Valentine’s Day Outfits

Are you one of those who think that Valentine’s Day is overrated? Indeed, society makes us feel pressured about the day, especially if you are a  man. You have to concentrate all your efforts to make your sweetheart feel loved more than on any other day, find the best place (usually a super fancy restaurant you can’t afford), and get the best gift. But, fortunately, things are changing and, when it comes to finding the best V-Day gift, more people are looking for gifts for their friends more than for a boyfriend or a girlfriend.

Whether you are in a relationship or not, you should do something that night, something special that will make you feel good. If you are in a relationship, you probably already have plans. But if not, just get together with your friends and go grab drinks. Or stay home. Whatever you do, just have fun.

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be a day where couples celebrate their love. It should be one where we get to celebrate love in general. Self-love included!

Because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and because every occasion is a good excuse to go shopping, it’s time to think about your outfit. Here is a selection of pieces you could wear depending on your plans for the day.

A date with your new boyfriend

Let’s say you just met someone and you really like the person but it’s so brand new that you don’t want to be too “natural” for that occasion. Having a date for Valentine’s Day after only few days/weeks ointo a relationship is not easy to handle. At least with this outfit you will be confident enough to seduce him/her properly. It will be more like a game than a real serious date. Find this dress on Missguided website.

No date at all

If you are in the opposite situation and you don’t have any date at all well, at least this super sweet jumpsuit will make you feel less desperate. At home, yes, but like a sexy housewife. Find this cute piece at H&M.

A date with your long-relationship boyfriend

You have been dating this guy for years, you know everything about him, his mom… and you even live with him. Maybe that night will be the one he is going to propose… Valentine’s Day is actually a good occasion for a proposal because no need to be extra romantic, the situation is doing the job for you. Well, because you never know, don’t go too “sexy” that night. You want to remember that day as the one he proposed and don’t want to show the pictures of the moment at your wedding, wearing the Missguided red dress we were just talking about. Get this beautiful dress at H&M.

A night out with your girls

Who cares about having a date for Valentine’s Day when you have a bunch of best friends ready to go party with you. As Charlotte from Sex & the City said, why can’t we be soulmates with our girlfriends? Don’t you think it’s a healthier way of thinking? Get this cosmo dress at H&M.

A date with your best friend

This item is one of our favorites for several reasons. First, both the shape and the color of the jumpsuit make us think about the ’70s — a really good decade in terms of fashion. Also, we really like the ribbed knit pull-on effect on the kinds of items that makes it even cozier and perfect for a lunch or dinner with a friend. We finally like the fact that you can style it up the way you want, for example with a belt and a moto jacket like on the picture. Find this jumpsuit at Urban Outfitters.

A date with your mom

For those who don’t care about Valentine’s Day and just plan on grabbing a dinner with their moms as usual, this super cute outfit can be an option. This pale pink is perfect for the occasion and the frills on the crop top makes the look really fashionable. It could also be a good way to send the subliminal message to your mom that she doesn’t have to worry about your single life: It’s a choice and not something you put up with. Like really… Look how gorgeous you are in this outfit! Find it at Urban Outfitters.

An Interview with Toronto’s own bridal gown guru

Growing up in Aurora, there was this place on Yonge St. called Elmwood Brides. Every day on the bus ride to school, most of the kids (mainly the girls) would make sure to scoot over to press their noses against the window just in time to catch a glimpse of whatever princess-like gown was on display that morning. In some capacity, that tradition continued for me for years — and when I moved to Toronto, I was beyond pleased to find a similar (if not *gasp* better) treasure nestled at the corner of Broadview and Dundas: Lea-Ann Belter Bridal.

If you live in the city, you’ve probably passed Belter’s stunning corner studio a few times and, if you’re like me, nearly ran a red light at the sight of its large windows, each of which house a bewilderingly beautiful white dress. It’s a the kind of view that would turn even the most bitter of hearts into a hopeless romantic, even if only for that fleeting moment.

Inside, things get even better: the sunny, baby-blue showroom looks like Cinderella’s walk-in closet, each wall adorned with tulle, lace and silk. Downstairs is the studio, where the magic happens.

What makes Belter’s work so utterly enchanting isn’t only the beauty of her designs. It’s also the fact that, despite churning out an impressive 3,000-plus gowns every year to stores across North America, each gown is still handmade by her and her small team, on-site in her flagship shop. She’s even responsible for the beautiful gown worn by Rachel McAdams in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and the frock adorned by Sarah Polley in her real-life wedding, and yet Belter continues her passionate affair with old-fashion craftsmanship. And we’re so happy she does.

Like the Elmwood Brides of my growing-up years, Lea-Ann Belter Bridal evokes something uniquely beautiful in everyone who steps inside, or even simply rides by: the nostalgia of the romantic wishes of our youth, twinned with a sophisticated confidence in love. So really, her designs capture what romance is really all about: past meeting future; childlike charm meeting mature passion.

