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Mara UrshelFloaty or curve-hugging? Halter or strapless? White or oyster or buttercream or...? If you can't even think about your dream dress without getting a headache, then it's time you met Mara Urshel, co-owner of Kleinfeld, New York City's famed bridal shop. She knows everything there is to know about shopping for a gown -- and she's not afraid to give you her honest opinion, either. Here, she gives her top 20 picks from the Spring 2009 bridal shows.
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Anne Barge"I love this dress for its dimension and pattern. It's a strapless A-line gown, which is one of the most popular silhouettes because it's flattering and can adapt to any body type. The embroidery and appliques add interest and give the dress a couture look, but it's still a classic choice." Spring 2009, annebarge.com, 404-873-8076.
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Amsale"This is a fabulous concept and a great value. There were seven short dresses in this collection, and the designer dubbed them the 'Little White Dress Company.' These dresses are extremely well-priced for today's economy (about $1,200 to $1,500) and only take about 3 weeks to alter. Many girls want a second dress for their reception so they can have a good time and dance. This one is adorable with all that lace and the belt. It's a good choice for girls planning a destination wedding on the beach." Spring 2009, amsale.com, 800-765-0170.
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Badgley Mischka"Badgley Mischka is known for beautiful beading; sexy, glamorous dresses; and very light fabrications. This dress is a variation on the strapless gown, and the lace and beading are very pretty. It accentuates a beautiful figure, but it can also be worn by a girl who's a little more busty. And the mermaid look on the bottom gives you movement and combines a form-fitting dress with a more flowing lower line." Spring 2009, badgleymischka.com, 404-873-8070.
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Monique Lhuillier"This was one of the most beautiful dresses on the runway. It's glamorous because of the asymmetrical cascading skirt in the front, and the natural waistline gives the gown a 1950s feeling that's popular now. This is classic elegance -- think Grace Kelly. It's got beautiful embroidered flowers on the top layer, and you just can't get more glamorous than that! It's tulle, which is very light, and the highly modified A-line is great for almost any figure. Wear it to emphasize your waistline, but be careful of the proportion if you're petite." Spring 2009, moniquelhuillier.com, 213.747.8811.
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Lazaro"This dress is absolutely gorgeous. It's a little bit more formal than some of the others, but anyone can wear it. It hits at a good point at the hipline and gives you a nice waistline. The full tulle skirt is a good choice for larger sizes, and it's also a great choice for petite girls since nothing is lost when you alter it shorter." Spring 2009, lazarobridal.com, 212-921-7058.
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Douglas Hannant"Douglas Hannant is such a refreshing introduction to the bridal industry this season -- his was one of the most beautiful, modern collections at Market. This dress exemplifies that. The pleating is so important to the flow, and its proportions can be adjusted to any bride. You'd think you have to be tall to wear this, but you don't. If you have wonderful shoulders, this dress is great; if you don't have wonderful shoulders, this makes them great. We had a bride come in from Ireland just for this dress; she didn't want to try on anything else." Spring 2009, douglashannant.com, 212-398-7759.
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Carolina Herrera"This is a beautiful example of timeless, elegant styling for a formal setting. The tunic's embroidery is exquisite, and the shoulder strap means you're not totally exposed on top. Surprisingly, it comes off to reveal a beautiful strapless dress underneath, so you really can have two dresses in one. But the dress is straight, so you have to have a fairly decent figure for this." Spring 2009, carolinaherrera.com, 212-940-2269.
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Claire Pettibone"Claire Pettibone's gowns have a look that nobody else's have. The halter is a glamorous Hollywood look that's flattering for girls with a bigger chest. This one also has an empire waistline, and the fabric just skims down your body. You have to have a fairly good figure to wear any of Claire's slim-cut dresses (for the most part, they're slips and sheaths), though she does make some fuller ones. Even this one is a little fuller at the bottom. She hand-selects all the different laces, so all of her dresses are very fine and delicate. This one is very romantic. It would be wonderful for a destination wedding on the beach or in the mountains." Spring 2009, clairepettibone.com, 310-360-6271.
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Romona Keveza"One-shoulder dresses have been so popular on the red carpet. They have appeared here and there in bridal fashion throughout the years, but this was the first year they appeared in many different collections. Romona Keveza did it best. This gown, made of chiffon, is flowing and soft. It has a natural waistline, which is very big right now, and the ruching on the bodice is very flattering. If you're very thin and want more shape, the waist and bust will do that for you. The one-shoulder strap can be done with or without flowers, but the flowers give it fabulous drama -- it calls back to red-carpet glamour." Spring 2009, romonakeveza.com, 212-273-1113.
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Reem Acra"This is a classic shape: a controlled A-line with a very full back. It's elegant and timeless, but also very flattering. The slightly higher waistline gives you more height and makes you look longer. The sweetheart neckline and ruching makes the bust more pronounced. And I love all that beautiful beading. This dress is an example of what Reem Acra does best." Spring 2009, reemacra.com, 212-308-8760.
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Edgardo Bonillo"Edgardo is the king of drama, as you can see with these ruffles. There's a little bit of smocking up top, but this dress is for someone with a straight figure, perhaps someone who doesn't really have a defined waistline and doesn't necessarily want one. A lot of his designs are for the avant-garde girl. Edgardo does a lot of custom work on his gowns, so you can accentuate the bustline or make the skirt longer if you have to. I love how dramatic this length is, but unfortunately a shorter girl could not wear this. This dress would be perfect for a more casual wedding in a garden or small residence or restaurant. Spring 2009, edgardobonilla.com, 877-bonilla.
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Augusta Jones"This is an incredible value that anyone can wear, and it's a classic silhouette. The broad V-neckline gives you just enough exposure, which is very attractive, but still has the security of straps. And it's got an empire waist, so the added length in the waist elongates your body and is exceptionally good for someone who wants to appear a little taller than she is. The dress features a slight A-line in lace, which is good for a large bust, small bust, covering up your problem areas, whatever. Lace has always been very popular for bridal, and it continues to be." Spring 2009, augustajones.com, 330-530-1166.
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Amy Michelson"This dress is so glamorous. It's a silk-charmeuse halter gown with a very low back that oozes 1930s elegance. Amy's charmeuse is like a double layer; it's so forgiving that it hides all sins and just skims over your body in a really flattering way. The dimensional lace cut-out embroidery that tops the straps hides the red lines you sometimes get when straps cut into your shoulders, and softens the neckline." Spring 2009, amymichelson.com, 888-755-2553.
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Judd Waddell"I think this is the most beautiful treatment of having your shoulders covered while giving you the freedom of movement to feel comfortable. It has lace all the way down to the dropped torso, so it's beautifully crafted, extremely elegant, and you never tire of looking at it. And I love that it looks like a slim dress from the front because the A-line is very small, but the train is very full, and it is just covered with the lace border. It's a really classic style." Spring 2009, juddwaddell.com, 212-768-0008.
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Kirstie Kelly"This is another great value for just about anyone. The ruching on the bodice hides imperfections and offers more coverage in the bust, and the dress is cut high with straps, so you can have a bigger bust and look great in it. The skirt goes out at the middle part of the hip and gives you some fullness to hide bigger hips. It's an incredible look for a larger-size bride. Kirstie Kelly showed a whole collection of larger sizes, and the dresses are selling extremely well because they're designed extremely well." Spring 2009, disneybridal.com, 212-594-9480.
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Melissa Sweet"This is a very pretty look for a younger bride because it's a fun and lighthearted dress. There are wonderful details, like the multi-tiered pleated organza ruffles that start from the dropped waist and the crinkles of lace on each tier. It has an empire ribbon and fairly wide straps, which are comfortable and secure. It's a good choice for a lot of different figures." Spring 2009, priscillaofboston.com, 212-997-3956.
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Jane Wang"This dress is classic with a bit of a twist. A broad cummerbund starts under the bust and continues to the waistline, which is very attractive because it pinches in the waist and makes for a nice fit. It's good for someone with a nice figure, but if you have a bit of a waist, the cummerbund can help pull it in and give you a wonderful shape. There is delicate beading on the bustline and beaded straps that loop around the neck like a halter. There's also a long train that's wonderful for pictures and walking down a dramatic aisle. "Spring 2009, janewangny.com, 212-354-0577.
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Jenny Lee"Jenny Lee is a master at working a couture fit. Her dresses are more contemporary and may not look like much on the hanger, but when worn, they're perfect for every shape -- whether you have the perfect body or not. There's a little bit of ruching at the top, but otherwise this gown is pretty straight and simple. There's a slightly dropped waistline and a trumpet-style skirt that opens up to reveal a train in the back. Every bride who wears this dress says it's the most comfortable dress they've tried on. It's sexy, it's glamorous, and it's beautifully made -- good for any wedding." Spring 2009, jennyleebridal.com, 323-658-6075.
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Christos"This is a fresh new look for Christos. This dress is simple, elegant, and flattering to all figures. It can give you a waistline, it can hide your hips, it can give the appearance of a larger bust. The layered organza handkerchief skirt is flowing and graceful, and the sweetheart neckline and satin belt accessorized with a flower are quite romantic. I could see this dress at a beach wedding, and it would be beautiful to dance in." Spring 2009, christosbridal.com, 317-816-0171.
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Anna Ulla Maija"This is a very couture look. Ulla Maija makes simple dresses accentuated with beautiful draping, and this is no different. The portrait collar adds interest at the top of the gown; the trumpet skirt does the same on the bottom. This gown is for an elegant affair, perhaps a black-tie setting." Spring 2009, ulla-maija.com, 212-768-0707.
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