Lights! Camera! Action! Behind The Scenes at a Bridal Expo Luxury Event

If you missed last night’s Luxury Event in Oakbrook, I would like to take you on a journey of what you missed. A real, behind the scenes look at what goes on to make the show possible and a close encounter with one of the world’s premier Bridal Designers, Ines   Di Santo and her daughter, Veronica.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012,  4:10  p.m. I was supposed to be at the Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook, IL at 4:00 but, my son’s school bus was a little late and I have to wait for him to get home before I can leave… yeah, I am one of those moms. When I pulled into the parking lot there was not one empty spot except for valet and after fishing around for some singles in my pocket, I decided to park in one of the free spots farther away and hope I don’t get towed.  By now, I am scurrying into the building, the excitement and anticipation building as I approach the backstage area to prepare the designer gowns for the runway show at 8:00 pm.

As I get backstage I see that Kirsten, one of the members of the (fabulous) Bridal Expo Staff  has the gowns lined up, the steamer already filled with water and plugged in. She and Carol Tardi, the Fashion Director and onstage commentator, finish unpacking the last of the couture gowns that arrived from  Ines & Veronica Di Santo, who also arrived earlier in the day from Canada. I am able to start work immediately so my nerves are now a bit calmer.

As I gently pull the fabric top to bottom, right to left, I wonder if there is any silk left in Canada? Yards upon yards of carefully cut tulle, lace, shantung, chiffon, every imaginable kind of silk and embroidery available is crafted into gowns that can only be described as impressive.

After their red carpet photo shoot with some of our top vendors, Ines Di Santo and her daughter Veronica escorted by Bridal Expo Vice President, Jim Verraros, peer behind the curtain to oversee and assist with the care of their gowns. One of the gowns had a complicated lace drape in the back and Ines instructed me how to pin  this for maximum effect. I admit….. I would have done it wrong. Working (even just backstage) with Ines and her daughter is akin to taking art lessons from Leonardo Da Vinci. In reality, the mother/daughter design duo are delightful, soft-spoken, extremely talented women, not pretentious divas (as artists of this caliber are often portrayed).

The models begin arriving over an hour earlier than usual for hair and makeup to be done by professionals at Tamara Makeup & Artistry. Donning t-shirts and skinny jeans, nearly a dozen of Chicago’s top models wait patiently to begin the transformation from lovely ladies to beautiful brides, it is a short trip made easier by the pro’s.

The gowns are steamed, a few last minute checks to see if anything needs special attention. Not with this collection – everything is impeccably sewn and presented in pristine condition. As the models finish their hair and makeup, the staff readies for the show to begin. The dressers ( those of us who zip and get the models in their gowns for the runway) are lined up at the designated racks, Jim is poised at the control center where he will deliver the orders to models when it is their time to go onstage, Carol is standing by the entrance to the runway with microphone in hand. There is a  moment backstage, a breathless moment that borders on panic and exhilaration as Bill Brennan, CEO and President of Luxury Bridal Expo Chicago & Milwaukee, takes the stage to welcome the audience. The crowd goes silent as the lights dim and the show is about to begin.

Once the music begins and the models take the runway, the audience is transported to a dream world of luxurious fabrics, a magical land where only the most elegant and refined gowns exist. No one in the audience knows that there was a gown almost pinned wrong. No one suspects that there was almost a shortage of T-pins. No one cares that a certain gown should have had an a-line slip but went out with a full slip.

After the runway show ends, the models and makeup artists pack up and go home, we begin to carefully bag all of the gowns in the same sterile packaging as they came. The designers graciously thank the entire staff and are whisked away by Bill and Jim for some last minute mingling.

The evening was a huge success with careful planning, extensive preparation and exhausting work.  Please take this time to go to to get tickets to a luxury event in your area today, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Until then, take a moment to enjoy the glamour of some of the haute couture gowns from the Ines Di Santo collection at

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago



The Gloves Are Off… Or Are They?

Has anyone else noticed that no one seems to wear gloves anymore? I’m not talking about the First Lady, the Queen of England or debutantes, since women of that social stature always seem to be appropriately gloved.  I’m talking about bridal and semi-formal attire, Sunday best and special occasions. I know gloves are old school and seem kind of prissy to some but,  I couldn’t agree less! I think the right glove with the right outfit is a spectacular fashion statement.

Women have been wearing gloves for about 400 years. During Victorian times it was considered ‘improperly alluring’ for a woman to remove her gloves in public. In fact, it is completely impossible to overemphasize the importance of gloves in fashion prior to the middle of the 20th century. Which is why it is so surprising that they have been absent in mainstream fashion for so long.

In the 1980’s bridal gowns were almost always featured with gloves and bridesmaids often wore gloves that were dyed to match… just like the dye-able shoes. I can recall countless conversations with concerned brides about how to handle the ring portion of the ceremony when gloves are involved.  Now only the most formal weddings would require gloves and brides have almost forgotten that they were once a wedding wardrobe staple. So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was browsing through  several photos from  acclaimed bridal and formal wear designer, Yumi Katsura, and there they were…. the gloves! Of course she matched the short, organza gloves and the full length satin opera gloves to the appropriate gowns so they perfectly accented  the overall look of the ensemble. I was stunned at how perfect they looked and excited that maybe gloves are making a comeback. If you want to give gloves a try, there are some things to remember:

Short, wrist length gloves work best with tea-length or informal gowns

Opera Length gloves are designed for gowns with exposed arms; halter, strapless, one shoulder. They should not fit so tightly around the upper arm that they cause skin to roll over and look flabby. The glove should be fitted tightly up to the elbow and looser at the top.

