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When it comes to wedding-related decisions, some have more flexibility than others. You can choose to ignore your mom’s opinion on what color to paint your nails or your sister’s take on how many people actually like carrot cake, but certain details are non-negotiable, like when your gown needs to conform to rules of the highest authority — as in, you need a modest, religious-ceremony-appropriate dress. While bare shoulders might be a no-no and length may not leave much wiggle room, you still want a gown that reflects you.
So where to turn when the plunging, strapless, backless options of the bridal world are leaving you lacking? Here are seven places you can find covered-up gowns that balance style and tradition.
Kleinfeld: The calendar of TV-famous bridal store’s modesty consultant, Rochel Leah Katz, books up quickly. Kleinfeld retains her on staff specifically for brides who need gowns that adhere to religious guidelines; she works only with brands that allow drastic alterations (adding sleeves, neckline adjustments, full linings) and helps brides through the process of altering the dresses (typically in the $4,000 to 7,000 range).
While her clientele is largely Orthodox Jewish, she’s also well versed in Mormon traditions, and many brides fly in from Salt Lake City, Utah, just to work with Katz. The only downside: Enlisting Katz’s services requires a trip to the actual store, and there’s only one in New York City.
David’s Bridal: The mass retailer offers a relatively small selection online under its Modest Wedding Dresses section, but it does include exclusive options from in-house labels like Galina, Oleg Cassini, and Melissa Sweet that boast sleeves of all lengths and varying degrees of transparency. Plus-sizes and additional lengths are also available, and there’s the added option of searching sitewide using the sleeve and neckline filters to find what suits your needs.
Allure Bridals: Allure started out as a retail store in the late ’90s but has since grown into a bridal manufacturing giant — one that now includes various sub-collections, including Allure Modest. With the aim of providing “extra coverage without sacrificing style,” the online selection allows you to filter by neckline, length, and sleeve, among other options. Prices range from $700 to $1,700, and while there’s no e-commerce option, the site does have a “where to buy” tab to locate your nearest retailer.
Alta Moda Boutique: Based in Salt Lake City, most of the bridal gowns at Alta Moda are customizable directly through the designers, meaning the gown pattern is modified from the start. The boutique carries bridal mainstays like Hayley Paige, Anne Barge, and Galia Lahav, so you’ll be starting off in familiar territory before making adjustments, like adding sleeves, raising a neckline, and redesigning a bodice. Modest gown options start at around $2,500, and if you can’t get out to Utah, Alta Moda offers video consultations. If you’re brave enough to forgo an actual try-on, you can opt to exchange some calls, photos, and emails; the store will prep gown ideas, color options, and bring in a dress form and/or stand-in model to digitally walk you through the buying process.
Couture de Bride: A 10-year-old boutique based in Teaneck, New Jersey, Couture de Bride lets you create a custom gown. Head designer Tova Marc is happy to start from scratch or design a more modest version of a gown you’ve already fallen in love with. Brides choose from a large selection of fabrics, embellishments, coverage options, and sleeve and neckline shapes to come up with their version of the perfect modest dress.
PreownedWeddingDresses.com: This bridal resale site lets you purchase once-worn gowns at a discount, provided someone is selling your size (and style). The “Buy” tab boasts a modest category where you can find everything from covered-up styles by Oscar de la Renta to Monique Lhuillier and White by Vera Wang. Each dress listing comes with measurements, label size, and “street size,” as well as any other pertinent notes from the original owner.