National Bridal Market Report: Fall 2013

It’s that time of year again – Bridal Fashion Week! Last weekend, I attended the National Bridal Market here in Chicago, where designers converged on the Merchandise Mart to showcase new bridal fashions for the upcoming Spring 2014 season. (To get more of a low-down on what Bridal Market entails, check out my coverage of the Spring 2013 session here!)

Since this was my third time at Market, I knew exactly what to expect, making it much less of an overwhelming experience as opposed to past seasons. As usual, I went with my boss, Krista, as well as my coworker Sarah. The three of us had an amazing weekend checking out all the new, upcoming styles from our designers—not to mention we were extremely productive!

The most exciting thing, though… they allowed picture-taking this year! Which means I actually get to show you all the new trends instead of just talking about them!

So keep reading to see the latest designs from Maggie Sottero, Casablanca, and even new lines such as Aura Bridal by Andrew Adela . . .

(All photos personal. And picture-heavy—you’ve been warned!)

mart3Unlike previous Markets, we had a late start to the weekend. Rather than starting on Saturday, we decided to wait until Sunday to start our trip (as Krista and Sarah didn’t want to miss a busy Saturday at the boutique). As such, registration was a breeze and we felt much more relaxed without having to deal with the craziness of opening day—at least, until we realized just how much we had to accomplish with one less day to do it!


I wish I had a chance to get a better photo of the display since the gowns were lovely – but look, ma, no crowds!

As soon as the floor opened and we headed up the elevators, we made a beeline for the Maggie Sottero booth to attend their first fashion show of the day. I was excited for it, since they’re one of the most popular designers we carry and they always have some of the most fashion-forward designs at the show.

Right off the bat, we heard about their new plans for the company:

  • Maggie Sottero will be increasing/expanding their price point (which means the prices of their gowns will rise).
  • They are looking to design more elaborate, beaded gowns.
  • Their Sottero & Midgley line will now be released bi-annually as opposed to only once per year, doubling the amount of new dresses for that division of the company.

After those announcements, they began the fashion show… and almost immediately, I started grimacing.


Right off the bat, we saw the “elaborate beading” they were referring to.

Here are the major trends we saw from their new designs:

  • Lots of “dangerously” low-cut fronts
  • Peplums! So many peplums!
  • Colored dresses involving shades of gold, light yellow, and peach
  • Cap sleeves with beaded accents
  • Horizontal stripes
  • Capelets
  • Brocade fabrics
  • Metallic thread
  • Feathers
  • Replacing tulle with organza


Needless to say, none of us were particularly impressed with what we saw, and we left the show feeling more than a bit discouraged. Our only hope was that the Sottero & Midgley line would be more impressive, because as it stood, we had seen only one or two Maggie gowns we would even consider purchasing—and they weren’t even dresses we were sure our brides would be interested in.

We spent the hour before the Sottero & Midgley show going through the Maggie style book in an attempt to convince ourselves that there was anything worthwhile for us to buy, but we came to the same conclusion we had after seeing the dresses on the runway. Warily, we decided to go through the Midgley book as well to get a preview of what we were about to see in person, and while the designs were a bit better, we were still very nervous by the time we sat down for the next show.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SS811- "Angelette"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SS811- “Angelette”

As you can see, the Midgley line incorporated many of the same trends that we saw in the Maggie Sottero dresses, such as the low-cut fronts. The gown pictured above, Angelette, comes with a beaded modesty panel that your seamstress can sew into the front of the dress in the off-chance you’re not comfortable showing that much cleavage. (In which case, why not just search for a different beaded ball gown with a higher neckline? Who knows.)

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SD820 - "Amanie"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SD820 – “Amanie”

My boss absolutely fell in love with the beading on this gown, but ultimately we decided it didn’t fit our customers’ preferences. And that’s the major issue we’ve started running into with the Maggie Sottero gowns; while certainly trendy and fashion-forward, they aren’t appealing to the everyday Midwestern bride.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SC806 - "Keaton"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SC806 – “Keaton”

The metallic trend continues! This gown is very similar in terms of concept to a Fall 2013 design that involved a golden lattice pattern (and you’ll likely begin seeing in stores very soon).

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SB810 - "Macie"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SB810 – “Macie”

Now, Macie is one gown that I loved, but my coworkers weren’t so fond of. I’m a sucker for the hi-low hem trend (since, hey, you’re spending a fortune on those shoes, why not show them off?). Not to mention, this dress would be adorable if it was hemmed to tea-length. That being said, brides lately haven’t been liking the pointe d’esprit lace (or Swiss dots), so that was one of the factors that made my boss nix this gown from our list of “maybes.”

