BRIDAL FASHIONS Hot trends available in wedding gowns

There's a gown to suit anyone's taste.
While the prevailing color for wedding wear remains white, it hardly means wedding gowns are boring. The editors of The Knot recently visited the fashion shows and showrooms of the top gown designers during bridal market week to uncover the trends for 2003. Here's what they found:
UNot so straitlaced: Just when you thought lace couldn't get any hotter, this intricate fabric -- as cool as it is traditional -- gives gowns the sizzle factor. This year, it's all about the peek-a-boo element, with inserts of see-through lace turning up the heat on even the most conventional styles. Whether showing off a sexy shoulder, a delicate d & eacute;colletage or even a lot of leg, lace has the ability to hint at skin without making grandma blush.
UFlower power: On gowns, everything's coming up roses -- and just about every other flower you can think of. While beaded and embroidered blossoms always have had their place in the wedding world, never before have designers embraced this organic element with such fervor -- and in such creative ways. Some designers gave their gowns a burst with one dramatic bloom, creating a focal point at the bodice or waist. Others went for an all-over garden effect, using hand-cut appliques to cover the dress from head-to-toe or all-over embossing of the fabric or even floral prints. A far cry from Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, these fashion-forward florals are anything but fussy.
UDramatic draping: Ruching, by which the fabric is folded and tucked, has become this season's must-have fashion detail, giving any dress a little architectural interest and a lot of fantastic texture. The linear effect of the right kind of ruching has the ability to create curves where there are none and can slim hips when draped diagonally. In some cases, ruching adorns (and updates) otherwise simple bodices while still maintaining clean, modern lines on the gown overall. But the most forward-thinking designers use ruching solely as an artistic form, putting a touch in the most unconventional places.
UThe swishy skirt: Kick up your heels for a whole new skirt shape. For years classic and contemporary brides have favored the A-line skirt. This year, designers have updated the silhouette with a slight flair towards the hem. The new modified A-line offers the freedom and flattery of the original with the stylish swish of a trumpet skirt. The true ingenuity of the new shape is that each designer has his or her own take. For some, the skirt leans towards a fuller A, while others created a sexier "Come up and see me sometime" curve. Any way you like it, it's one of this season's most beautiful (and most wearable) looks.
ULight-as-air ball gowns: Gone are the days when a princess bride had to sacrifice movement for a stiff, structured ball gown. Now she's free to dance the night away with ease. Designers are unveiling a softer, lighter ball gown skirt by using delicate taffetas and layers of airy laces and chiffons instead of heavier silks and satins. But don't think you're getting less for your money -- the skirts are as voluptuous as ever, with endless lightweight layers helping to make a grand entrance.

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