Julie Sabatino, The Stylish Bride

Julie Sabatino, The Stylish Bride, holding a lace wedding gown

Julie Sabatino

The Stylish Bride

IG: @thestylishbride

Chances are, anyone that’s picked up a wedding publication or perused wedding articles online, has likely stumbled upon your work. You’ve been featured in dozens of editorial pieces, such as The New York Times, Vogue, and InStyle, to name a few. Tell us about your company, The Stylish Bride, and the variety of services you offer that so many event planners and clients alike have found invaluable.

The idea behind The Stylish Bride was planted when I was engaged, and looking for my wedding dress. It was 2001, and the market was so different then, because I couldn’t rely on social media or websites to find inspiration. I thought it would be like the movies; I would go into a boutique, get a glass of champagne and find my perfect gown… but it wasn’t. I was having a crisis of confidence. I didn’t know how to understand myself, my style and what I wanted, let alone figure out how to get it. I tried on hundreds of dresses. I was actually on Wall Street working in finance at the time, and I remember one day my boss said that I had to stop leaving the office for dress appointments!

I wanted someone that could guide me and say, “Here are the style options and the best dresses for your body type, that fit within your budget.” I also needed help figuring out what my bridesmaids were going to wear, what was my mother was going to wear… all of that.

After getting married, I decided that I didn’t want to be in finance anymore. I enrolled in FIT, and soon after graduation, I decided to start The Stylish Bride. The last seventeen years have been so rewarding, I love helping women (and men) find something amazing. I’ve also developed a Wedding Day Service, because fashion emergencies can be a real deal breaker! I trained stylists in seven cities throughout the US and UK, to be ‘need anticipators,’ to give brides the best possible experience on their wedding day.

Julie Sabatino, The Stylish Bride, fitting a client for her wedding dress

What inspired you to become a stylist?

What it all boiled down to, is that I wanted to save people from having the same experience that I had. Wedding dress shopping can be really difficult. You have so many eyes on you, so there’s a tremendous amount of pressure. There’s hundreds of options, and for a bride, there’s often insecurities that store consultants don’t see. A bride could look absolutely gorgeous, but if she’s not happy or confident, that beauty might not show through.

I know what it’s like to not feel good in your own skin, and what it feels like to know when you’ve gotten it right for yourself. There was no one out there giving these ladies non-biased advice, to help them look and feel amazing. It sounds cliche, but that’s how every woman should feel on her wedding day. I wanted to be that person for them.

How do you stay on the pulse of wedding fashion?

It’s really through working with the dresses every day. Generally, bridal isn’t all that trendy, and trends we do have repeat themselves. A dress could be five years old, and still be relevant and chic. But there have been a few really defining moments that I’ve witnessed over the last seventeen years, like when Monique Lhuillier introduced the lace dress with the colored sash, there was a huge revolution in bridal. It was new and different, so many dress designers began incorporating lace and splashes of color. Then it happened again with Israeli dress designers coming onto the scene and showing a much sexier look. Of course, bridal also takes a cue from the ready-to-wear and couture worlds, and the trends we see there trickle down as well.

One of my clients once said to me that I have an “Encyclopedic knowledge of wedding dresses.” And it’s funny, because I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I remember a dress from seven years ago! But it’s really first hand experience, because I work with gowns every single day. When we used to have runway shows, I would attend all of it, I think I’ve attended more than thirty seasons of fashion shows!

I’ve also developed great relationships in bridal fashion, both with stores and designers. I want to be an advocate for them as well as my clients, and facilitate a relationship between the two. I’m familiar with their inventory and newest collections, which keeps my finger on the pulse of wedding fashion.

Julie Sabatino, The Stylish Bride, with a wedding gown

COVID-19 has delayed the wedding planning process for so many couples. What advice would you offer to brides that are finding it difficult to navigate shopping, fittings and alterations for their wedding dresses at this time?

COVID causes a lot of uncertainty for brides surrounding when they’ll be able to get married. Which, makes them more hesitant to pull the trigger on a dress. The challenge is, dresses are actually taking longer to produce given the pandemic. Clients need to make up their minds sooner rather than later, but they don’t have the confidence in their wedding dates.

Also, the experience isn’t what it used to be. You can only bring one person with you, you have to wear a mask, and the consultant doesn’t help you in and out of the dress because they can’t be in the fitting room with you. So there’s a lot of hurdles.

Nobody, unless you’re a debutante, has tried on a long white gown before. We don’t even wear dresses like that anymore, for the most part. So pre-pandemic, when clients were looking for their dresses, my advice was to take into account what’s appropriate for the season as one of the data points they use. I have one bride that planned on getting married in the spring. She bought a beautiful pink floral dress, but was forced to reschedule her wedding to October given the pandemic. Now, I would switch that season data point and suggest that brides find a dress that they feel good in, in any venue, at any time of year.

My advice is to do a deep dive into yourself to find what you’re looking for. Get laser focused on what you want, before you start shopping. But, don’t rely exclusively on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration. I actually went back and did an audit of my clients, to compare what they initially asked for, to the dress they ended up with. I found that there’s a lot of beautiful pictures out there, but when clients see a dress in person, it’s often totally different.

This is why I’m in the process of creating a “Bridal Style Blueprint.” It hasn’t launched yet, but once it’s available, it will help brides to better understand themselves, and how their personal styles can translate into wedding gown styles. It will empower brides to look at themselves for what they want, instead of finding that they think they want on Instagram or Pinterest.

You shared the sweetest Instagram post last month, showing a beaded bracelet that was handmade by your daughter Annie, with an amazing purpose behind it. Can you tell us more about that?

My business has always been a family affair. My daughter, Annie, started to notice how different our lives were, especially as I was no longer away on the weekends to work weddings. She overheard me talking about saving live events, and wanted to do something to help.

Annie created a ‘Wish I Was There’ bracelet, which was actually a suggestion from a wedding planner, Leslie Mastin. Annie donates 20% of the proceeds to the Live Events Coalition, and a portion to The Love Land Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the Black Lives Matter movement by providing women with access to therapy. Our events community has really embraced it by purchasing bracelets for themselves, friends, and colleagues. Clients have even purchased bracelets for their event partners to wear on their wedding day.

I’m really proud of Annie, and she loves it. It’s been such an interesting time. The kids aren’t in camp, they aren’t seeing their friends, so this is huge for her to focus on this summer and make a difference in a small way.

If you were to leave us with something to think about, what would it be? 

There’s truth in that, every woman is beautiful, on the inside. The idea that beauty radiating from within is so powerful, and so important. Not just on the wedding day, but every day.

Visit The Stylish Bride to learn more. To purchase a #wishiwasthere bracelet from Annie, visit @StringsAttached.NYC.

View more Spotlight features.