This modest bridal gown, with the popular capped sleeves, is one of the many mix and match choices at Gowns by Pamela.
This modest bridal gown, with the popular capped sleeves, is one of the many mix and match choices at Gowns by Pamela.

Jeanette Bennett, utahvalley360.com

‘Dress-Ups’ for the Big Day

National bridal magazines show brides in strapless dresses and low-cut backs. Those trends don’t work here. Utah Valley brides are modest, elegant and stylish. And there is no shortage of bridal wear shops in the valley that provide top-of-the-line service and unbeatable quality for bridal gowns that suit the unique needs of Utah Valley brides.

“If you have a competent seamstress, you can have nearly any style you want and make it modest,” says Julie Rafiner, manager of Lehi’s Bridal Center. “There are national manufacturers who are producing modest gowns specifically for the Utah market. It is a wonderful time to be a bride.”


For some, the first question is whether to purchase or rent a dress.

Nineteen years ago, the bridal wear market in Utah Valley changed.

Pamela Weight, founder of Gowns by Pamela, was in a play where she died in the last scene and went to heaven. She made an ethereal white dress for the part. Afterward she had several people ask where they could get a dress like that. And the idea for Gowns by Pamela was born.

“I was sure my business would work,” Pamela says. “My husband gave me $300, and I went to the fabric store.” Through a series of events, a clientele was built up and her customers were pleased.

Now she has hundreds of styles to choose from, with the majority of her brides wanting to rent.

“Our dresses are not ones you see in the store,” Pamela says. “We try to come out with new designs every six months.”

While renting is ideal for some brides, buying works for others.

“It’s really a personal choice,” Julie says. “We have noticed that when we work with brides who eloped the first time, they’re the ones most interested in buying a beautiful wedding gown on their second marriage.”

Allyse Sedivy, owner of Allyse’s in University Mall, says that while renting has its advantages, buying a dress can be comparable in price to renting. And, you can keep the dress, which for some brides is important and for others it is not.

Dianna Jackson, owner of Dianna’s Bridal and Formal Wear, says buying is popular because “it’s personal.”

Photo by Baci Photography
Photo by Baci Photography


Popular styles for gowns in 2001 include capped sleeves, three-quarter sleeves, shawls and wraps, says Cassie Hjorth, manager of Provo’s Specialty Lace, which offers custom sewing.

“Utah County brides often need us to add sleeves or alter the whole bodice,” Cassie says. “In fact, sometimes people buy two dresses — one to wear and the other for fabric to make a bowlero jacket to make the top more modest.”

The Bridal Center finds that toulle is popular now, as is matte satin, which has a shimmer like satin without a shine, Julie says.

“We’re hearing girls say they want more decorated gowns, full skirts and long trains,” says Julie. “For the past five years, brides have wanted very simple gowns, but the trend is going more toward decoration.”

Leslie Carr, owner of Veronica Michaels Bridal, finds that brides want shorter trains than in the past, and the trend is going more toward long sleeves.

“Brides don’t want as plain of a look anymore,” Leslie says. “Most girls want the simple elegant look, but they don’t want it plain.”

Dianna describes it best — “simple but elegant.”

“Puffy sleeves, lace and bows are all out,” Dianna says.


The wedding gown is perhaps the most important piece of clothing a woman ever buys.

Some brides have opted to buy wedding dresses online, but this is a huge risk, Allyse says.

“A wedding gown should fit like a glove, and brides are often disappointed when they buy on the Internet because dresses look so different on everyone’s figures,” Allyse says.

A bridal shop should help a bride make wise choices.

“Brides come in thinking they know what they want,” Allyse says, “But often they leave with something else because they find a different style works for their figure.”

Sometimes brides are unable to find what they are looking for in a bridal shop.

Specialty Lace specializes in creating custom beauty and class with custom sewn wedding gowns.

“We really try to help customers get a design of their very own,” Cassie says.

Specialty Lace can create a true designer dress for about half the cost of a typical designer dress. And the service is extraordinary. Brides meet with the seamstress, and the dress is first made out of muslin. From this, additional measurements or changes are noted, and a pattern is in place for the designer gown.


At the Bridal Center, Julie believes older, more mature brides find their dresses faster and easier.

“They have spent more years developing their style,” Julie says. “They know what they want, whereas the younger brides need to try on lots of styles to know what will work best.”

Preferences vary from bride to bride.

“Gowns are designed such that they’ll work with different personalities and body types,” she says. “We live in a time of abundance and prosperity. The economy is good, and this influences the wedding gown industry.”

Just as brides all have different personalities, dresses take on their own look.

“There is so much variety, and the gowns are designed so that they work with different personalities and body types,” Julie says. “We can see the body type and know what will flatter their body the best.”

Julie says they like to put brides in different styles to be sure the styles work with their bodies.

Dianna suggests finding a bridal wear shop that can take the time to help the bride realize what it is she wants.

“Brides usually come not knowing what they want,” Dianna says. “So we play dress-ups with them and pull out all the accessories and hair pieces.”

Once a dress is selected, tailoring can enhance or camouflage areas the bride desires.

Leslie says brides base their dress decision on their body type.

“We ask the brides what the best feature is they want to play up and what they might want to play down,” Leslie says. “Some girls think their bustline is an asset, while others want a style that plays down their bustline.”


In addition to a selecting a traditional wedding gown, some LDS brides are buying a nice temple dress to wear to the actual wedding ceremony.

“It is wise for a bride to wear a temple dress to her sealing that she can wear back to the temple rather than wear her more elaborate wedding dress,” says Hilma Stratford, who owns Dressed in White with partner Janice Heilner.

Dressed in White offers choices in temple wear, including many styles brides want to wear to their wedding ceremony while saving their more elaborate dress for pictures and the reception.

“Brides want to wear something that they feel is their style,” says Hilma.

Dressed in White has a wide variety of fabrics and styles, so every bride — and every woman — can find what fits her personality and style.

“It’s exciting to see someone try on a dress and she realizes that this is what she’s been looking for,” Hilma says.

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