feature-fiandaca.jpg (4980 bytes) NEWBURY STREET

May 10-23, 2002

Front Page – Feature Story

Walking Down the Aisle...Again

By Julie Hatfield, Fashion Editor

W hen Liza Minelli walked down the aisle year (as she has done…. well, countless times), she was not wearing a discreet, dressed-down, subtle cocktail-style wedding gown. She was in the traditional long white dress, with huge skirt, train, frou-frous and gew-gaws, with veil. Minelli obviously wanted, as Boston designer Daniel Faucher describes it, “the whole McGilla.” Minelli was one of a small percentage of second-time (or third- or more) brides who want to pretend that this is the first time, and they are starting so anew that they want to look like a dewy-eyed first-timer. And for that they go the first-time route.

While most “experienced” brides seek less show in their wedding gowns for the next ceremony, another unusual exception to the rule is the Palm Beach bride who came to Boston/Palm Beach/New York designer Alfred Fiandaca when she was to marry again. This time, she said, she wanted a showier, fancier, more elaborate, wonderful wedding gown to show how happy she was. No holds were barred and Fiandaca made her a gorgeous, virginal white gown and she looked beautiful. The unusual note at this particular wedding, however, was the fact that the bride was re-marrying the same man!

Perhaps he had bad memories of her first wedding gown…

Fiandaca is the master of the “traditional” second-time bridal gown, however, an admitted oxymoron. His cocktail and evening wear in rich fabrics with beautiful trims, made to order for the bride, one-of-a-kind, can all be fashioned for a wedding, and he makes many of these.

The surprise in many of his recent wedding gowns made for the first-time bride, he says, is that they are more

of a maternity gown than a wedding gown. “I have a lot of pregnant brides,” smiles the venerable Newbury Street designer, “and they are not usually just a few months pregnant. The gown must be in an Empire style, with the waistband ‘way up under the bustline, so that there is plenty of room below for the expanding mother-to-be.” The gowns are usually done in virginal white, which shoots down another old-wives’ color rule when it comes to brides.

Faucher, who works out of his South End studio, says of the second-time bride “I try to talk her out of a veil. Also, she shouldn’t be given away, for obvious reasons. I made a very formal long gown

with veil and train for a bride who had a huge wedding on a May day and was divorced by September. She has returned to me for her second wedding and wanted the second ceremony, the gown, everything, to be just as huge as the first.”

What they usually want is more skin, more bareness, a more sophisticated evening look, with, say, a straighter skirt, Faucher says. For that he creates simple strapless wedding gowns with lace coats to be worn over them. “This look used to be for the mother of the bride,” he notes, “but my brides all wanted it and so now I do it mostly for the bride herself.” One of his gowns that second-time brides like is made of duchesse silk satin, very body conscious, fitted to the hip, with no lace, but with a double skirt that can be removed. Then, the dress can definitely be worn later for other occasions (hopefully not for the third wedding!).

Second Time Around

What could be a more perfect shop to frequent for one’s second wedding than Second Time Around? The problem, up until April 23 of this year, was that Second Time Around, a highly successful Newbury Street consignment clothing shop, carried no wedding gowns. This despite the fact that store owner Jeff Casler says “we got 10 to 15 telephone calls a week from brides asking for gowns.” He and store manager Sharon Valenzano began to store wedding gowns that brides had brought in for sale. But they had no space to show them or sell them. Finally last month, in a move that’s growing rarer and rarer on this street where empty storefronts sit sadly waiting for the next retailer who can afford the skyrocketing rents, Casler moved his operation across the street to 176 Newbury, to the former Overland Trading Center shoe store, a space two and a half times bigger than his old store. Casler, whose mother Dottie Casler opened the first high end consignment store in the state 27 years ago in Brookline, with the same name – Second Time Around – and who has owned the Newbury Street Second Time Around for 12 years, says that even in this terrible retail year of 9/11 tragedy, his business is up over last year. With his move across the street, and a complete renovation of the new space so that it looks as close to a store selling new high-end clothing as possible, Casler was able to reserve a large space at the rear of the store for a bridal salon, with “huge” private dressing rooms, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and privacy from the rest of the store. He has now brought out the 75+ wedding gowns that were in storage, and can show them properly. They include the highest of high-end designer gowns, including those by Vera Wang, Priscilla, and Georgette. “We’re only taking high end gowns,” Casler affirms, noting that at his store, a $6000 Priscilla wedding gown will sell for $1800, or about one quarter of the retail price. And the bridal salon is unique to the Newbury Street store; Second Time Around stores also operate out of Newton and Harvard Square, but they will not have a bridal salon.

Most of the gowns come from brides who have worn them, obviously, just once, although a tiny percentage come from those unfortunate brides-to-be whose wedding never came to fruition for one reason or another. While those are never-worn dresses, Casler says he doesn’t advertise the fact, as some brides are superstitious about these things. He also hints that “we have a relationship with the biggest bridal person in the Northeast,” meaning that he is receiving brand new gowns that have never been worn, for resale. The gowns are available in sizes 2 through 12 and a small percentage of them are vintage, although Casler says he does not particularly want to get into the business of selling Victorian or other very old vintage wedding gowns.

For now, Casler is not selling bridesmaid dresses, “although we will wait and see about doing that in the future,” he says. When a bride sells her gown at Second Time Around, she receives back half of the price of the gown, which is standard consignment practice.

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