Veiled Prophet Gown

Ashley Freeman will wear this stunning gown from R&M Designs when she is presented at the Veiled Prophet Ball on Saturday, Dec. 21.

Despite the immense variety of gowns being prepared for the Veiled Prophet Ball, each of the Maids of Honor will have exactly one thing in common this year, according to area dress shop owners: They will all look fabulous.

“It’s very important to make sure every person—whether they’re a maid, a mother or a guest—look as beautiful as they can, whether they’re a size 4 or a 24, and to make them feel special,” says Paulette Friedman of Special Occasions, about preparing for the ball. Colors, fabrics and styles range all over the map this year, with each maid and all of the guests reflecting their own sense of style. “The most important thing is to look beautiful and feel good in what you’re wearing.”

Laying your eyes on a maid’s gown before its debut is quite a tricky task—in fact, many of the families request that the shop owners cover the mannequin displaying their gown whenever it’s not being worked on, says Marylyn Simpson of R & M Designs. It’s a little like seeing the bride’s dress before the wedding, we’re told. However, we did get a few details to tide us over until the big day, Dec. 21.

Whereas 20 years ago, the styles for the maids were very structured, many of the debutantes now see it as a way to express their personality, notes Nancy Lehtman of Distinctions. “The girls are not as married to the typical ball gown. We’ve done some interesting fabrics and colors this year, and it’s a lot of fun.” She adds that her store has sold gowns for maids in red, bronze, silver and also emerald green this year—with jewel tones being prominent. “It’s any color under the rainbow. But purple is a no-no for the girls who are walking,” because that color is reserved for the Veiled Prophet himself, she says.

Many of the stores report more orders for gowns with straps this year than in the past, as well as slightly less glitz. But a relative dearth of rhinestones hasn’t stopped the creativity, our sources say. Marylyn and Connie Simpson of R & M Designs say attentive guests will notice a gown with 144 buttons running down the back, and another with red silk satin and red leather suede. They add that several gowns incorporate stiff horsehair to create a sculptural effect. “It’s almost like an Alexander McQueen exhibit,” Connie Simpson says.

When they begin their shopping, some of the debutantes have very specific plan for their look, while others have only a vague idea, says Marie Brauer of Berrybridge. But in the end, each one will be unique: “I just made an appointment for 2014, and she’s not the first one,” Brauer says. “They know that once a dress or style has been picked, I remove it from the floor.” Often, the maids choose a gown from a couture bridal designer, such as Carolina Herrera or Vera Wang, she notes. The store has worked out special deals with the designers to have the gowns produced in color. “You want them to feel as unique as you can, within the realm of reality, and this year that’s really the case.”


For the Ladies

The maids aren’t the only attendees of the Veiled Prophet Ball who go all out with their style choices, local store owners say. In a nod to their daughters’ big night, mothers often choose a dress that won’t compete for the limelight, but still shows off their style, notes Nancy Lehtman of Distinctions. “Some wear traditional ball gown-style dresses, and others are looking for a sleek, couture look. It depends on their personality and sense of style.”

This year, many of the on-trend mothers, ladies of honor and former queens will be wearing made-to-order dresses, often with a bolero jacket featuring ruffles or a high collar, says Paulette Friedman of Special Occasions. Fabrics range from lace to silk, and “some of the mothers wanted a little shimmer or sparkle when they’re walking. They feel special and look fabulous.”

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