These dresses are not for the first marriage or the virgin," says Chicago designer Mark Heister, 39. That excludes practically nobody from buying his outrageously sexy, black lace-and-taffeta wedding dress (price: $4,300). Heister says black-and-white weddings are red hot among his sophisticated, older clientele, many of whom are embarking on their second and third marriages. So far he has not received any flak from grooms. "I think black wedding dresses are great if they're not taken too seriously," he says.
There's nothing trendy about a Pat Kerr gown," says Pat Kerr, 43, of Memphis, perhaps the foremost designer of exquisite lace gowns—wedding and otherwise—in the world. Her romantic, one-of-a-kind, handmade originals, which sell for up to $30,000, have been worn by women from Egypt to the Vatican. One ethereal confection is this dress of candlelight moiré with a Brussels lace keyhole bodice and a six-foot-long rare lace train. The gown took a month to make and at $15,000 is not for the price-conscious. But, notes Kerr, "lace represents art. It is one of those things we are never going to have time to do again." Business is booming. "You had all the dropouts of the '60s and '70s who kind of enjoyed marrying barefoot on the beach and reciting those terrible poems they had written themselves," she says. "Now it's their offspring who are going back to tradition."
Beverly Hills designer Paula Sacks proves there can be pomp despite the circumstance. This silk Charmeuse gown with satin ribbons and bold, silk-flower sleeves (price: $1,200) is one of several that she sells to a dozen pregnant brides yearly. Unlike our model, clients are seldom more than four months along. "Women who are big usually run off and get married in the courthouse," Sacks observes. "They don't walk down the aisle." Sacks, 33, specializes in discretion, describing her approach to maternity wedding wear as "custom camouflaging." She may drape soft fabrics or use a drop-waist effect to create a pouf that tastefully hides a bulging tummy. While the demand for such garb has been consistent over the years, Sacks says that today's woman tends to be more up-front about her condition. "Look at all the women having babies out of wedlock," says Sacks. "People aren't shocked by this anymore."
A belly button doesn't have to be trashy," says Yolanda Cellucci, the 51-year-old owner of Yolanda's of Waltham. Situated just outside Boston proper, Yolanda's trades in anything but propriety. The designer is known for outrageous nuptial wear done in leathers, suedes and furs, as well as necklines that often end where hemlines usually begin. After all, declares Yolanda, "brides aren't little girls who wear the same kind of dress to communion, confirmation and wedding...They want to make a statement with outrageous clothes." So far, Yolanda's off-white Quiana midriff cutaway (price: $1,100) hasn't spoken to any of her customers, but she is quick to defend her design. "It's done in good taste," she says, but then Yolanda has always been protective of her fashions. When a customer went into early labor while trying on one of her designs, Yolanda screamed, "Don't ruin the dress!"
Large, formal weddings (somewhere between a Las Vegas chapel and Charles and Di's fairy-tale nuptials) may be the rage among 1986 summer brides. Yet these same women—who are older, more job oriented and better-off financially than ever before—are showing off their aerobically tuned bodies in some fashions that are anything but traditional. Brides want "elegance, opulence and theatrical productions," says one designer. Here, some creators serve up their altar egos.