On Oak Street, in the heart of what she calls “Bridal Row,” Amanda Bonnell has cultivated a wedding mecca. Brides-to-be and their entourages regularly cycle through her store, Belle Vie Bridal Couture (34 E. