WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Monte Durham, fashion director of TLC's popular "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta" and arguably West Virginia's favorite native son when it comes to bridal design, has given brides-to-be something to dream about as wedding season approaches.
Durham was on hand Feb. 16 for The Greenbrier resort's Romance Weekend to offer something unique to the brides of the Mountain State.
"We are showcasing gowns you can't get in West Virginia," he said.
It was the Oak Hill native's second bridal show at the resort, and the fourth of eight themed weekends in The Greenbrier's Discovery Series.
Teaming up with designers from the exclusive house of Watters, Durham said he wanted to give prospective brides more ideas. They might not buy the dress they see on the runway, but he hopes they are inspired to try something a little different than straight off the rack.
A bit of inspiration is exactly what Lindsey Holloway was looking for. A West Virginia bride-to-be, she is in the midst of planning a wedding at Holden Beach.
"When I heard about the fashion show, I knew I had to be here. I want a nontraditional, simple wedding and I knew being here could give me lots of ideas," she said.
Ultimately, it is all about what the bride wants, Durham said, but sometimes those brides just aren't sure.
Many brides come to Bridals by Lori -- the Atlanta salon where "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta" is filmed -- with set ideas about their gown, only to find that with a little creative styling from Durham, they're actually dreaming of something quite different.
"Monte helps women have that 'a-ha' moment. When they look in the mirror and say, 'I feel like a bride,' that is what it is about," said Vatana Watters, founder, president and designer of Watters Bridal.
Durham can provide that extra panache "jacking up" the bride, she added.
"A woman may put on the perfect gown, but if she's still wearing her regular hairstyle and has on her everyday jewelry, she may not be getting the full picture."
Gowns with a narrow silhouette are all the rage this year, but often, Durham said, many brides don't understand that the foundation of the garment is still critical.
"Brides think they don't want petticoats, crinolines or an under slip," he said, calling that mindset one of the biggest challenges in the bridal industry.
In reality, he said, the items are designed to give even a narrow silhouette both movement and shape.
"For example, when you step forward, you lead with your knee. That gown is going to kick itself out with the proper undergarment. You aren't going to trip. The skirt will lift up automatically."
Another advantage to proper underpinning? "When you sit down, it acts as a springboard to shove the dress away from your body. There are reasons there are underpinnings in a gown," Durham stressed.
It's easy to forget, but Monte Durham isn't just another pretty fashion face. He is also a wealth of fashion history and a collector of vintage gowns.