By KIM COOK
Individuality is in when it comes to bridal fashion and accessories.
"Brides today want to look and feel like themselves -- their most beautiful selves," says Amy Conway, editor in chief of Martha Stewart Weddings. "That means bringing their own style into their look. They're customising with colour or pattern, dramatic jewellery, bold shoes or other accessories with personality."
Some of the new looks:
"This year, embroidered details are a 'must-have' style," says Dayna Isom Johnson, a trends expert at Etsy.com. She says the site has seen a 40 per cent increase in searches for embroidered bridal wear this year.
Floral and celestial motifs are most popular, Johnson says, with hand-stitching giving a folksy-meets-formal feminine flair.
Adds Conway: "The boho-chic look is going strong. High collars, long sleeves, lace and flowy skirts all add up to a cool, California-girl vibe."
And speaking of sleeves, Conway has noticed the statement sleeve: long bell sleeves or voluminous puff sleeves. Some are even detachable.
Bridal gown designers are thinking outside the white lines, offering dresses in blush, navy, celadon, peach, violet and ombre hues. Vera Wang has gowns in fashion-forward scarlet, cafe au lait, and even black.
Bulgarian design studio Tonena Atelier has a soft grey gown decorated with romantic leaves and blooms. And Salt Lake City designer Natalie Wynn does a figure-flattering, A-line cream dress sprinkled with blue and gold stars.
Conway is also noticing a bit of flapper flair: "Fringe and feathers are fun details, especially on shorter, flirty dresses that brides are changing into for late-night dancing," she says.
But there's room for a pared-down look, too. "We're seeing a return to simplicity in some dresses. Clean, virtually unadorned designs in luxurious fabrics look elegant and timeless -- and put emphasis on the bride," Conway says.
HEADS WILL TURN
Brides with simple, streamlined gowns are pairing them with eye-catching "statement" veils, perhaps dressed up with tiny stars or decorative trims, Johnson says.
Katie Howieson in Sedgefield, England, crafts a fingertip-length veil trimmed with gold stars. She also makes hair combs and headpieces decorated with metallic flowers, leaves, crystals and golden Swarovski pearls.
Sandra Silveyra in Vancouver, British Columbia, who calls her studio Olivia the Wolf ("for fun and fearless brides"), creates understated hair accessories out of seed pearls, brass flowers, glass and stone beads.
Johnson says searches for bridal capes were up nearly 50 per cent this year.
"Designed for the bride looking to stand out, they also provide shoulder coverage during a traditional ceremony, or a quick pre-reception change," she says.
Besides capes and capelets in lace or silky fabrics, look for motorcycle style jackets and sweaters.
Ivy and Aster has a comfy cashmere wrap sweater in ivory or blush. And Brooklyn, New York, designer Rebecca Schoneveld gives the modern bride a powerful silhouette with satin pencil skirts, georgette capes and soft charmeuse skirts with pockets.
One of the hottest jewellery trends, stacking rings, is also big in wedding world, says Johnson.
"Re-imagined for a matrimonial setting, the customisable sets allow fashion-forward brides to mix up their look," she says. "Couples can mark anniversaries and other milestones with special pieces imbued with sentiment."
Crown of Flight has a sapphire-and-diamond-encrusted ring that can fly solo or be stacked with colourful sister rings.
London designer Stephen Webster offers rings shaped like wings or forget-me-knots.
"Yellow gold is making a major comeback," says Conway. "It began even before Prince Harry told the world that it was Meghan Markle's favourite. Speaking of the royal ring, we'll be seeing a lot of rings with a pair of round side stones."
Besides interesting settings and shapes, there's creativity in colour. Pink -- home décor and fashion's pet hue -- has found a foothold in the engagement-ring market. Morganite, a mineral found in pinky hues from blush to salmon, is selling well, according to WeddingWire.com. It's being placed in rose gold, platinum and gold settings.
Look for other unique stones, like tourmaline, emerald, opal, garnet and geode, as well as freeform "raw" stones.
Colleen Banks, jewellery editor and senior associate style editor at Martha Stewart Weddings, is planning her own wedding this summer. She says chandelier earrings are back.
'There's nothing better than a statement earring, especially on your wedding day. I'm definitely breaking out the statement earrings for the reception," says Banks.
For his Ben-Amun label, Isaac Manevitz designed tiered crystal earrings inspired by the shape of peacock feathers.
STEPPING OUT IN STYLE
Banks plans to wear floral print shoes to her wedding as part of a floral theme that includes big bouquets and floral-print bridesmaids' dresses.
"I love the trend of brides adding their own personal style through their shoes," says Banks. "We're seeing pompoms, velvets, wild prints, pretty much anything."