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Still Watters Run Deep

A Dallas-based dress designer builds her brand inch by inch with lace, pearls and swirls of dreamy fabrics.

Fresh Dressed! Vatana Watters, with inspiration board and dress designs, at her corporate offices.

Vatana Watters has come a long way since she sold her first collection of bridesmaids’ dresses to Neiman Marcus in 1986. The California-born Dallas transplant now has one of the most recognizable names in the wedding biz, having expanded into designing and producing wedding gowns and mother-of-the-bride dresses.

The upscale Watters division of bridal and bridesmaids, launched in 2003, is focused on the luxury side of bridal, but its $1,500 to $4,000 price tags keep it within reach. Wtoo, which launched two years ago, features dresses in the $650 to $1,500 range. “We had these concepts in work before the recession hit, and it helped grow our brand,” says Watters, 51.

A new Encore category focuses on dresses suited for rehearsal dinners, going-away dresses, second weddings and moms; the Seahorse collection capitalizes on the demand for junior bridesmaids’ gowns and party, communion and graduation dresses.

Describe the Watters bride. Our girls have sophisticated, elegant tastes. She’s visual, very educated and grew up appreciating fine details and fabrications. She might borrow something from generations past like her mother’s veil made in Spain or France, but she won’t wear her mother’s gown. She wants something classic that she can customize to make her own.

How do you personalize a gown? We can add accessories like belts, lace straps or brooches. Some brides use our skinny jeweled belts as headpieces. You can add illusion sleeves or a new neckline to a dress, or a keyhole back. Use your imagination!

What are some trends for fall? Color, like soft oatmeal. It can be the whole gown or just a touch of color on a sash. Lace is huge right now and one of my personal favorites. You can use it all over, as an appliqué or on sashes or belts. We’re mixing French laces like beaded Alençon and Chantilly together, and doing lace cutouts on silk satin. Our exit dresses are also made from lightweight lace.

Inspirations? My fall 2012 collection was inspired by a recent trip to Paris. I’ve always wanted to see Marie Antoinette’s cottage in Versailles. You have this huge palace, but her cottage is so charming! Some of the features of our new dresses come from inspirations from there—a handkerchief hem, beading that follows the curve of your body and billowing skirts. It’s romantic, but with a sense of opulence.

The luxury Watters collection is available in Dallas at Neiman Marcus and Stanley Korshak bridal salons.