Yvonne LaFleur considers venue when fitting brides

Brides might want to take into consideration the venue at which they will get married when choosing their wedding gown, especially if it is a church, said seasoned bridal consultant, designer, seamstress and boutique owner Yvonne LaFleur.

“A lot of it has to do with the venue, the size of the church and shape of the girl,” she said.

She advises prospective brides to bring in pictures of dresses they like, and they start there. Then LaFleur said she considers the bride-to-be’s figure, the venue, time of day and season and will guide her to a silhouette that will best complement her.

“I think all brides are beautiful,” she said, but how La­Fleur might dress them for an ad would be considerably different than the silhouette she would select for a Catholic church.

“At a church wedding, you want a demure look,” LaFleur said. “You want to look well.

You want something that you look beautiful in. I don’t think people should say ‘What a beautiful dress!’ They should say, ‘What a beautiful bride!’ – something that complements the bride. Brides come in all shapes, sizes and ages. But, she just needs to find that perfect look.”

 Catholic roots

LaFleur’s Catholic upbringing – and being taught by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Cabrini High – has instilled in her a sensibility of good manners and what is appropriate for a church wedding, talents she uses in helping brides pick a dress.

LaFleur said when girls come in to select a dress, she asks them, “How do you want to be perceived as a woman?”

“The day of your wedding, you are very much a woman, not a little girl,” she said. “And you want to knock the guy’s (groom’s) socks off. You are really dressing for him.”

LaFleur is known for importing lace and can easily trim veils in lace and overlay lace to cover more shoulder, back or arms on a strapless dress. She easily can customize a strapless dress with a portrait collar.

“You have the look of strapless but you have a little more coverage,” she said.

Some churches require more coverage, like St. Patrick on Camp Street, she said, so it is advisable to check with the church’s wedding coordinator. “You have to know that going into it you have certain rules you have to abide by,” she said.

For fall and winter brides, LaFleur suggests real or synthetic fur shrugs as a nice addition. She mentioned a beautiful wedding at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York where she outfitted the bride by constructing a lace top and long lace sleeves over a strapless dress.

“It was a lot of work but she was a very pleased bride,” LaFleur said. “She sent us pictures.”

Details are important

She tries to steer brides away from trends and the influence of Hollywood and to look for dresses with refinement. She cites, for example, the puffy sleeve dresses of the Lady Diana days in the ’80s and the slip dresses of the 2000s. “I try to give them a look that when they look at their picture in 30 years, they are not going to say, ‘Why did I do that?’” she said.

LaFleur is finding more  brides seeking extravagance in fabrics and details. Cathedral veils and blush veils are making a comeback in

fashion, she said.

“I tell them it gives them that moment of privacy if they start to tear when they open the doors to the church and see this crowd of people and you’ve got to walk down this long aisle and you get teary, so that blush camouflages a little bit of that.”

Many brides are also looking for that little bit of extra pop to stand out on their dress. LaFleur said the addition of color such as choosing a champagne-color underlay for a lace dress is also a nice detail. It really helps the lace stand out.

Adding a belt or colored satin sash (in a color that might match the underlay) is another option that can be tied in multiple ways in the back or front.

When initially trying on dresses, LaFleur advises brides not to bring many people.

“You have to hear your voice,” she said. “You are not dressing for your friends. You are dressing for that one man. It’s more of a personal thing.”

Look for quality

LaFleur said she is happy with the high-quality, well constructed European designer collections she carries at her boutique, especially as someone who worked at the major department stores such as D.H. Holmes, Krauss, Godchaux’s and Gus Mayer.

“The one thing I know about this business is fabrics,” she said.” I learned fabric and have sewn since I was very young, so I think you get good construction here and good fabric.”

LaFleur’s dresses range generally from $1,500-$2,000, with free alterations.

“I think it’s a nice range because weddings are very expensive and, to spend $10,000 on a dress when there are so many other things, you just have to see how that fits into your budget.”

Learning the importance of charity for those less fortunate, LaFleur has been donating bridal gowns to the Junior League of New Orleans instead of having annual sales.

“It’s been a nice thing to do,” she said. She further encourages Junior League members to also bring in bridesmaids’ dresses from an entire wedding, so brides on a budget could have fabulous dresses for every member of a bridal party.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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