Wedding gown designer Xay Vongphachanh can help same-sex couples establish their dress code


ELEGANZA EXTRAVAGANZA! | Xay Vongphanchanh stands alongside some her of gowns, which contrast nicely if both brides want to wear dresses without looking matchy-matchy. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

FARAH FLEURIMA  | Special Contributor
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Xay Vongphachanh knows wedding wear trends well before they hit the street. She should — as head designer at the bridal label Watters, Vongphachanh helps set the trends. And from Watters Bridal (an upscale line) to WToo (for budget-conscious shoppers), Watters caters to the gamut of gown lovers, even offering wedding dresses in colors other than neutrals and carrying plus-size fits. And as a proud members of North Texas’ LGBT community, Vongphachanh knows the gays are always at the forefront.

Vongphachanh shares her treasure trove of information on what’s new and next for spring brides.

Trends for spring
Higher necklines are back in demand.

“Girls are looking for other ways of wearing dresses, other ways of not necessarily being so bare,” she says. “So it’s not a full-on sleeve — some of them have illusion necklines, some of them have a high lace neckline, so it’s sheer and you can see through it. It’s not like fabric all the way up to your chest, but you have sheerness and a little bit of fabric … but not too much.”

Another resurgence is also a Vongphachanh signature at Watters: Fabric movement. “[It’s what] we’re always known for — skirt ruffles, fabric manipulation, mixing fabrics to create some sort of dimension and movement. It’s really a big trend for us.”

Another signature happens to be a perpetual bridewear classic: lace.

“Lace is always big,” Vongphachanh says. “We use lace in different ways, and this time we’ve mixed different laces, from really thick to really thin and creating almost a third fabric by combining the two.”

Can’t pick just one from these spring trends? Happily, it’s not too difficult to find a gown that incorporates all three elements, Vongphachanh says.

Turning the formality down (or up)
With DIY, backyard and rustic-chic weddings all the rage for the last few years — as well as nontraditional and commitment ceremonies — a growing number of brides-to-be are looking for ways to tone down the formality of traditional weddings. It’s not hard — just lighten up, Vongphachanh says.

“For a more casual wedding style, you’d wanna look for something that’s a little lighter, that’s not so heavily constructed, something that feels less formal,” she says. “You could always dress it down or up with accessories. A lot of people make a dress more casual [by changing] footwear — I know a lot of our girls wear cowboy boots,” she says.

Vongphachanh notes that not just dresses but hairstyles can go a long way toward projecting a more casual style; touches like belts, sashes and vintage pieces (such as brooches) can also project more informality.

“A lot of our dresses actually are used for more rustic weddings because of the texture of the fabric.

We have this washed silk organza that doesn’t feel so heirloom, it doesn’t feel so precious,” she says.

To turn the formality up a notch, however, there’s one watchword: More. More fabric, more embellishments, more structure.


ELEGANZA EXTRAVAGANZA! | Xay Vongphachanh stands alongside some her of gowns, which contrast nicely if both brides want to wear dresses without looking matchy-matchy. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“Go for a bigger dress that’s more constructed on the inside — it really does change the way you move. For a lot of people, the more embellished a dress is, the more formal it feels,” Vongphachanh says. A veil or any kind of headwear instantly adds drama to a wedding-day look.

When two brides walk down the aisle
One modern consideration: What’s a girl to do when she and her bride-to-be both want to wear wedding gowns? Vongphachanh assures there are several ways both can wear their big white dream dresses without seeming matchy-matchy.

“The best way to do that would be to do two different silhouettes,” she says. “One could to a ballgown and the other bride could do a sheath or a mermaid, just to contrast. Or you could also do two different fabrics —  one bride in lace, while the other bride does organza. They’re very different.”

As for a way to show a sense of unity once a contrast is established, Vongphachanh endorses selecting lovingly curated details to enhance the look.

“I think you could definitely tie them in with a color [such as] the same color sash on each dress. You could even do the same jewelry to unify it, or you could go with the same bouquet,” she suggests.

Unique colors — and sizes
Speaking of color, brides wanting different shades of dress will find a few Watters gowns in a blushy hue called Whisper Pink. The label also carries plus sizes, primarily through their budget-conscious line, Wtoo. No matter their size, however, almost every bride deals with a pesky sizing issue stemming from their unique shape. Vongphachanh guides us to the best fits for particular bodies:
Boxy/boyish waist: A mermaid cut exaggerates curves, she notes. An A-line dress nips in at the waist and flares out, adding shape.

Small chest: Vongphachanh designs dresses that come with (ahem) a bit of sewn-in assistance. “We build in bust pads and bust cups and boning in it,” she confides. “It’s not really an issue, but if you are looking to minimize or maximize that area, look for something with ruching or some sort of fabric manipulation along the bust.”

Plus-sized: “Larger women come in all shapes and sizes, so it really depends on what they’re trying to enhance or hide,” she says. To conceal hips, she recommends going for a larger skirt seen in a ballgown. But so-called curvalicious gals who don’t mind flaunting their shape should aim for a mermaid dress.

Brides-to-be can find Watters dresses locally at Stardust Celebrations, Stanley Korshak and Lulu’s, which features WToo selections. Watters also creates mother-of-the-bride, bridesmaid and flower girl dresses.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 3, 2013.