Whose wedding gown will Julia Roberts wear? Movie: David's Bridal in Glen Burnie and Amsale in New York are hoping their dresses will wind up on the star.

November 22, 1998|By Mary Corey | Mary Corey,Sun Fashion Editor

Call it the quest to dress Julia.

Several bridal companies are vying to see whether Julia Roberts will wear one of their gowns in the movie "Runaway Bride," now being filmed in Maryland.

At the request of set decorators for the film, David's Bridal in Glen Burnie recently lent nearly 30 dresses with corseted waists, tulle skirts and Cinderella styling by Oleg Cassini, Gloria Vanderbilt and other designers.

But it appears that Amsale, a high-end bridal line in New York, has edged out the more moderately priced David's. Earlier this fall, Amsale was contacted by the movie's costume designer and sent two of the same A-line ivory duchesse satin gowns.

Amsale was asked to make custom alterations to the sleeveless dress - adding an extra foot of fabric to the cathedral train, widening the beaded lace border and creating a matching beaded lace bolero jacket.

The costume designer for the movie, Albert Wolsky, is waiting until the actual scene is shot before getting into specifics. Julia Roberts, who plays a bride who leaves many men standing at the altar, wears five different gowns in the film. He designed four of them and suggested that the Amsale gown is likely to wind up as the fifth, while other dresses may be seen on mannequins in the background.

But David's hasn't given up hope.

"If I find that she wears one of our gowns, we'll all be singing 'Here Comes the Bride,' " says Collene Kennedy, director of public relations for David's, which has more than 70 stores around the country. "They would be throwing bouquets and confetti around here."

Why the frenzy? A wedding gown used in a movie can dramatically enhance a company's image and help generate trends among real-life brides.

"If I want to go to Regis and Kathie Lee and have a bridal show, and I can say Julia Roberts wore one of our gowns, your status bumps up incredibly," says Kennedy, whose company is based in Ardmore, Pa.

The caliber of the stars also raises the stakes here. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere star in "Runaway Bride," a romantic comedy directed by Garry Marshall. Local filming is expected to run through January, and the movie will be released next summer.

"This is going to be such a big picture," says Lindsay Mann, director of communications for Amsale. "Especially since the theme is weddings, it's wonderful for us."

For bridal companies, the recent spate of wedding-related movies ("The Wedding Singer," "My Best Friend's Wedding") as well as celebrity brides (Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Barbra Streisand) have been good for business.

This year alone, Amsale sent gowns to seven films, including "We Met at the Vineyard" starring Julianna Margulies and "Analyze This," with Lisa Kudrow. (The movies haven't been released yet.)

The company, run by designer Amsale Aberra, has other Hollywood connections. Kim Basinger and Vanessa Williams have been photographed in evening dresses that Amsale also makes.

The bridal gowns - which are carried at stores such as Gamberdella's in Towson and Robinson's Bridal in Glen Burnie - range from $1,800 to $4,000. (Roberts' dress was about $4,000 before alterations.)

But while David's dresses are less expensive - generally ranging from $200 to $800 - the company is no slouch when it comes to product placement. David's is currently negotiating with New Line Pictures to provide several hundred dresses for the film "The Bachelor," with Renee Zellweger and Chris O'Donnell. And last month, "Homicide" wardrobe pros bought a David's gown, headpiece and other clothing for a show airing in January.

While "Homicide" paid for the clothing, compensation often varies. The dresses are usually lent for a fee or in exchange for the film somehow showing the store's name or giving credit at the end.

David's originally came to the attention of Paramount through the moxie of Glen Burnie store manager Sherry Unger. She sent background information - and bride-shaped bubble gum - to the Maryland Film Commission, expressing interest in helping out on productions in town.

Last month, Unger received a visit from "Runaway Bride" set decorators who bought accessories and photographed dresses. Soon after, they asked for white traditional gowns in sizes 6 and 8.

Now, like anxious brides before the big day, David's and Amsale wait to see what transpires.

Both are optimistic, although they realize nothing is guaranteed.

"With films," Mann says, "you never know until you see it on the screen."

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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