Dreaming of the Perfect Wedding Gown? Your Fairy Godmother is in Tel Aviv
By Danielle Crittenden Frum
So you're planning your perfect Jewish wedding. You're fantasizing about venues, and of course how everyone is going to get along. But the dress -- the dress! You don't want to be a bridezilla about it, but you've dreamt about what you would wear at this moment for years -- and now that it's come along, your search immediately defaults to nearby bridal boutiques or a big designer name, such as Vera Wang.
But why should your bridal gown be the least Jewish aspect of your wedding? Some of the most talented designers working today are based in Israel. That doesn't mean you have to go to Israel to shop for the dress. These designers are quickly becoming global brands. Many sell and ship directly, while others are available in North American bridal boutiques, luxury department stores, and regular trunk shows.
Inbal Dror is probably the most recognizable and established of Israeli designers: The brand sells through stores in major cities internationally, and frequently holds trunk shows. (That information can be found on the designer's website.)
At Dror, you'll enter into a filmy, clinging, lacy, backless, sequined world resonant of the most glamorous Hollywood red carpets. It's no surprise Dror also dresses a celebrity clientele. Her gowns range in style from those suited for princesses and the fiancees of oligarchs to rock stars and hedonistic actresses. Her celebrity clients include Beyonce, whom Dror dressed for the Grammys and the star's "Formation" tour, as well as Giuliana Rancic, Bar Refaeli, Kelly Kruger, and Sandra Echeverra.
Wedding gowns from Inbal Dror's 2016 collection. Photos courtesy of Inbal Dror.
The price of a Dror gown will start at $8,500 USD with most in the range of $10,000 USD, and take approximately four months to be made from when an order is placed. Every gown is made-to-measure, based on 30 different measurements of the body. By the time a gown is ready, Dror says, very little adjustment is needed.
If these wedding dresses -- designed to fit "like a second skin" -- seem intimidating to those without perfect startlet figures, there are other well-known Israeli designers with more forgiving, if equally jaw-dropping, designs: Berta, Zahavit Tshuba, Galia Lahav, and Simijan Bozaglo.
Clockwise from left: Gowns by Berta, Zahavit Tshuba, Simijan Bozaglo, and Galia Lahav. Photos courtesy of the designers.
But maybe the big volume, risque princess look is not for you: you want something subtler and simpler, and yet every bit as exquisitely made and sophisticated in style? Sharon Tal of Maskit may be the designer for you.
Israeli-born Tal studied fashion design at Tel Aviv's prestigious Shenkar college before leaving for Europe, where she worked at Lanvin, and then as head designer responsible for embroidery at Alexander McQueen. After McQueen died, Tal returned to Israel where she and her husband, Nir, revived the iconic Israeli fashion house, Maskit -- which was founded in 1954 by Ruth Dayan (wife of legendary politician Moshe Dayan). The brand, which had been funded by the Israeli government, closed in 1994.
Dayan originally created the house to employ the waves of immigrants arriving in the then-new state of Israel, many of them from ethnic rural cultures and without professional skills. Dayan, however, recognized their incredible talents in embroidery, sewing, and weaving; she employed them to create the exotic fabrics and unique concepts that would become the foundation for Maskit's original designs. The style caught on, and soon Maskit was an international brand, doing collaborations with YSL and Dior among others.
The Tals relaunched the brand in 2013 while staying true to Dayan's original vision of celebrating the diverse, ethnic skills of Israel today. Sharon's embroidery background at McQueen is most evident in her bridal collection, where skilled Bedouin women have executed delicately woven patterns on Tal's couture-level wedding dresses. The resulting collection is both eye-popping and regal: a homage to the old-school glamor of the 1930s-50s when sexy femininity was not all "out there" but alluded to with the teasing decolletage and flowing, flattering shape of a perfectly cut gown.
Maskit bride gowns will fit in at the most sophisticated wedding at Manhattan's Park Avenue Synagogue to a beachfront ceremony in Caesarea.
But why stop with the dress? Israeli designers are creating beautiful bridal headpieces and accessories as well.
Prominent among them is Tami Bar Lev, a Tel Aviv-based milliner and headpiece designer who specializes in bridal wear. She's collaborated with prominent New York designers where her witty, naturalistic pieces have appeared on many runways. Bar Lev's creations will bring a touch of whimsy to any style of dress. Her pieces range in price from $170-$1,200 USD and take from three to six weeks to make before shipping.