With yards of silk and satin, intricate lace and beading, today's bridal lingerie looks beautiful enough to wear down the aisle. All that's missing is the veil.
"There's a trend toward luxurious lingerie," says Christa Koegl, general merchandise manager and vice president of Frederick's of Hollywood. Lately the 47-year-old company has been selling out of its bridal bustiers made of white satin and embellished with seed pearls.
"Brides want to be pretty underneath, too," Koegl says.
In spring the bridal business at lingerie shops blooms in anticipation of the June and July wedding season.
For brides, there's the all-important search for lingerie to be worn under the wedding gown, as well as a suitcase full of pretty unmentionables for the honeymoon.
Most brides want traditional-looking lingerie for their wedding night, with white and ivory being the overwhelming favorite colors for bridal lingerie.
"There's a sense of tradition, just like when planning a wedding," says Erin Kershaw, sales assistant at Kristen's lingerie shop in Newport Beach. "They want that traditional white peignoir set (matching robe and nightgown) for the first night--even if it isn't the first night."
Mothers and grandmothers are the ones who usually buy the bride the pricier peignoirs, Kershaw says.
"The fun, wild things come from the bridesmaids and friends," she says.
I C London in Laguna Beach has the ultimate in wedding night attire: lavish peignoir sets by Jonquil, a company known for its fine lingerie. Some robes and gowns have trains in the back and appliques of double-embroidered lace adorned with seed pearls, satin rosettes and sequins. The nighties are as fancy as any wedding gown and often as expensive. A Jonquil peignoir set goes for about $400 to $650.
"I gave a friend a Jonquil gown for her wedding five years ago. She says she drags it out every year on their anniversary. It still works like a charm," says Elizabeth Benton, owner of I C London.
I C London carries an exquisite ivory chiffon peignoir with lace insets, seed pearls and pale pink satin rosettes on the bodice by Jonquil that is "not drop-dead sexy" but alluring nonetheless, Benton says. There's also a more tailored white satin nightgown with a low crisscross back and flared skirt that recalls the '40s Harlow glamour. Brides who want a sportier look can choose a stretch lace crop top with tap shorts for $52.
No honeymoon costume is complete without what Benton calls "froufrou slippers"--low-heeled mules with marabou feather trim. Bolder brides also choose her fancy G-strings that have a teeny triangle of elaborate lace and not much else for $29.
"Brides either want something very elegant and feminine or the other extreme--something very sexy," says Cindy Boden, owner of In The Mood in Laguna Niguel.
She carries a shimmering peignoir by Jonquil of ivory satin with an accordion pleat in back, or a peach-colored satin robe with a quilted shawl collar and delicate lace applique.
For daring brides, there's a wispy pink chiffon camisole and tap pants trimmed with ivory lace or a gold satin set with black lace, both about $50.
Brides also face the practical task of finding the right bustier or bra to wear under their gowns.
"A bride's single biggest need is finding something to go with her dress's neckline," says Caren Braunagel, vice president of merchandising for Lingerie For Less. The company's Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach stores carry a variety of backless bras and bustiers for off-the-shoulder gowns or dresses with allusion necklines.
"Push-up bras give brides a great shape," Braunagel says. "With the news about breast implants, we're selling a tremendous amount of them."
By shopping carefully, brides can put together trousseaus filled with a variety of the required lingerie--bras, chemises, teddies, a peignoir set--without jeopardizing the couple's future finances.
"Some brides want something new to wear every night of their honeymoon," Braunagel says.
Frederick's of Hollywood and Lingerie For Less have both started catering to budget-conscious brides.
Lingerie For Less has set up a bridal section filled with delicacies like sheer white merry widows with satin trim for $29, French-cut lace teddies for $16 and camisoles in a white Jacquard paisley print for $12.
Frederick's has a wide sample of low-priced lingerie, including short floral-printed kimonos for $42 with coordinating chemises in solid jewel-tones, camisoles and tap pants for about $28 in soft pastels with lace insets and all-lace teddies (some as low as two for $20) sure to make any bride blush.
Frederick's white satin bustiers with plenty of beading and lace are priced at $35 to $48 and have blown right out of the stores, Koegl says.
"They are a hot, hot item," she says. "Brides want to look pretty but sensual at the same time."
Frederick's also offers a selection of bridal stockings in plain white lace or sheer with embellishments like bells or fans and streamers appliqued at the ankle. There are garters adorned with lace, marabou feathers, hearts and even 1992 medallions.
"Oh, do we have garters," Koegl says.
Once the honeymoon is over, brides have one other important consideration when it comes to lingerie, according to Benton.
"If your husband buys you lingerie, just wear it and give the guy a break," she says. "If you even hint that it's not perfect, you'll hurt his feelings.
"One woman came up to me at a party and said, 'You don't know this, but you're partly responsible for my divorce,' " Benton recalls. The woman's husband had bought her a high-cut French teddy at I C London.
"She didn't want to wear it. She wanted to return it for something more practical. He later used that as an example of everything that was wrong with the marriage."