Ask the Experts: The Gown Designer

Photo: Brad Paris

Elizabeth Fillmore

Who should brides bring along to gown-shop?
No one. Friends, mothers, sisters—it’s the danger zone. You’ll get sidetracked; you’ll get everybody else’s opinion but your own. Go to three stores. That should be your limit.

Tell me about your gowns.
I cut close to the body. I’m known for hourglass silhouettes, not ball gowns. Lace is one of my favorite materials to work with, from guipure to Chantilly. If I use beading, it’s extremely delicate, because unless it looks like fairy dust, it can get heavy.

To what degree is fashion influencing bridal attire?
When women see bold textures, pieces of bunched-up tulle, or really unique flowers used in wedding gowns, they’re not afraid of it.

What are you digging right now?
Sleeves. They add so much character and don’t have to look old-fashioned or mumsy. You can wear a jacket with a lantern sleeve over a sleek strapless gown.

Are you a wedding-gown purist?
I prefer shades of ivory instead of white. They’re more flattering, and if you can’t buy a “designer gown,” soft-ivory gowns look more expensive. Incorporating color is best done through the shoe.

What about a colored sash?
It chops the dress in half and draws attention to the wrong place. It’s a recent trend and I want it to go away. I think it already is.

Are you a fan of veils?
I love long, cascading, vintage-style veils. Sometimes a fingertip-length veil is better suited for a petite bride, as she may be overshadowed by all the tulle of a long cathedral veil. Tall girls look great in long veils, and some brides don’t need one. Tia Mazza designs beautiful veils and headpieces (she’s carried at Bergdorf Goodman).

How coordinated should the bridal party be?
I don’t like it when bridesmaids are all in the same black dress. Variation is prettier. They should be in dresses that relate in color scheme, all in the same fabric, but with different necklines.

What did you wear to your wedding?
It was at the James Burden Mansion on 91st and Central Park. I wore a fitted Chantilly-lace gown, and my husband wore a white tie and tails. We wanted something that felt out of the late 1800s. If I did it again, I’d wear something more avant-garde. I’m a Gemini, so I’d probably wear two.

Ah, the “scene change.”
Love it. Some of my brides do change into another dress after the ceremony. It’s pretty extravagant.

Especially because brides never wear the dress—or, dresses—again.
Oh, I always tell girls to throw a Champagne party and to ask all their friends to come in their wedding gowns.

Tip From the Trade

“Do a feminine, gutsy shoe in hot pink, a powdery Marie Antoinette blue, or champagne, like this one.” Heels, $850 at Christian Louboutin.


Shoe Photo: Stewart Isbell for New York Magazine

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