Two words summarize it for the wise bride-to-be: In perspective. To create a successful wedding ensemble, the elements of gown, hair, personality and headpiece must work together.
Debra Moreland, who owns Paris Hats & Veils in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the nation’s foremost headpiece designer, epitomizes the idea that genuine creativity is knowing the rules well enough to break them. Up until four years ago, when Moreland first designed her innovative line, headpieces played supporting roles.
“My headpieces are a departure from what had been seen in this country, even though that trend had been around in Europe for a couple of years. In America, they were just a little extension of the dress, very much an afterthought of a piece that would go with the dress,” she said. “Now people are starting to look at headpieces, and I know we’ve been an integral part of changing the way American brides view millinery – as something exciting and personal. It’s like picking out jewelry. That’s what ours really are – jewelry for your hair.”
Moreland said attention to quality set her creations apart.
“In the past, people had been making their headpieces out of lace and fabric and plastic pearls, and it had a very mainstream look. My pieces were metal. They were gold or silver plated. They were hand-beaded with glass pearls and Solovsky crystal. They’re signed pieces – all the artisans that assemble those pieces wire in a charm that is their signature. The headpieces all carry our logo and come in an heirloom box,” she said.
The range of design choices has increased dramatically for brides-to-be. That is either good news or a bit scary if you don’t know where to start.
“The first choice a bride makes is for her gown, and then the headpiece needs to be in balance with that. It doesn’t need to be more or less important than the dress, but a very delicate balance,” Moreland said.
For Moreland and each client, assuring that balance begins with an “intake session” where important information is gathered.
“The first question is to have the bride describe the gown and the points that we’re looking for. First off, the lines of the dress – the neckline, the sleeves, how much ornamentation is on the dress, is it a specific kind. If there’s a lace, what type is it. It’s very important, the color and texture of the gown. If the gown is a mat satin or a shantung or a bridal satin, it will affect the texture of the headpiece,” Moreland said.
Many brides-to-be mismatch the colors of the headpiece and the gown. The results can be unpleasant.
“The color, it has to match. I hear all the time – they’ll put a white headpiece with an ivory dress, or vice versa, and I don’t know how that mistake ever gets made. It just seems to be common sense,” Moreland said.
Another key mistake is the failure, or unwillingness, to match the level of ornamentation of the headpiece to that of the gown.
flower headpiece Bridal flower headpiece“Brides tell me, ‘Well my dress has a lot on it so I don’t want my headpiece to have very much on it,’ and I think it just looks a little light when you do that,” Moreland said.
This is a key issue for Moreland, particularly as it relates to the swinging of bridal fashion toward less and then greater gown ornamentation. She tries not to match simple with simple. Instead, a simple, less ornate gown lets you use stronger accessories. Thus, the move toward gown simplicity in recent years created an ideal environment for Moreland’s more prominent headpieces.
“That was part of a very daring move on my part, to go to New York with these pieces. It was a great expense and a big risk for me, but I knew the trends were opening up to have more minimal dresses. Actually, I think the trend is starting to turn already. In the extreme upper end of fashion right now, dresses are being beaded in a very luxurious way. Our headpieces have already started adapting to that. We design for some of the major gown designers, so we have first-hand knowledge about where those fashions are going,” Moreland said.
Among those design houses with whom she collaborates are Bagley Mishka.
The next major concern when selecting a headpiece is how to wear your hair. In confronting this challenge, Moreland faces no greater adversary than the interference of well-intentioned but clueless grooms who insist that the bride wear her hair down.
“A lot of times women don’t know how they’re going to wear their hair. Part of what we offer in our intake information is to talk about hairstyles. Sometimes the fiancĂ© has made a definite request to have the hair down, because they’ve seen some old lady hairdo that scared them. So they want the girlfriend to look as natural as possible.” Moreland said. “That usually creates a problem in that the veiling is heavy like hair. If you put it on top of hair it can be a little much. A lot of women are opting for just a headpiece and leaving the veil off. That’s usually pretty easy to balance out with hair down.”
When selecting the best hairstyle, another important consideration is the size of your ears.
“There are people who have problems with their ears, for whom I wouldn’t suggest pulling their hair all the way back. When I’m working with them, I always try to pull the hair around in such a way that it smoothes it out a little bit. I don’t know why people overlook the ear problem. It just seems to be something that happens a lot,” Moreland said.
Finally, it is important to select a headpiece that will complement -not conflict with – your personality.
“The bride’s personality is the element that is trickier to get to work. Millinery always reflects the personality – it’s an extension of themselves. Theoretically, you can find the perfect piece for a certain dress, but then it either doesn’t flatter the bride’s physical features or her personality is just not right to pull that kind of thing off. I think headpieces designed for specific dresses are very difficult just because of that factor,” Moreland said.