The Gown Designer

Photo: Victor Prado/New York Magazine

Monique Lhuillier

You opened your first New York boutique last fall after more than fifteen years designing bridal gowns. What took so long?
We couldn’t find the right space, one that felt like a tucked-away couture salon rather than a traditional Madison Avenue shop. We eventually came upon this townhouse: The first floor was a shoe store, and the second floor had an art gallery on one side and an apartment on the other. We decided to rent all three, raise the ceiling, add a glass staircase, wrap the walls in gray suede, and make it one boutique (19 E. 71st St., nr. Madison Ave.).

For someone based in L.A., what do you make of your cultish New York following?
New York brides like that my designs exaggerate things—an extra-low back, a near-plunging neckline—just enough to shake up the femininity. They’re also more likely to prefer the high-fashion looks I create for the runway or the unconventional fabrics I use in my latest collection, like jacquard knits, rather than your typical silk, satin, and organza.

Why the recent foray into bridal footwear?
I wanted to create shoes that incorporated elements from my gowns—the same shade of blush, the same type of lace—so that you get a complete head-to-toe look. All the heels are three inches: feminine and sexy, but not uncomfortably high.

What are your favorite gown styles for winter?
Dresses with slim, sheer sleeves are so beautiful that time of year. They won’t keep you warm, but they look just right in pictures.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Oversize bouquets. It baffles me how brides will obsess about every detail of the dress and go through as many as four fittings, but never test it out with the bouquet. Then they end up walking down the aisle with a bundle of flowers that’s so big, it obscures their entire waistline. Keep the bouquet short and tight—it should be an accent, not a focal point.

Spanx or no Spanx?
If it’s a slinky silhouette, then yes. But for a ball gown? It’s not necessary to put yourself through that. Just have the seamstress take your measurements as tight as possible, but keep to your current size; you can always take it in later.


Illustration by Hanna K. Lee

“After you order the dress, schedule an additional two fittings within eight weeks of your wedding day. That will give you a chance to not only perfect the tailoring, but also tweak the design details.”

The Gown Designer