The second day of Fashion Week included an afternoon bridal show, as event organizers seem determined to squeeze in more design categories than ever before. Bridal is something Portland has always excelled at, and aside from The English Dept's annual show it's so rarely seen on the runway, so it was nice to have it included. With only four collections shown, though, and each one dramatically different from the last, the show as a whole did often switch gears somewhat jarringly, but in a way that seems appropriate given Portland's overall mentality regarding bridal fashion: basically it's your wedding, wear whatever the hell you want. Either way, each designer had a strong point of view, and for the most part the quality level was quite high.
The show began with Amrapali, a boutique that carries imported Indian clothing, including a sizable bridal collection. On one hand, it seemed like a somewhat odd choice to open with something so specialized, but the boutique did put on quite a show, full of dramatic colors, beautifully intricate beading, and lush velvets and silks, along with the occasional clearly Western-influenced look and a few men's pieces thrown in. Admittedly, I don't know nearly enough to judge whether or not the traditional Indian bride would want to wear any of it, but the clothes were quite lovely.
Next up was Sophie Chang, who did not have the traditional bride in mind with this collection. This was made clear when she opened with a black mermaid gown, which was followed by a series of daring, often quite sexy looks, like a red dress with a sheer bodice (and strategically placed lace) and up-to-there slit. There were some more conventionally bridal pieces in colors like champagne and even white, that tended to be fairly sleek and paired down (but with some super long trains), and then an ultra-bridal final look complete with a super-full skirt, a veil and all the bells and whistles. While one particularly short hemline did sorta make me think "what Stacy Keibler would have worn if George had ever proposed," the collection overall felt very fashion forward and refreshing in a field typically dominated by virginal tulle and organza concoctions. Also, the quality of the construction and lacework were exquisite.
Kimmi Designs caters to a very earthy bride who I envision getting married barefoot in a meadow with a Wiccan high priestess officiating. I'm not making fun! This describes a real customer, and I would much rather attend her wedding than some stuffy church-based affair. Still, some of the chunky embroidery and stiff fabrics were a bit granola for my taste (I suppose that comes with the territory), and the overall theme of the collection felt a bit scattered, with the odd Victorian or Renaissance reference thrown in, along with one Marie Antoinette look that felt at odds with the general aesthetic.
The final designer to show was Sunjin Lee, whose collection was definitely the most classically bridal of the bunch, but had plenty of drama and wow factor nonetheless. Silhouettes tended toward the more sleek, often with a '30s feel, but looks were amped up with shimmering fabrics, silver embroidery, and statement-making headpieces. Styling elements like long black gloves, slim belts, and in one case a fur stole underscored the old-fashioned elegance of the collection, while still making it feel modern and fresh. The fit of everything was perfect, and Lee is clearly a designer who understands movement on the body. This was a good collection to conclude with, as it probably appeals to the widest range of brides-to-be, from traditionalist to more fashion forward, and ended the show on a very high note.
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