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Jewish World Review
Demure is in demand: More brides seek modest gowns
By Joan Verdon
Tova Marc, owner and designer for Couture De Bride in Teaneck, standing near the entrance to her store
The next major trend for the bridal fashion industry could be a "modest" one brides seeking "modest" bridal attire dresses that cover arms, chest and back and that are suitable for weddings in churches, synagogues and mosques.
Wedding trends experts say they are seeing a growing demand for a fashion category called "modest bride" as the number of Orthodox Jewish, conservative and evangelical Christian, and Islamic brides-to-be increases.
"I know there's a niche here, and I'm going after it," said Tova Marc, an Englewood, N.J., resident who has designed a clothing line for brides who want modest, yet glamorous dresses. Next month, Marc will hold the grand opening for Couture de Bride, a Teaneck, N.J., boutique that may be the first bridal salon in northern New Jersey devoted exclusively to modest fashions.
Marc said Orthodox Jewish brides are an obvious target customer, but added that she expects the gowns to attract customers from several religious groups, as well as "any woman who does not want to be fully exposed" on her wedding day. Mainstream bridal fashions featuring strapless or backless designs have created demand for more modest alternatives.
Secaucus, N.J.-based bridal, evening and women's sportswear seller Group USA has also seen a growing demand for modest versions of bridal gowns.
"There's a niche customer for that and we do have that customer come into our stores frequently, so we do cater to her," said Maria Sarra, bridal buyer for Group USA, which operates 26 stores under the Camille La Vie and Group USA names. "We have a few styles that we offer in long sleeves for that customer," Sarra said. The chain, she said, also has matching fabrics and seamstresses available for customers who want to customize a gown by adding "modesty pieces" such as sleeves, or a higher neckline.
"Customers will say, 'I'm having a religious wedding, what can you do to these dresses to fit my standards?' -- usually arms covered, neckline covered, no cleavage, very little skin," Sarra said.
Much of the country has seen an increase in conservative branches of mainstream religions.
The Camille La Vie store at Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., tends to get more Orthodox Jewish brides, while the California stores have many Islamic customers, and an Arizona shop gets requests from Mormon customers.
These brides, Sarra said, don't want plain when they ask for "modest." "They still want the look that's hot. That's why we offer more options to add a sleeve, add a neckline," she said.
Marc, in designing dresses with the modest bride in mind, wanted to create gowns that were as fashionable, and as sexy, as the mainstream designs, except with more coverage. "These brides want to look very sexy, but modest too," she said. Her gowns are priced between $1,250 and $3,400.
Marc's sister, Flora Shepelsky, owns a wig store on Teaneck's Cedar Lane that serves many Orthodox Jewish brides to be, and Marc was aware of the difficulty those women had finding elegant yet modest gowns. She did some market research on the Internet and found that cyberspace is filled with brides typing "modest bridal gowns" into search engines.
"In the New York metro area, 250 to 300 people a day search for 'modest wedding gowns' on Google," Marc said. So her prime marketing strategy will be to pay for search-engine ads that make her Web site, couturedebride.com, appear first in "modest bridal" listings. She also plans target ads in religious publications.
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© 2008, North Jersey Media Group Inc.. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.