Wedding dresses go back to basics

Ostentation is out, minimalism is in. That's a credo that applies to many things these days, including one of the least likely suspects -- the wedding dress.

Pouf is passé. Slim is stylish, and so are soft lace, flowing fabrics and focused embellishment. The everywhere, over-the-top beading and embroidery of recent years? That's gone, for the most part, in favor of simple adornments on a shoulder, sleeve or waistline.


Wedding dresses: A photo caption with a previous version of this story incorrectly identified the dress as available from Alfred Angelo for $299. It is at David's Bridal for $800.

The look these days is "a little more classic. Simplicity and ease are very popular -- dresses that look easy to wear and not stiff and formal," says Millie Martini Bratten, editor in chief of Brides magazine.

A micro-trend within this overall minimalist theme is short wedding dresses. As more brides get married at courthouses or host their receptions at bars rather than traditional banquet halls, they're scaling back and dressing down with attire to match these emerging, downscaled wedding locales.

In many ways, bridal fashion follows regular fashion in that it tracks with economic and cultural trends. When times are good, as they were in the mid-'80s and late '90s, the dresses were sparkly, big and princessy. When good times turned to bad, as they did after the stock market crashes in 1987 and last year, the mood turned introspective and with it, the profiles of even the most celebratory attire.

Weddings are still going strong, but overall spending is down, including the dollar figure for a dress. According to the Knot Real Wedding Survey 2008, $1,032 is the average amount a bride spends on her dress. That's 22% less than in 2007.