I sat down with Belter in the middle of her sunlit showroom to chat about her renowned designs, her own thoughts on romance, her new brand Astrid and Mercedes and, of course, how she makes it all happen. 

The "Provence" gown from Belter's newer line, Astrid and Mercedes (Clair de Lune Collection)
The Provence gown from Belter’s newer line, Astrid and Mercedes (“Clair de Lune” collection, 2016)

NOVELLA MAGAZINE: Tell me the story of how you got into bridal design. I hear it was sort of by accident?

LEA-ANN BELTER: When I graduated from fashion school, the first job I got was to make the wedding gown for my brother’s fiancee. And it just grew from there. I really enjoyed it, even though I’d had no idea I was going to go into bridal when I was in fashion school. But I really liked making her gown, and everybody loved the gown, and people just started asking me. And that’s how I got into it.

And what did it look like?

Oh, it was a full ball gown with a strapless lace top. Very traditional. And it had a detachable train on it, too.

Fancy!

Yeah, it was really, really nice.

Lea-Ann Belter Bridal launched in 1990, and it seems like people fell smitten with your work almost immediately. You’ve been pretty successful from the get-go, and you’ve even designed the gown that Rachel McAdams wore in The Time Traveler’s Wife. How did that come about?

That’s an interesting story. They were filming the movie here in Toronto, and at the time we were on Queen Street. They saw the shop and came in and asked me if I would do it, and I said “sure!”

The "Judith" from Lea-Ann Belter Bridal's 2016 Avalon Collection
The Judith gown from Lea-Ann Belter Bridal’s “Avalon” Collection, 2016

You’ve been running your regular line for 26 years now, and you recently launched your new secondary line, Astrid and Mercedes. Can you tell me a bit about this new project?

I started Astrid and Mercedes two years ago. It’s just another line — we still make it here, I still design it, but I wanted to do a line that was a little more modern. The Lea-Ann Belter line is a bit more traditional, but Astrid and Mercedes is just kind of funkier and fresher, and it’s at a slightly lower price point.

I definitely get a more playful vibe from it.

Yeah. Lea-Ann Belter gowns are more classic, and the Astrid and Mercedes are a definitely, like you said, more playful.

So right now we’re sitting in your flagship store, but your gowns are sold all across North America?

Yes, this boutique is the only one that I own, but I sell to about 50 stores across North America. We ship out about 20 gowns a week to the U.S. And then there’s all the brides that we do here.

How long does it usually take to make one gown?

The designing I’m doing months ahead. Like, I’m always working on the designs. But just to make it, it’s about five or six weeks from start to finish. But that’s a team — I’ve got 18 people working for me.

So, what’s in the works right now?

Right now we’re working on the sketches for the April market.

And the most cliche question of all: where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

Anywhere. I can see the way a piece of fabric is falling, or I can just think of a feeling I want to evoke in a gown. Anything. Or I look at laces — right now I have a big bag of all the lace samples in my office, so I’ll find one that I really like and I’ll be like, “Oh, I want to use that in everything.”

The Dominique gown from the "Avalon" collection
The Dominique gown from the “Avalon” collection

Each of your gowns is so unique from the rest, but at the same time I feel like there’s something connecting them all. What would you say that is? What do you try to incorporate into every design?

I think it’s just my own sensibility. I’ve always said you can give 10 different designers the same sketch and you’d get 10 different gowns. It’s just how I interpret it. That continuity is just my interpretation coming out. But I do try not to duplicate styles within a line. I try to, you know, come out with 10 styles that are all different so it gives people a variety to choose from.

You’re also known for being very eco-conscious, using special vegetable-dyed silks.

Yes, the mill in India that we buy our silks from, they use all vegetable-based dyes.

And you donate all your excess fabrics to local schools?

We donate to the Toronto District School Board, and there’s some various artists that come in and take all our scraps. We’ve done it for a long time, and they’re thrilled.

I also have to ask about this space. It’s got this antique-y feel to it, like it used to be an old post office or something.

Nope. It was a skanky old Coffee Time! *Laughs*

Ohhh! Wow, that’s hard to imagine. It’s so beautiful in here now.

Oh, it was awful. We gutted the space and refurbished the whole building. Even the basement, where everyone works, it was like something out of a horror movie.

One last question for you: society has changed so much in the past hundred years or so, and so have weddings, but the wedding gown has continued to be such a strong nuptial tradition. Why do you think it’s such an important symbol still, for brides?

I think a wedding is an opportunity for a couple to really show their style, so I’d say that’s why it’s continued on. I also think that as a tradition, getting married is a huge thing in someone’s life, so it’s really important for people to celebrate it somehow. As a bride, it’s your opportunity to wear the gown of your lifetime. It’s your chance to walk the red carpet.

The Minuit gown from Astrid and Mercedes "Clair de Lune" collection
The Minuit gown from Astrid and Mercedes “Clair de Lune” collection