A Second Time Around

By Janet Bennett Kelly Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008; 12:00 AM

Author Samuel Johnson said that a second marriage is a triumph of hope over experience. That may be, but to our knowledge that hasn't stopped many of us from taking the plunge the second time. According to Conde Nast's 2007 American Wedding Study, 11 percent of brides-to-be said their upcoming nuptials wouldn't be their first; for grooms-to-be, the number was 17 percent. But no matter how many trips the bride has taken down the aisle, one thing remains constant: She wants to look good.

Afraid that the traditional white gown would be inappropriate, women getting married again used to settle for the safety of a suit. Today, however, the options beyond the extremes of a poufy, fairy-tale princess gown and a plain-Jane jacket and skirt are extensive. Carin Levine, co-owner of Georgetown bridal salon Hitched, notes that customers getting married again usually opt for the opposite of what they wore the first time. If they chose a ball gown for the first wedding, they want a sheath for the second; if they once wore a simple dress, now they go full-throttle to traditional.

"Thanks to the influence of the red carpet, we're seeing designers coming out with far more diverse collections of evening gowns, some of which could work for second weddings," says Levine. Such fashion-forward looks aren't likely to sit in your closet after the ceremony. For example, wedding designer Anna Maier Ulla-Maija, who makes made-to-measure couture gowns, offers several choices appropriate for a second wedding that could be worn again, say to an inaugural party.

Rachel Leonard, fashion director of Brides magazine, has spotted several trends for women going down the aisle again. She notes that second-time brides are more likely to prize style over tradition and forgo big skirts and trains for a slimmer, fitted bodice with a flared skirt, perhaps with a plunging back. Instead of strapless, the one-shoulder asymmetrical look is a fashionable and far less traditional bridal look. Leonard advises staying away from white-white in favor of off-white, soft pastels or even the crème caramel-colored gowns that are popular now.

As for length, a second-time bride has more options: "Short is definitely happening -- every bridal designer has at least one in his collection," says Leonard.

When it comes to accessories, says Leonard, while strict etiquette says no veils for second-timers, the rules today are much more relaxed, so wear something in your hair and carry a bouquet. Lastly, says Leonard, "What's most important for any bride is that the dress flatters her figure, is age-appropriate and suits the venue and time of day."

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