IN A COMPLETE counterpoint to what most Americans will be doing on Sunday afternoon (consuming chili and Bud Light in front of the tube), the English Dept. is hosting its annual A Novel Romance fashion show. Not your mother's bridal shop, the English Dept. has earned a reputation for being down to earth and modern in their approach to wedding and formalwear, making it easy to be thrifty (if you want) and unconventional (exactly who said you have to be dressed in white?). Longtime Portland designer Elizabeth Dye is the owner and force behind the shop, and this annual showcase always includes a new collection from her eponymous line. She took a moment to answer a few questions about the show, the shop, and what's new in the world of cool-girl bridal fashion.
MERCURY: Give us some hints about what we'll see at this year's A Novel Romance.
ELIZABETH DYE: I think in the past our shows have been a little dainty, and we want to make it more punk. It will still be pretty girls in pretty dresses, but the aesthetic of the store is versatile. I really think the modern girl wants something she can possibly wear again—even if she doesn't. As for the show, I think it's time for a little theater.
What's new at the English Dept.?
In April we'll expand into the next-door nail salon's space, so we won't have to actively discourage people from bringing big posses. It's one of those things where it's bad luck in retail to say things are going well, but I'm really grateful for how well it's going. We're seeing people come back with their friends or sisters. I think if you're really trustworthy and nice it puts people at ease, and I think we're able to take more risks. People can cast aside traditional attitudes about what it's supposed to look like and approach it from more of a fashion perspective. It's kind of a power-to-the-people movement. You can do what you want.
What are you focusing on in your own line?
I think my point of view is that there are a lot of really great dress silhouettes that have always been created. The effort to make bridalwear trendy can be a mistake. I think most women on their wedding day want to look beautiful, and there are wonderful, true lines that flatter. I'd also love to design a gray wedding dress. I'm convinced that more people should get married in gray. Maybe I'll be making wedding shorts. I would love a wedding onesie.
A Novel Romance, The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel, 403 SW 10th, Sun Feb 6, noon, $8