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Under Wraps

Chic cover-ups offer brides a bit of style, warmth and modesty


Silk mikado cocktail dress with full party skirt, pockets and top stitch bodice details and angora knit bolero from Carolina Herrera

Capelets, shrugs, boleros – brides are topping off their ensembles with fun cover-ups that provide form and function. They’re keeping bare shoulders warm on chilly nights and staying modest for their wedding ceremonies in places of worship.

Perhaps, they’re even silencing a prudish grandma who doesn’t want to see her granddaughter walk the aisle with hardly any clothes on.

“We see brides request them for religious reasons or for vanity, because they don’t like their arms,” says Rose Kingery, a manager at Destiny’s Bride in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Along with fabrics and textures, designers are experimenting with novel shapes, which can confuse the uninitiated. Shrugs tend to be higher in the back, and boleros are more like a jacket and have a tailored finish. Capelets resemble a cropped cape with more billowy arms.

Designer Ian Stuart pairs a silk dupioni tea-length dress scattered with pearls with a matching shrug. Monique Lhuillier offers a three-quarter-length sleeve tulle bolero with a strapless organza gown. Carolina Herrera struck a ladylike chord with a silk Mikado cocktail dress and a below-the-elbow jacket. Oscar de la Renta was even more prim and proper with a feathered rabbit bolero as an accessory to a trumpet gown.

To create a more seamless appearance, designers also are trying to incorporate the cover-up into the gown. Hayley Paige is working with shrugs that clip into the neckline. UK designer Stephanie Allin is creating gowns with inserts that can button in the back or snap into the dress.

Jessica Williams, the designer behind Alvina Valenta, says cover-ups can provide a touch of personalization for brides from the shimmer and glamour of her beaded capelet to the modern whimsy of her georgette floral shrug.

“[It’s about] the overall mood a bride wants to communicate,” Williams says.

Lace boleros and cap-sleeve shrugs by Enzoani, Watters and Ian Stuart are popular sellers at d’Anelli’s Bridal in Lakewood, Colo., says Jessica Daly, the store’s general manager and buyer.

“Brides are also liking some fashion-forward styles, such as pouffier jackets and rosettes and lots of lace,” Daly says.

Cover-ups often look best with slimmer gowns to provide a balanced silhouette, says bridal designer Hayley Paige.

“If you have a big ball gown, adding more fabric to the shoulders can offset the proportions and de-emphasize the [narrow] waist,” Paige says. “[Choose] cover-ups that do not distract from the dress but delicately add a level of tradition and taste.”

One boutique is taking a cautious approach to cover-ups, because of the extra costs, which can range from $250 to $1,000. Bride N Formal by the Bay in Monterey, Calif., plans to stock them in the spring, but isn’t sure if brides will spring for another accessory.

“For us it’s something new,” says a store spokeswoman. “We’re getting lots of requests for them, but we recently had a bridesmaid party decline them because of the price.”

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