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SN805LU - "Quincy"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SN805LU – “Quincy”

One of our absolute most popular Maggie Sottero gowns is Anniston, and Quincy is very reminiscent of that gown, as it incorporates many of the style elements that make Anniston so successful with brides. It even has the lace appliques that trail off the bodice to overlap the skirt! This dress was an automatic “yes” for us, if only because Anniston needs a challenger.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SD817 - "Trinity"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SD817 – “Trinity”

Metallic bow belt? Thanks, but I’ll pass—it’s a little too “Wet Seal” for me.


Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SS801 – “Mischlene”

What did I say about elaborate beading? Mischlene definitely set the standard for that particular company goal! This gown has 100,600 beads on it (which take over 15 days to attach by hand), and it is heavy. I had a chance to hold it on the hanger and it felt more like chain-mail than a bridal gown. That being said, it is positively stunning—but at nearly $4,000, it’s certainly out of our customer’s budget.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SW797 - "Channing"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SW797 – “Channing”

But wait! Fear not, for there’s a cheaper alternative for the thriftier bride. (This is said with heavy sarcasm, mind you.) Channing has only 53,606 beads, and at under $3,000, it may be so much more affordable for the bride who wants the elaborate beadwork without feeling like a knight riding off into battle. The train is also detachable, which may allow for more mobility when marching down the aisle to face enemy soldiers.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SS803 - "Paula"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SS803 – “Paula”

My boss isn’t a fan of the “matchy-matchy,” but I definitely am, so this gown with the matching veil took my breath away. The three-dimensional floral appliques may be a problem with some, but this is a gown that I would try on if I saw it in the store, no doubt about that.

Sottero & Midgley - Style 4SS827 - "Lola"

Sottero & Midgley – Style 4SS827 – “Lola”

Finally, the show wrapped up with Lola—which, again, featured stunning beadwork, but we just weren’t quite sure about those fluttery cap sleeves.

Overall, our main issue with the Maggie Sottero and Sottero & Midgley lines this season was that the designs felt very non-cohesive. Many of them exemplified the same style issues and poor concepts from their last collection, such as an emphasis on the “Great Gatsby” and art-deco trends which haven’t shown much success in the store (particularly given that the movie flopped). Hopefully this was their last season of pushing that particular trend, but I’m still rather anxious to see where the company progresses from here on out.

Feeling more than a bit nervous, we headed over to the Casablanca booth for their runway show. Mostly, we were dreading that it would be more of what we’d already seen. Were we just having an off day where we would hate everything? Or were our designers moving in a direction we couldn’t follow, given our client-base?

But as soon as the CB Couture show started, we knew everything was going to be okay.

CB Couture - Style B085

CB Couture – Style B085

Gorgeous, gorgeous dresses! Stunning colors! Look, just look at that lovely illusion lace and the keyhole back with the trailing ribbon down the length of the skirt! Be still, my heart!

CB Couture - Style B080

CB Couture – Style B080

My roommate fell in love with this dress when I showed her these pictures. She’s decided that this is going to be her wedding dress when the day comes.

CB Couture - Style B080

CB Couture – Style B080

And frankly I can’t blame her. Number one, she would look killer in this gown. Number two, those lace appliques are beautiful. I’m also a huge fan of the “silver blush” colorway shown here.

CB Couture - Style B075

CB Couture – Style B075

This is a close-up shot of the bodice on their lead gown for the collection. Yes, those are leather braids incorporated into the bead work. And yes, it is incredible.

The Casablanca show started immediately following the CB Couture dresses, so we didn’t even have to leave our seats. Instead, we were able to stay put and continue our shameless, unabashed drooling.

Casablanca - Style 2154

Casablanca – Style 2154

Isn’t that back just amazing? What we saw at Casablanca were many of the same or similar concepts attempted by Maggie Sottero, but the execution was extremely superior. What makes Casablanca so successful is that they incorporate classical, tried-and-true elements with trends in a tasteful interpretation. They know how to appeal to real brides, not just the runway crowd.

Casablanca - Style 2158

Casablanca – Style 2158

We walked away from Casablanca feeling much, much better—not to mention we had a huge list of gowns we wanted to order and would have to laboriously narrow down. My boss decided to expand our collection by acquiring the CB Couture line, which will appeal to the higher price point our brides have been seeking in terms of style without the outrageous prices.

After that, we spent the rest of the day exploring the showroom floor.

The gowns displayed outside the Alfred Angelo booth made me stop dead in my tracks.

The gowns displayed outside the Alfred Angelo booth made me stop dead in my tracks.

I didn’t have a chance to peruse the Alfred Angelo collection, even though I desperately, desperately wanted to. But what I saw from outside was beautiful; maybe next time I’ll be able to sneak away long enough to poke through the new Disney Fairytale collection.

The lighting in their booth was awful, so apologize for the poor photo - but don't worry, you're not missing much.

The lighting in their booth was awful, so apologize for the poor photo – but don’t worry, you’re not missing much.

We stopped by the Eddy K. collection to scope out their new gowns. We carried this line last year and didn’t see much success with them at all; actually, all of their gowns ended up going into our stock room rather than keeping them on the floor since they just weren’t checking with brides. However, the owner was present and he assured us that he’s taking the company in a new direction with a whole new vision in terms of style. That being said, we still weren’t very impressed with what we saw—at least, not enough to purchase their gowns now.

After that, we decided to call it a day, and we headed to Grand Lux Cafe for a delicious (and well-deserved) dinner. Tomorrow was going to be even more hectic, given how much we still had left to do.

As such, we got started bright and early on Monday. Our first stop was Casablanca to go over the gowns we wanted to purchase and confirm our order. After that, we headed over to Pearl Bridal. We didn’t have time to sit down for a fashion show, so instead, Jodi allowed us to go backstage and thumb through the collection. Ultimately, we found three dresses that we really liked and will order, although we chose to avoid colors, as we feel our brides aren’t as daring as the runways believe them to be.

At long last, we made it to the Andrew Adela booth. We’re very close with the women who run this company, so we made sure to take some time to catch up with each other before getting down to business: going through their new bridesmaids and mothers dresses, which is easier said than done. (To put it simply, we arrived at their booth at 9:30 AM and didn’t leave until noon.)

We saw lots of lovely bridesmaids dresses, namely involving the following trends:

  • Lace overlays
  • Peplums (we can’t escape them, they’re everywhere!)
  • Tulip skirts
  • Sheath dresses
Jessica Lynn is just the most precious flower girl line out there. I will stand by that statement until the day I die.

Jessica Lynn is just the most precious flower girl line out there. I will stand by that statement until the day I die.

Once we were done with that, we moved on to our main reason for coming here: investigating the new Andrew Adela bridal line, Aura Bridal. This is their first season producing the collection, so we were really excited to see what our ladies had come up with.

Aura Bridal - Style BG1000

Aura Bridal

Lace! Lace and ruffles! Mixed together! They knew my weakness!

Aura Bridal - Style BG1027

Aura Bridal

It was clear that they’re still figuring out concepts and a clear design style, but we were able to make several suggestions from our experience working with brides and other designers that should allow them to improve upon an already great starting line!

Aura Bridal - Style BG1028

Aura Bridal

A close-up of the metallic embroidery on one of their ball gowns. Not sure if it’s to my personal taste, but it was definitely eye-catching!

The rest of the day was spent meeting with many of our other vendors, including Merrily, a mothers line. We didn’t see anything “new” in their Spring 2014 collection; namely, we saw styles that were very similar to Jade and Mori Lee designs, copying elements such as beading and ruching. Furthermore the new Merrily size chart transition has been causing logistical issues for retailers, so we held off on purchasing anything new from them until they get that sorted out.

At Symphony Bridal, we saw just what we expected: nothing impressive. Most of their dresses were lace, and several had long, unflattering peplums. That being said, we found several headpieces in their jewelry collection we would like to order—or had wanted to, until we stopped by Richard Designs.

Gorgeous pearl sets from Richard Design. Love it!

Gorgeous pearl sets from Richard Design. Love it!

We found some fantastic new earrings to feature in our store, along with some exquisite vintage-style veils and headpieces. They also had a huge selection of amazing fascinators, and while those aren’t to our brides’ tastes, we had a bit too much fun trying them on ourselves!

Our final stops for the day included Ellis Bridal (which is my favorite designer ever; I apologize for not taking any photos, but I was too busy enjoying the complimentary champagne!), and Rina de Montella, a new line that we’re looking at picking up to expand our mothers collection. Once it was closing time, we quickly swung over to the Allerton Hotel to visit the Jasmine collection to see the B2/Belsoie maids and Jade moms lines, but ultimately, we didn’t find anything there worth purchasing.

By the end of the day, we were exhausted, but we managed to drag ourselves to Bandera to have dinner together one more time before Sarah and Krista left town.

As always, I had a wonderful time at Market! I’m already counting down the days until the next one in April!

Have you been following the Bridal Fashion Week coverage? Are there any styles you’ve seen that you can’t wait to try on? Any trends you wish would just go away, or ones you hope will stay forever? Share your thoughts in the comments!




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