Barney Cheng: On Finding the Perfect Wedding Dress


From classic silhouettes to the sheerest of slips, fashion guru Barney Cheng singles out the SS16 wedding gowns that will make your special day all the more memorable.

June’s bright breezy weather and pristine blue skies always make me think of church bells, pretty little flower girls and fanciful lawn weddings. A bit of a dreamer, you say? But of course, dreams are the realities of tomorrow. If we cannot see the beauty in life, what do we have to look forward to?

Which brings me to the most beautiful day in a woman’s life: her wedding day – the day mothers dream about from their baby princess’ birth; the same day most fathers dread, because it’s when daddy’s little girl will officially become someone else’s darling. And in Hong Kong – with our innate trait of keeping up with the Lis, Kwoks, Luis and whoever else – a couple simply has to put on a splendid affair, with the piece de resistance naturally being the bride’s choice of gown. So let’s find out what designers are offering these lucky ladies to wear down the aisle in spring-summer 2016.

Less is more

No, this is Hong Kong after all, so please do not think ‘minimal chic’ is well received here. When I say ‘less is more’, I’m talking about less fabric and more skin. The bridal market might be independent of Fashion Week mayhem but trending looks still get filtered down to the gowns. So after all the barely there couture worn by the likes of Kim Kardashian and
J Lo to last year’s Met gala, this summer it’s about embracing the sheer look – after you’ve dropped pounds and dollars with your fitness tribes or HIIT your way to your ideal weight – and slipping into a gossamer gown. Top spot on the list has to go to Vera Wang for offering X-ray looks that necessitate a matching bra and panties set. Obviously this isn’t a look your moneyed Granpapa is going to approve, but if you’ve got the figure and the attitude, go the full hog and don sheer! Crinkly chiffons, feather-light organzas and ephemeral laces all suit this ‘barely there’ look – but do consider an embellished veil, otherwise you really will look like you just rolled out of bed!

Safety first

If you want to please everyone from Grandma down to your two-year-old niece, play it safe and don the classic strapless ball gown. It perfectly showcases a swan-like neck, sexy clavicle, well-toned arms and tight little torso, and hides everything else from the waist down so it’s the best look for bottom-heavy ladies and one that conveniently hides the platform wedges that will make your special day that much less painful. My fave for the season has to be Oscar de la Renta, high society’s go-to brand, and its pretty ballerina princess gown with not one tutu but three tiers of frothy delight! Not recommended for romantic strolls on the beach, though, as the tulle will grow a wet sand fringe at the hem which is definitely not a good look for the wedding album.

Dare to bare

The strapless ball gown silhouette will forever be a bride’s best friend, but adventurous, modern brides with 8 per cent body fat can consider the new ‘sex-me-up’ bridal offerings from the Middle East, thanks to a coterie of Israeli designers such as Berta and Inbal Dror. The difference between Vera and her Israeli counterparts is that these hot-right-now designers are unapologetic about a woman’s curves and celebrate voluptuous Middle Eastern figures. Experts at cutting navel-baring torsos and backs (many times making it a conundrum how to wear panties without them peeking through the sheer panels or out from under the beading), they definitely are not shy with theatrics either, such as crystal-encrusted fantasies or mile-long fully embellished trains. These gowns are not for the faint of heart but for the athletically fit as dragging those trains around will remind them of flipping truck tyres at CrossFit.

Two for one

I love getting a bargain. That’s why I always fall for multi-use knickknacks. I love rummaging through estate jewellery shops searching for elusive Cartier or Harry Winston creations like necklaces that can detach to form bracelets and pins that turn into pendants. Monique Lhuillier offers the equivalent in bridal wear with two looks in one gown. This season she proposes a painted-on sheer lace mermaid style that morphs into a pretty fairy tale princess look with the addition of a lighter-than-air tulle overskirt – I can just see the happy bride twirling beautifully in the tulle ball gown and, presto, whipping it off and shimmying onto stage to toast the rest of the evening’s proceedings.

Dream weavers

My favourite designer of the moment is Ashi Studio – they create the dreamiest, most intelligent and most dramatic yet tasteful gowns this side of heaven. So if you’ve got the bucks, leave the Dolces and the Versaces to the hoi polloi and splurge on Ashi couture. You deserve the very best on your special day!

So for all you lovebirds out there, saying yes to the dress this season is a very pleasant task and will make you a definite pleasure to behold… Happy hunting!

Barney’s top tips for finding the perfect gown:

  1. Choose a gown that’s appropriate for the venue
  2. A less complicated style is usually more chic
  3. Go for a design that accentuates your best assets while hiding the bits that you want to downplay
  4. Find a dress that does not restrict your movement or need an entourage to help you turn a corner – you don’t want to become a caricature of a bride who’s trying too hard to impress!
  5. If you have no idea what looks good on you, try on as many gowns as possible until you find the one that makes you feel light and giddy!

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