The Dressing Doyenne: Stylist Beth Chapman
Beth Chapman loves brides. So much so that after more than a decade of helping women hone their big-day style at her Connecticut-based bridal boutique, the White Dress by the Shore, she decided to take her prenuptial prowess to the next level. “I felt this desire to do more with them, to be there on their wedding days to dress and style them and make sure they look perfect,” she explains. Heeding the call to action, in late 2015 the fashion maven—a former VP of merchandising for Ann Taylor—launched Beth Chapman Styling + Consulting, a unique business in which she assists brides all across New England and the country with everything from finding the gown of their dreams to ensuring every stitch, clasp, and button is in place just seconds before their grand entrance.
Shopping for a wedding gown can be tricky. How do you help?
If a bride is having trouble finding a specific gown, or needs guidance on where to find gowns that match a certain aesthetic, I can put together a shopping itinerary with stores to visit and dresses and designers to check out. I start by asking questions about a client’s personal style. I also have clients send me pictures of their everyday outfits, and find out where they like to shop. If they’re department-store shoppers, I know they won’t be intimidated by a store like Kleinfeld. If they’re boutique shoppers, they’re going to appreciate a smaller store that offers a more intimate experience. I can also attend the shopping appointment with a bride.
Are there any dos and don’ts when it comes to wedding-day attire?
It is very subjective. My rule of thumb, honestly, is that I don’t think your wedding day is necessarily the time to make a huge fashion statement. If you’re super-classic, for example, I don’t know that you want to show up in a super-sexy dress with a plunging front and a plunging back. People will think, What just happened? I believe that your gown should absolutely, positively reflect your personal style, and just maybe take it up a notch. I also think accessories are really important because they’re the finishing touch. You really want them to be of the same taste level and quality as your dress.
Let’s fast-forward to the day of the wedding. As a dresser, what’s your role?
Hiring a dresser is really like hiring a lady-in-waiting. I’m there to be with you, the bride, every step of the way and make sure that everything’s taken care of, from fashion emergencies to making sure you’re comfortable and calm. I steam the dresses for the bride, the bridesmaids, and usually the mother of the bride, and make sure everything is laid out, including their shoes and jewelry. When dressing takes place, they’ve just finished hair and makeup, and the photographer’s ready to start shooting. It’s a bit of a rat race, but you don’t want to rush getting dressed. It’s a really important process. We always allow the photographer to capture that moment when the mother is doing the final zip on the bride’s gown or putting her veil on, even though sometimes I, or one of my stylists, is actually completing that task. We’re also there for the first look to make sure the bride’s dress stays clean. When you think about it, your fiancé sees you at your first look, but your guests probably won’t see you for another hour. During that time, you’re moving around to take pictures, and it’s important that the dress stays clean and doesn’t get wrinkled. When you present yourself to your guests, you want to look perfect.
Have you experienced any wedding wardrobe malfunctions?
Oh my gosh, I’ve seen all kinds of things. I’ve had spaghetti straps break as the bridesmaids were about to walk down the aisle; I’m walking behind them in the processional sewing them into their dresses. I had a bride who had her first look at a horse paddock, and they had thought they had removed all the manure, but unfortunately she got horse poop on her dress! So you just never know what’s going to happen.
Every bride worries about bustling her train after the ceremony. Any tips on who should handle this—and how?
Hiring a day-of wedding dresser to perform this task is an insurance policy that it will be done correctly! But if the maid of honor or a bridesmaid prefers to take on this task, she should attend the last fitting to understand how the bustle works and practice tying or affixing it. It can also be helpful to videotape the process or have the seamstress write down the steps so there’s something to refer back to on the day of the wedding.
Can you help with the photo session, too?
Yes, a dresser treats the portraits like a styled photo shoot, essentially. I’m there to make sure that all the hair is in place and the veil and train are just so. It’s really beneficial to the photographer because I can be another set of eyes, to say, “Oh, wait a minute, her hem is caught on her shoe,” or “Her veil is slightly twisted; let me fix that.” It’s nice to have a stylist there to make sure that all the details look perfect.
Your wedding day is no time for a fashion emergency. Prep for dilemmas big and small with Beth Chapman’s list of quick-fix essentials.
- Needle and Thread Having thread in the colors of the bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses is imperative for any last-minute problems, like a hem coming down.
- Safety Pins These are most useful for adjusting straps or replacing a button or tie on a bustle if the gown gets stepped on and one of the securing points is ripped out.
- Double-Sided Tape It helps keep straps and necklines in place; I’ve also used it on the inside of the heel of the shoe if it’s running a little large.
- Sponges Often when bridesmaids or guests are hugging groomsmen, their deodorant can rub off on the dark suit or tux jackets. A sponge helps remove any white residue.
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