An Exclusive Interview with Designer Anne Barge

As you may or may not know, bridal fashion is an integral part of our luxury bridal events, which is why we are SO thrilled to have designer Anne Barge as part of our Luxury Bridal Event tour for 2016!

As we lead into New York Bridal Fashion Week (less than a month away), we asked Anne herself about the bridal industry, where she sees it going next and what we can all expect from her this coming Fall!

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Jim Verraros: Since childhood, you’ve become fascinated with weddings and cite your Mother as a source for your inspiration. Can you take us back to a memory of a wedding that’s always stayed within you?

Anne Barge: My mother was an organ pianist and started taking me with her to ceremonies when I was barely three years old. I have one vivid memory of a wedding where the entire church was filled with gardenias. Watching the bride come down the aisle to the wedding march, smelling the sweet floral air, the whole experience was like a fairytale. It was then that I began to focus on my lifelong dream.

JV: Are there other bridal designers or colleagues that you appreciate or have an affinity for?

Anne: When I graduated from college, I worked as Jim Hjelm’s assistant at Priscilla of Boston. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. As a retailer, I was one of Amsale’s first customers and we have stayed close family friends ever since. Beyond being great people, I think the two are both fabulous designers who have made enormous contributions to our industry.

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*Pictured above Anne and James Clifford Hjelm

JV: The Bridal World is constantly evolving and changing; particularly now with the trend of low backs and sexier silhouettes and necklines. Where do you see bridal heading in the next year or two?

Anne: The trend in bridal has definitely gone as low and as bare as it can in recent years. I predict the pendulum will swing back and designers will start to explore more conservative styles. My aesthetic will always be one of refinement, we interpret trends in a way that upholds our timeless and classic style.

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Anne Barge “Black Label,” Spring 2016 Collection

JV: One of my favorite red carpet gowns you’ve done was for Amber Riley on Fox’s hit show, “Glee.” Can we expect to see more evening and red carpet from you?

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Anne: We loved that gown on her! Joan Rivers claimed it was one of the best dressed of the SAG awards that year. Bridal will always be our main focus, but many of our gowns can be designed in color for evening wear.

JV: There are so many options and choices for Brides today, it can be overwhelming! What is your best advice for a bride who’s shopping for the perfect dress?

Anne: Above all, go to a reputable salon. There are so many fantastic professionals with decades of experience who can help you select exactly what you’re looking for. I should know, I used to be one of them! Keep your fan club small until you have made your final selection. Crowds can be very distracting.

JV: Let’s say there’s an aspiring bridal designer out there, sketching away and hopes to one day become a household name like you. What words of advice would you give to an aspiring bridal designer?

Anne: Work experience is invaluable. Pick a designer you admire and do everything you can to intern, shadow, or work on their staff. There is so much more to our business than meets the eye.

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Anne Barge Collection, Spring 2016

JV: New York Bridal Fashion Week is just a few months away. What can we expect from you for your newest collection?

Anne: Our new collection is still in the muslin (cotton fabric) stages, so the finished products will evolve several times before October market. I’m very excited about the next collection, it will embody everything that defines the Anne Barge Bride. She’s timeless with a modern twist. We can’t wait to show you!

JV: How long has it been since you’ve been to Chicago and what’s your favorite thing about our city? We can’t wait to have you!

Anne: It has been a couple of years since I was last in Chicago, but I love your city. My favorite hotel is The Burnham with its Mozart music print drapes, and I love the street shopping on East Oak. Of course, a visit to Belle Vie Bridal is always a must! It’s a beautiful salon.

 

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Pictured above: Anne Barge and Jim Verraros

 

*Anne Barge Collections available exclusively at Belle Vie Bridal Couture, Chicago.

*To see Anne Barge’s collections, visit: http://www.annebarge.com

*Follow Anne Barge on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnneBargeBride?fref=ts

Anne Barge on Instagram: @annebargebride

 

 

*Anne Barge Trunk Show: Sept. 18th-19th, 2015. To schedule your consultation for your Anne Barge gown, call 312.751.2222.

 

Finding A Dress For Mom… Definitely Harder Than You Think!

 I have learned a lot in my life. But, there is one question that I have yet to find the answer:  Why is it so hard for women over 50  to find just the right dress for a special event – ?  
First of all,  most  are not 100% comfortable with their bodies anymore and hide behind their clothing. They wear baggy sweaters, mom jeans and/or frumpy clothing most of the time. When it does come time to find a dress for the wedding of their child, they panic and all wind up wearing a long dress with a jacket. Here is a tip: THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME!. Satin jacket with crepe dress or crepe jacket with satin dress – it is nearly a uniform of the wedding mother who just can’t find anything else.

Secondly, there is a double standard: we are told we can’t wear short dresses anymore no matter how great the legs but, designers consistently show strapless gowns for women who shouldn’t have worn them when they were 20 , much less when they reach senior ‘citizenship’. Hardly fair, is it?

 Here are a few things to consider before you buy anything to wear to  your adult child’s wedding:

#1) Forget everything you hear, read or see on TV. If you have great, shapely legs and want to wear a shorter dress, wear it! 3″ above the knee is about the limit for a host of reasons but, short skirts are not limited to the X or Y or Z generation.

#2) Accessorize. Find a dress you love in your size and forget about being perfect or looking like a supermodel. Make the most of a simple, elegant dress by accessorizing to the max! Great necklace and earrings, beaded scarf, or even a hat will draw the eyes to your face and away from the mid-section where you may be a little thicker than you used to be. A great pair of heels will also do a lot for your self -image.

