Interview Exclusive | Pnina Tornai

by Tillie Eze

Who knows evening wear better than a bridal designer? Think about it. They work with the widest array of women possible as they take in to account not only physical attributes of their bride, but cultural aspects of the party as well. They deal with some demanding personalities to ensure “the most important day of their life” has them looking like a goddess, even if just for one day.

Esteemed bridal designer, Pnina Tornai, is no rookie when it comes to the world of weddings. Known for her appearances on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, Tornai is the mastermind you want by your side when it comes to choosing all evening wear. Recently we sat down with her to discuss how she does, what she does, so effortlessly.

_30A3224How does the dress process begin with a bride?
It really depends because brides have changed so much. I’ve been saying this for like three years now. Even though a bride that’s heavier wouldn’t wear something tight, today I can tell you they do because they feel good with themselves. It really depends on how you feel with your body. When I see a bride, I can immediately envision what she would be wearing. I have this ability, and I’ve had it since the beginning of my career because I never studied fashion. It’s like a gift from God. I would see a customer, and I would see her in a dress that she wasn’t wearing, and think, “Do I tell her? Do I tell her I see the color?” Women ask me, “How do you know? Who called you? Who told you I wanted green?” I say, “I just see green all around you.” That’s really what happens when I work with a  customer. It happened to me many times in my career that customer would say, “Okay. You have to tell me who you spoke with.” (laughs) Colors like gold or fuchsia just come to me by just from looking at the customer.

So what factor does body shapes play when deciding on a dress?
I always connect with my brides and my customers and ask them how they envision themselves. What are the parts of their body that they want to accentuate, or what do they feel comfortable with? It really is about how my bride feels. Let’s say a big busted bride, I would always advise to wear a deeper neckline because it creates an optical illusion of a smaller bust. If the neckline is higher, it will look as if she has even a more bigger bust. If a bride has a small waist and wider hips, I would say go with more of a straight shape to an A-line, not to accentuate the hips. If you do have a beautiful waist, then you want to accentuate the waist and not show the hips as much if they’re very wide. For bellies, for example, we have … I’m known as the queen of corsets. Well, it’s the queen of many things. The queen of bling. The queen of corsets. The queen of lace. I’m the queen of everything. (laughs)

But, when I first came here, I came with these corsets. Kleinfeld said, “No. No. This doesn’t work. It looks like cabaret or Moulin Rouge. It’s not for brides.” We said, “Yes, it is. It will show and accentuate the beautiful shape of any woman in them. It just creates beautiful waists if it’s structured in the right way.” The boning has to be perfectly placed, and the fabric has to be such that it allows you to breathe but yet show your waist. I think that for bellies, a corset is perfect, a lace up corset in the back. I have a lot of pregnant brides that I love so much to dress because I think it’s like it’s even more exciting to have a baby on board. For these brides, I will not use a corset because I don’t want to hurt the baby. Either they feel comfortable with their little bump, or we just do something more of a flowy empire shape to just camouflage and make it look as if it was meant to be that you don’t see her waist. I really have a dress for every bride out there. In my collection, I always carry around 200, 250 dresses.

There’s something for everyone it seems.
I have a dress for every bride. I have dresses that are good for petites and for very tall brides and for skinny, tiny brides. We also have brides that when I measure them they’re this small. Yes. At my atelier, I have mannequins from size 0 to a size 30 and up. I have a collection for the extra size bride. Of course, again, whenever I work with my brides, I try to understand how comfortable do they feel with different parts of their body. That’s how I step into their dream and create a dress for them.

02744B95-CB42-4C8A-AB9F-D8DE4E436F50 (1)What about for women who want to cover their arms? I think right now a lot of people don’t want to wear long-sleeve dresses.
There’s this amazing fabric called netting, and there’s a certain netting that looks like nothing. It’s transparent. It still it can be on your skin, and you don’t even see it. On top of that netting, I can apply lace or appliques wherever we want to hide or wherever a bride wouldn’t feel comfortable with herself. In an arm you have this part, which you will see is always beautiful, and then you have this part here and then you have this part here. Most of, I would say, the cases that we need to camouflage and soften a little bit is usually here where the arm is sometimes fuller. I understand that because I’m very aware of my arms and I always wear sleeves. I don’t like that part of my arm. Just morphology sometimes, you can see this beautiful, I’m always jealous when I see them, very skinny arms. For me, I’m very much aware of this part, so what I would do is use the netting, sometimes up to the elbow. We don’t need it here, and then apply appliques to create a romantic look or a detail. It doesn’t look like it’s there to hide the fact that the arm’s a little fuller at that exact point. Oh, yes, we have secrets and solutions for everything.

On the red carpet you see many red haired stars wearing certain colors or staying away from other colors. What colors do you think are best for women with red hair?
My favorite redhead is Jessica from Roger the Rabbit. I love her. She’s my ideal woman. I think she’s amazing. She has red hair, and she’s wearing a red dress. She looks perfect. She has fair skin. I think red is beautiful, depending again on the tone of the red hair. I think green is perfect. All the gemstones colors are beautiful for redheads. If it’s a beautiful purple, deep purple, blue, green. I wouldn’t do orange. I think fuchsia is amazing for redheads. It brings out the redness in beautiful aspect, so I love fuchsia with redheads.

Are there other colors they should stay away from?
I would stay away from orange. I would stay away from yellow. For some reason, it doesn’t really match the redheads.

IMG_8119Teens are wearing stilettos and bodycon dresses to evening events and wind up looking old and fast. Are there certain looks that they can wear that they can still look trendy and beautiful and also look age appropriate?
See, I think the trend is showing your body as much as you can. I saw the AMAs yesterday, and there’s hardly a part of the body that you don’t see. Everything is out there, like, “This is my body.” It’s wonderful that women feel so comfortable with themselves, and I admire. I couldn’t myself, but I think when you’re young and you have a perfect body, you can wear anything. The question is how to keep the line of not being provocative. I think when you’re young, you can also allow yourself to enjoy the fact that you’re young and wear some of these more chiffon flowy shapes that are very romantic. If you have a deep neckline and a beautiful deep back then you don’t really have to show and accentuate your whole body shape. I personally love the little A-line dresses that show a lot of leg.

When you’re young, you can allow yourself to wear so many things that you won’t be able to allow yourself to wear when you’re older because it doesn’t flatter the personality of an older woman to wear one of these short tutu dresses that you would wear when you’re young. Why not take advantage of that? Then you’ll have enough time to wear these older looking dresses. Yes, it goes by very quickly. Then one day you wake up and you say, “I can’t wear this anymore. I’m not that young.”

Now looking glamorous shouldn’t only be for special occasions. How can you add it to your everyday life?
Personally, I am someone who loves to keep glamour in my life everyday because I think it also affects your mood and your state of mind. Especially those days that you wake up and say, “Oh, my God. I look bad. I’m ugly, I’m this.” If you put some glamour on, you feel like a star. You can see on my Instagram all of my looks of the day, I always keep something glamour. Just it makes me feel good. I feel like I’m partying instead of working. If it’s the makeup that I think is always very important. It makes you immediately feel you beautiful and glamorous. Even if you’re wearing a regular pair of pants and a nice top, if you accessorize it with some sparkle, it makes you look glamorous. For me, shoes and bags. By the way, in nature, it’s always the male that’s more colorful and more attractive than the female. It’s only in the humans that the female is more colorful.

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