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Use Your Illusion

Barely there necklines bridge the gap between strapless gowns and more modest looks

BY NOLA SARKISIAN-MILLER

CTW Features

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For brides-to-be suffering from strapless fatigue, the illusion neckline - ones with a sheer panel extending from the bust to the collar - has been a welcome addition to the bridal gown silhouettes available.

Brides can show a little or a lot and still look sophisticated and sexy without being showy, making it a timeless fashion statement. "Glee" star Jayma Mays was a red-carpet standout at the 63rd Annual Emmy Awards in a multi-tiered pink gown by Zuhair Murad with an illusion neckline and delicate embroidery. Mandy Moore sparkled in a nude, illusion neckline gown by Monique Lhuillier at the 2011 Academy Awards.

"The illusion neckline is a breath of fresh air from a design, religious and practical perspective," says Veronica Di Santo-Abramowicz, managing partner of Ines Di Santo, based in Woodbridge, Ontario. "It is a more demure look than the bare strapless look and allows brides an alternative for religious purposes and needs."

Designers across the spectrum are offering the looks.

For fall 2012, Vera Wang offers a frothy number - a high-neck, cap-sleeve ball gown with a floating lace illusion neckline. Monique Lhuillier's edgy fall 2012 style is a Spanish tulle bandage neckline on a dropped waist dress. At Nordstrom, buyers can find a Tadashi vintage-inspired feathery lace and chiffon gown with a lace neckline.

Whether it's tulle, lace or appliqués, designers are incorporating various looks and fabrics into the neckline. Many, including Ines Di Santo, stick to Italian tulle for its ability to provide a little stretch to mold and shape itself to the bride's figure. Popular styles at Ines Di Santo include an ivory Alencon lace fit-to-flare gown with a bateau neckline; a fitted silver sequin gown with illusion beads at the shoulder neckline; and a silk shantung mermaid gown with a detachable Swarovski crystal overlay.

Pushing the illusion envelope seems to be top of mind for designers. Romona Keveza's fall 2012 collection included illusion necklines on the back, illusion straps, one-shoulder illusion necklines and even a frou-frou capelet style. Ines Di Santo extended the illusion to arm gloves.

If brides are stumped on how to style their hair with this neckline, they can take their cue from the intricacy of the gown. If the illusion portion features lots of lace, beading or embroidery, stick to an up-do to avoid overshadowing the dress. But, if the fabric is rather plain, doll up your look with a half-up/half-down style with lots of wavy curls. Mays stuck to elegant simplicity in her accessorizing. She complemented her pink dress with drop earrings, little rings and a minimalist box clutch along with a straight down-do.

Another inspiration in the past year was Kate Middleton who demonstrated the appeal of restrained elegance in her illusion neckline gown. Whether brides aspire to royalty or simply weary at the thought of tugging at a strapless gown through an entire wedding and ceremony, the illusion neckline is an option that's not disappearing soon.

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