#3) Wrap it up. Consider a wrap dress if your tummy isn’t as flat as it used to be. A wrap (around) dress can hide 10-15 lbs easily. If the fabric is right and you accessorize properly, you will look stunning. Diane Von Furstenberg gave us the quintessential wrap dress in the 1970’s and it has evolved into a garment that can literally be worn for any occasion depending upon the fabric.

#4) Who are you? Don’t forget your personal style. If you have always liked a certain type of dress, don’t shy away from it because you are older. Underneath the laugh lines, next  to the spanx, lies the same woman who ran cross-country, captained the cheerleading squad, pledged a sorority and later attended every PTA meeting. You are what you are and what you are needs needs no excuses.

#5) Undergarments are everything. You don’t need to wear a girdle or a corset, you don’t need to wear extra tight super control top pantyhose.  But, wearing the right panties and bra will make any gown look better.

I know how you feel. Every day someone tells you that you don’t look your age, in fact you don’t really feel your age.  You walk confidently down the street in shorts in the summer, you play tennis, ride horses, swim, or run. You feel like you get better each and every day until you are confronted with that hideous mirror in the dressing room and the fluorescent lights! Let me tell you – those lights are lying. You are better! You don’t need a face lift  butt lift or liposuction….. all you need is the right dress, just ask Helen Mirren or Jane Fonda!

-Penny Frulla For Bridal Expo Chicago

 

Jane Fonda - The Red Carpet at the Cannes Film Fest

Integrity and Outrage – Finding Fault With Retailers

Yesterday the internet and news outlets were abuzz with a video and story about one (closed) Priscilla of Boston store in Minnesota. Headlines on the internet, viral videos and rumors were flying around social networks and the comment sections were quickly filled with negativity. If you didn’t see the it, here is a re-cap: Priscilla of Boston was purchased by David’s Bridal and early fall announced all stores would be closed by the end of the year. As planned, on December 30,2011 the stores were emptied of inventory and closed. This one particular store apparently took all of the gowns to the alley in back of the store and destroyed or partially destroyed the gowns, rendering them unusable, un-donatable and un-wearable with the help of some red spray paint. The video clearly shows several large men painting large red marks on gowns draped over dumpsters and the back of what appears to be a dump truck. Then a nearby bridal salon owner was interviewed about how she could have put the gowns to good use, naming various charities that could have used them. The article even made a point to mention that a $6,000 Vera Wang gown was found among the couture carcasses. The outrage came in waves. It seemed the story was too salacious to be true, but there were the images as plain as day. Almost as if they were trying to spark a media frenzy among brides.  Almost? Try exactly. 

At first I was among the outraged, I kept thinking that it was some sort of corporate coup, seeing David’s Bridals apology in writing did nothing to assuage my anger. Later in the day it started to sink in that something was just not right with this story. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole thing could have been handled better but, it left me with several burning questions. Who made the video? Who leaked the story? Why was this being done out in the open for everyone to see? And how did a local competitor know what business was being conducted by another business almost as soon as it happened?  At the end of the day it occurred to me that David’s Bridal may not have given the execution order for the store inventory and I need to take them at their word. Maybe the corporate office did not know business was being handled in such a hap-hazard way. Perhaps  a disgruntled employee had a beef with the corporate office and staged the whole thing to make David’s Bridal look bad, videotaping and leaking it to the media to ensure a public outcry. I am not pointing fingers, I am just giving you one scenario of what could have happened, there are many.  After all, it was only one store, not every store that seemed to have this problem. You see, none of this made sense to me, because I am a skeptic and not a conspiracy-theorist.

Merchandise is disposed of  all the time at retailers. Look in the dumpster behind any retail store and you will be amazed at what is dumped versus donated. This is why there is often a padlock on the dumpster – this is to keep their stuff in, not your stuff out. If a gown is unwearable, why donate it? If it is already damaged beyond repair – why donate it? Racks are lined up during sample sales of slightly soiled gowns, gowns with a broken zipper, gowns with one piece of lace dangling and these gowns are hard to sell no matter how low the price. Why? Because not all brides  are comfortable wearing an even slightly damaged, dirty, broken gown no matter how inexpensive it is. On the one day when you are supposed to feel beautiful and glamorous and perfect, why are you expected to want a gown that is damaged beyond repair? Furthermore, it is well within the rights of any company to decide what is irreparably damaged and what is not. So, if all of this is true,  why was this front page news?

Everyone loves to make big businesses out to be the bad guy and many times they are but, not always.  For me this is just one more reason to do some research before you buy, shopping for value doesn’t always mean shopping for price. Shopping with smaller, family owned salons can almost guarantee that you will at some point speak to or see the owner, the person who is ultimately responsible for all of the decision making, inventory selection and the point at which the buck stops if you have a problem.

It will be interesting to see over the course of the next few days and weeks if there is a follow up to this story. I would like to know who was really involved and what role they played. There seems to be a lot of finger pointing and a lot of outrage but, no clear answers. In the end, I don’t entirely blame David’s Bridal; I blame the media for not giving any concrete answers, just  images of gowns sprayed with red paint, leaving me with more questions. My current outrage is with the reporter(s) of this story for not providing answers. After all, you aren’t entitled to be outraged if you don’t know the entire story.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago