic ball gown skirt, a voluminous explosion of tulle layers. The front of the skirt is blank, while the front and back sides have an applique of lace blossoms tossed onto both sides of the skirt. The negative space on the front of the skirt gives you such a nice contrast to the textures of the lace. It makes the lace on the sides feel more special, because you get little flashes of it, instead of it being so bold

Dreamy and diaphanous, Lisbeth effortlessly embodies everything about my return to romance, a thoroughly contemporary take on classicism.

Behind The dress | Kimberly

Kimberly is a modern princess dress. There’s the grandeur of a really full, lush ballgown, but it still allows you to show off your body. Design-wise, it makes a very bold statement with all the different uses of textures from top to bottom. These gorgeous textures start right at the neckline, with hand-cut Chantilly lace applique placed so that the edges of the lace sit against your skin like semi-transparent wisps of flower petals, or springtime leaf buds. It’s just a subtle touch of lace, but it’s very significant.

The body of the gown builds on that dynamic sensibility, with a construction that is all about continuous movement. From the bodice to the base of the dress, there are full-length, bias tiers of organza. The layers are uninterrupted, with no seam between the skirt and bodice, giving it this perfect fluidity. Everything about it is perfectly engineered to have diversity and movement. For instance, each horizontal layer of tulle and organza has been asymmetrically placed. No two pieces of bias strips on this dress are the same width, or the same size, or follow any type of pattern. They’re executed to flatter the body in all the right places, from the bust, which looks rounder and fuller, to the waist, which nips in and looks like it’s just melting away into narrowed hips.

There’s also this ruffled, cascading effect in the bottom of the skirt, where you can really see the light coming through, and where those different transparencies of the tissue organza hit. An almost-obscured, big, abstract flower floats in the base of the skirt – just a little burst of pleated tulle and eyelash tissue organza that is so lighthearted and joyous. Then on the back of gown, you have this beautiful, voluminous train that I’ve tacked and bustled, with floating pieces of lace applique inserted into the organza layers, so they pop. There’s a sense of controlled chaos that I love – it’s very effortless, even though all the elements have been very deliberately and carefully balanced.

Kimberly is a study in precision of the body, but at the heart of this dress, it’s all about a sense of playfulness. You’ll just want to twirl in it!

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

Behind The Dress | Kaitlin

Content derived from the Vera Wang Blog, Vera Unveiled.

With Kaitlin, I’ve taken a very traditional, almost whimsical style, which is the Basque-waisted gown, and tailored it into quite an exciting look. The dress takes this fairy-tale Basque-waisted bodice, meaning the bodice dips down at the waist into a point, and transforms it with criss-crossed, draped tulle and a thrilling notch-front neckline. This is done to emphasize the bride’s torso and to give her a very elongated, contemporary contour. Then there’s the modesty piece: that’s the hint of tulle veiling peeking up along the top of the bodice. When you see it against the bride’s skin, it both looks and feels ravishing. It’s a bit of an unexpected twist, contrasting with the bold layered tones of the draped bodice – it’s very sultry.

One very delicate, but dramatic detail, is the crystal embroidery. You can see it nestled into the waist in an organic shape, and it weaves around the waist and back, scintillating in a bed of tulle flower petals. This is a subtle adornment but it’s very powerful. It’s another fairy-tale charm.

The low ‘V’ cut back zooms in on the bride’s bare shoulder blades. This is such a sensual part of the view. I love an exposed back for weddings: if you can make it work, it’s so tender and feminine. Then you have the honeycomb tulle of the ballgown skirt, tacked in the front to give it a little bit of a peplum shape. It gives the whole dress some flounce and airiness, instead of a smooth drape. All in all, Kaitlin is a very soft and sweet gown.

Dahlia strapless ballgown with notched neckline and lifted tulle skirt with crystal embroidered detail.
Photographer: Michael Beauplet

Behind The Dress | Kareena

Kareena is for the bride who can’t decide if she wants to wear a mermaid gown, or if she wants the storybook ballgown. The highly layered, voluminous skirt really gives you the effect that a ballgown would, but it drops so low on the body so that it defines the bride’s figure alluringly, molding to her shape the way a mermaid gown would. It has a split personality that works really well.

What’s really beautiful about Kareena is the clean bodice, with its soft, sweetheart neckline, very fine, diagonally-draped French tulle, and foliage-inspired embroidery on the bodice that follows the line of the drape. The way the draping wraps around the back and across the zipper is quite hard to do, because those drapes have to match up from one side of the zipper to the other. It’s done very slowly and precisely by hand. You’ll find this technique in virtually every custom-made dress I do, from the red carpet to the skating rink.

The entire skirt explodes into these asymmetrical tiered flanges. Nothing about this looks really clean-cut or really orderly, and so you get a lot of variation on the body. And all the fabrics on this are so light and airy. You can see light dancing off of all these layers of bias-cut tissue organza and tulle. Even though these layers are completely monochromatic, the contrast between shadow and light creates a lot of interest and texture.

The skirt is so wide and so grand, but it really shows off the body beautifully. There’s so much drama in this gown! But there’s also an ease to it that makes it one of those dresses that fits into so many different settings, from a natural, outdoor daytime wedding, where it would go great against a backdrop of blooms, to a lavish ballroom wedding, where that big skirt would feel right at home on antique floorboards.

Cardinal strapless collapsed ballgown with tiered flange detail skirt and crystal embroidered silk, hand-cut floral accents
Photographer: Michael Beauplet