The Gown Designers

Steven Birnbaum and Robert Bullock of Birnbaum & Bullock

Photo: Hannah Whitaker

So, the two of you design three separate lines?
R.B.: Birnbaum & Bullock, our sixteen-year-old couture line, is a true collaboration.
S.B.: Each gown is individually made for a specific bride; they’re lined in silk and priced between $3,000 and $9,500.
R.B.: But when we decided to introduce two lower-priced lines, we wanted them to be very different.

And are they?
S.B.: With Robert Bullock Bride, Robert has created a romantic, feminine line. It’s very soft with a lot of lace, tulle, and organza.
R.B.: Steven’s collection walks the line between modern and vintage, and has details like tuxedo stripes and big pockets. It’s not over- embellished, just very clean and sleek.

Strapless has had a long run.
Strapless has been a huge success because most women look good in it. But it has to be made well and fit correctly; otherwise, you will be tugging.
S.B.: I’ve had brides who tug simply out of nervousness. If you have that tendency, avoid strapless.

What’s next, trendwise?
We’ve had a lot of brides who are buying a short dress to change into for the reception—the more they drink, the less they want to lug around a giant gown.
S.B.: A much tighter silhouette is also popular at the moment. But in general, women want something timeless.
R.B.: When you look at wedding pictures from the eighties, you rarely say, “Oh, you were such a gorgeous bride.” Instead it’s, “Oh, you got married in the eighties.” The problem with a trend is that it’s so rooted in a particular time. It may be huge when you order the dress, but it’s over when the gown arrives a year later. And then you’re stuck.

Unless, of course, you buy another dress.
We’ve had brides this year who bought a gown elsewhere, then came to us for something more classic. There’s a very fine line between you wearing the gown and the gown wearing you.

How can a bride ensure that she stays on the right side of that line?
We often see women in front of the mirror whose eyes don’t go up to their face. If you’re looking at the gown, and not at yourself in it, you’re in trouble.

Do women ever express concern about possible fluctuations in weight?
We’ve actually had brides get pregnant.
R.B.: We probably do four or five brides a year who are about five months along by their wedding day. If the bride is Jewish, everybody is happy. If she’s Catholic, they’re like, “Shh, don’t say a word.”

Pass Down Your Veil
“Women don’t really pass down their gowns anymore, but you can give your veil to a friend, cousin, or sister.”


The Gown Designers