Gauntlets are fingerless gloves. They can be straight around the wrist or come to a ‘V’ pointing to the ring finger, attached by a  loop of elastic to keep them in place.

Gloves are not recommended for gowns with long sleeves.

If you decide to go ‘Old School Glamorous” for your wedding and wear gloves, remember that you do NOT have to keep them on the entire night; definitely remove them before eating and at this point you can leave them off if you want.  Of course you might want to slip them back on for the first dance, for some truly romantic  photos.

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago






















































Announcing Your Engagement Tastefully


In today’s world of 24/7 media where everyone is plugged in, connected and online,  it seems like announcing your engagement would be a snap. However, there is some protocol involved and some surprisingly easy ways to breech etiquette.  In fact it is harder now than it was 50 years ago when the only outlet, other than word of mouth, was a formal engagement announcement in the newspaper. You know, those papers that show up on your door every day that have stories … just like the internet.

The first people you should tell are those closest to you ; your parents, siblings, grandparents and children if either of you have them. Telling them in person is nice if you’re able, otherwise a phone call is perfectly acceptable. but, it should be soon and very personal. Emailing is not personal, neither is having them find out by seeing your relationship status has changed on facebook. Make a list and keep track of who you have spoken to. Leave a message like, “I’ve got some great news” so they know that you called.

The next tier of communication goes to close friends and (non-immediate family) relatives. It is best to to call them if you can but, this may not be practical. It is perfectly acceptable to text or email but it must be a personal message and not a bulk one delivered to multiple addresses. Take the time to write each person a polite note letting them know you are engaged and you will keep them informed of further details if they wish.

After you have let all of the above people know, you are finally ready to announce to the world that you are engaged! 

Newspaper- Everyone is welcome to submit an engagement announcement in the newspaper. Generally, though, this type of announcement is used when the couple is of a certain social, celebrity, economic or  political status. Your newspaper should have guidelines to follow and you can also include the (formal) engagement photo.

Party – Having an engagement party is the most fun way to let a large group of people know at the same time. There are only a couple of points to ponder: do not invite anyone to the party that will not be invited to the wedding and try not to do it at another event,  (wedding, birthday, baby shower, etc) so you will not upstage someone else.

Internet- Posting a relationship status change on facebook will definitely garner some congratulations and other well wishes. You can also create a wedding website which can include stories from loved ones, photos and even a blog. Invited guests can use this site to get updates on the wedding.

Mail- Sending formal engagement announcements through the postal mail is the most traditional way of announcing an engagement but, keep in mind that no one (NO ONE) should get an engagement announcement unless they will definitely be invited to the wedding.  You can include the wedding date on the announcement which will serve as a save-the-date card. You can NOT include any information about where you are registered for gifts.

Whether you go high-tech or old school is entirely up to you, just remember no matter how great the temptation to run in the streets screaming or shout it from the rooftops, take your time and do things right – you won’t regret it.


-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago





Crimes of Fashion – 2011 Red Carpet Faux Pas

The E! Fashion Police headed by the always irreverent Joan Rivers have released their top ‘Fashion Felons of  2011’ and I have to say I can’t agree more. For crimes of fashion so severe it will take a  phone call  from the governor to be pardoned, these  women have 12 months to reclaim their fashion status and endless walks down the red carpet to erase the memory of their 2011 faux pas.  Without further adieu, the envelope please:

7. Jennifer Lopez consistently makes the best dressed list but, not in this white beaded cape getup. The problem is that there is no reason for this cape. The beads make the sheer fabric look heavy and begs the question, “Why would anyone would wear a sheer tablecloth with heavy beading?”

6. Rihanna choice for the Grammys this year was Jean Paul Gaultier. Gaultier is best known for his bustier look and outfitting Madonna so, I’m not sure at what point this gown seemed like a good idea. I sincerely doubt if event he Material Girl herself would attempt to pull off this ruffled tragedy. But, I’m talking about it so I guess that is the whole point.



5. Nicole Kidman  wore a gown to the Oscars that was out of this world… and not in a good way. Futuristic, yet reminiscent of a bad 1980’s  gown, this Christian Dior peplum gown was not red carpet worthy. Someone please explain to me why she wore red shoes.

4. Cierra Wilson wore an Emilio Pucci to the VMAs. In addition to wearing the wrong shoes, this gown is probably the worst representation of an iconic design house that I have ever seen.

3. Nicki Minaj showed up to the Grammys in a head-to-toe leopard outfit she described as “a masterpiece by Givenchy, a miraculous piece of lioness meets her cub meets fierce-ocity meets fabulosity meets fashionista meets everything.” She was dead wrong.

2.  Helena Bonham Carter loves to dress up, or is it play dress up? Her appearance at the Golden Globes in a Vivenne Westwood tulle, print, draped bodice monstrosity was nothing compared to her mismatched shoes. Interestingly enough she has another pair at home just like them.

1. Princess Beatrice wore a fairly ordinary outfit to her cousin, Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton last April. What was not ordinary was her fascinator (hat) created by milliner-to the stars Phillip Treacy.  Compared to everything from a part of the female anatomy to an octopus, this hat even launched it’s own facebook page. The outcome- someone paid $131,648  when the hat was auctioned on eBay, all proceeds going to UNICEF. It seems she redeemed herself in the end.

Who were your choices for the worst offenders of 2011?

-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago