Designer’s creations top off bridal ensembles
By Brenda Owen
ALGOMA When brides order a Frances Brown original for their weddings, it really goes to their heads.
For almost 20 years, Brown has been designing and hand-making bridal veils and headpieces, as well as other accessories for the wedding ensemble.
Her first head pieces were designed for mannequins in her fabric store in Florence, Ala. in the late 1970s. Customers soon began requesting to buy the beautiful creations worn by the mannequins and Brown went into her bridal accessory business full time.
Since moving back to her native Pontotoc County in 1985, Brown’s reputation has resulted in a modest, but steady stream of prospective brides who want original, one-of-a-kind accessories from head to toe. In addition to veils, headpieces and garters made from imported or domestic alencon, chantilly, schiffli and Venice laces, Brown custom designs bridal shoes by taking plain white shoes and adding pearls and lace to match the bride’s dress and veil. When material can’t be found to match colors worn by the bridal party, Brown dyes Russian veiling, lace and even pearls to match.
“One thing that I do for weddings in other parts of the country that has not caught on around here are headpieces for the bridesmaids,” Brown said. These headpieces are either made from the same material as the dresses or dyed to match, she said.
Beginning with yards of lace, silk and nylon, she fashions bridal veils and accessories, as well as headgear and accessories for the entire bridal party.
“I never design a head piece without seeing the bride,” Brown said. “I have to see them even if it’s only a picture to get an idea of the kind of design that is right for them. No two of my headpieces are alike. I can work from sketches or descriptions of what the bride wants or I can design what I think is best suited to them.”
Some brides-to-be already have an idea of what they want. Sonya Cole, a legal secretary from Oxford, brought Brown a magazine photograph of a headpiece she liked. Adding Cole’s own personal touches to the design, the two came up with a one-of-a-kind bridal veil. At a recent fitting session, Cole exclaimed, “I love the way it’s turning out.”
Brown has shipped her handiwork all over the world to such diverse locations as Boston, New York, Dallas and an army base in Germany.
Brown laughed as she recalled,” I once had a call from a frantic young lady in Texas who had her heart set on a 1920s style wedding. She had her dress made but could not find a veil to match the style. She sent me a picture of herself and the dress and I designed a matching headpiece. I had to ship it UPS to get it there in time for the wedding.”
Just as in other fashions, trends in headpieces come and go, Brown said, and today’s veils are as exquisite as the gowns they complement.
New trends include:
– Sheer circular veils that surround the bride and are edged in ribbon or lace.
– Veils with slits in the back to reveal beautiful back detailing.
– Novelty touches jeweling, beading, lace appliques, silk flowers or petals on tulle veils.
A rule of thumb is deciding which veil is right for you, Brown said, is to choose a veil length that complements the length and shape of your skirt and train. For a dress with a dramatic back bustle or other detailing, consider a short fingertip veil or detachable veil that can be replaced with a flyaway veil for the reception.
Below are other options:
– Blusher. A loose veil worn forward over face, and after the ceremony turned back, over the head piece; often attached to a longer, three-tiered veil; can be attached to a hat.
– Flyaway. Multiple layers that brush the shoulders; usually worn with informal, ankle-length dress or a style with details in back.
– Fingertip. Several layers of veiling that touch the fingertips.
– Ballet length/Waltz length. Falls to the ankles.
– Chapel length. Cascades some 2 1/2 yards from the headpiece.
– Cathedral length. Cascades at least 3 1/2 yards from the headpiece; usually worn with a cathedral train.
You should also choose a headpiece to complement the particular style of your dress, Brown said. For example, if your gown is simple, opt for a more elaborate headpiece; if you’ll be wearing an ornate dress, consider a more modest hair accessory.
Some popular styles include:
– All-over lace mantillas. Fine lace veils usually secured to elegant combs, gently framing the face.
– Tiaras. Designed in a three-quarter circle, these ornate crowns can be worn with any hairstyle, and rest high atop the head. T his season, look for gold wire designs accented with semiprecious stones, pearls, or porcelain-like flowers.
– Hair ornaments. For a simple romantic effect, scatter silk flowers throughout your hair. This is a lovely way to complement the turn-of-the-century gown. Also consider hair ornaments for bridesmaids, Brown said.
– Hats. Consider a half of full Juliet cap, a simple pillbox, a cloche with a turned-up brim for the flapper look, an open-crown garden hat, a Moroccan fez with veiling spilling from the top or an Edwardian top hat.