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Some brides buy two dresses instead of one

NEW YORK - Melania Trump did it.

So did rock star Avril Lavigne, with designs by Vera Wang.

Now, some regular women are following suit, deciding that one dress isn't enough for their wedding day. They want princess-like ball gowns as well as sexier sheaths for the party that they can dance in.

For her April wedding in Palm Beach, Fla., Kathy Reilly wore a sweet, flowing gown for an afternoon ceremony and a sleek number for the party that evening.

'It's an overwhelming choice to try to narrow it down to one,' said Reilly, 42, a consultant to luxury brands who lives in Manhattan.

On the other hand, 'It's certainly a big deal to purchase two dresses and get them altered and pressed. It's a big economic consideration,' Reilly said.

Maybe not for Trump, whose Vera Wang and Christian Dior dresses were featured in Vogue, or Lavigne, who wore an ivory strapless tissue organza gown with wrapped bodice and applique lace beaded skirt, and then an ivory strapless draped Chantilly lace dress.

Still, brides say they like the idea of a second dress for comfort, to display another side of their personality and, of course, for show. The trend could have a big impact on the wedding industry, always looking to create new revenue streams.

And it's not only those aiming for the fashion stratosphere who opt for two dresses.

Some brides want to wear vintage gowns worn by their mothers or grandmothers, then emerge in their own dress later. Others seek to blend different cultures, changing from a traditional white gown, say, into Chinese or Indian bridal attire.

Mark Ingram, who runs the Bridal Atelier on Manhattan's East Side, said he began noticing women buying a second wedding dress about a year and a half ago.

'As the primary dress is becoming a little bit more elaborate, they wanted to change into something slinkier or shorter or sexier, that they could really party in,' he said.

He said the first dress may conform to a parent's or fiance's wishes.

'The second dress is more of a statement of who they are, as a young, independent woman getting married.'

Women in his shop, which sells designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Monique Lhuillier and Carolina Herrara, sometimes spend more than $6,000 for the first dress, then $2,500 and up for the second, Ingram said.

Reilly wore a $7,000 backless silk taffeta designed by Amsale for her ceremony. With thin straps, a fitted bodice and a bubble skirt, it was more bride-like and appropriate for a church, she said.

Later that evening for the reception at the Breakers, an oceanfront resort, she changed into a white sheath, more 'slinky, Hollywood and red carpet-y,' she said. Its price tag was about $3,000.

'It just flowed so naturally and it was just a great dancing, party dress,' Reilly said. 'I could not have gone solely for the second one. It was probably a little too sexy for the church and probably not high impact enough.'

Kiki Hronis, whose alterations have been fitting brides into gowns for more than 15 years in Manhattan, worked on Reilly's dresses. She said she isn't surprised that brides would want to change mid-wedding.

'Of course not. It's their wedding day. It's a very special day. They can keep the other dress and wear it again.'

For her ceremony, Stacy Deemar stepped into the same gown that her grandmother, mother and sister wore at their weddings. Then she changed into a more bubbly dress later. She even explained the reason for the change in the program for her 2002 wedding in

Chicago.

'People thought I was nuts, but it was important to me,' said Deemar, 35, a drama teacher and actress.

'I didn't want to ruin it dancing and having dirt scrape on the bottom,' she said of the heirloom dress, a hoop-skirt satin with freshwater pearls and 6-foot train that had faded from white to ivory but otherwise held up since her grandmother first wore it in 1941. Her grandmother paid $66.75 for it, which included $5 for alterations.

For Swati Bose, 31, the challenge was including her Indian culture and her husband's Afghan one in their May wedding in New York.

She donned a red sari for the ceremony and switched into a white dress with mermaid black lace for the reception. He changed too, from a traditional Afghan embroidered long shirt and pants into a tuxedo.

'Since it's an interreligious, intercultural and interracial wedding, we wanted to find ways to incorporate both of our cultures,' said Bose, a law student.

Even two dresses wasn't enough for Jane Chew at her 1998 wedding in New York. In Chinese culture, she said, the more times a bride changes the wealthier it shows she is. But she had other reasons, too.

'I wanted to wear a white wedding gown just because I was born and raised in the States,' said the dermatologist, 38, who practices in Columbia, Md. 'The Chinese dress is a nod to my strong Chinese heritage. It wouldn't have felt like a wedding without it.'

Her three changes also displayed her thrift. She began the night in a Vera Wang ball gown, found at a sample sale for $1,500.

'It was very simple, no lace, no stones, with a princess bodice,' Chew said.

A few courses into the Chinese banquet, she changed into the red Chinese silk with a mandarin collar and prints of dragons. The $250 dress was made for her in Chinatown.

After the cake was cut, Chew emerged in a red taffeta strapless dress with matching red shawl.

'I found the dress for 100 bucks at Saks, so I thought it was a good deal.'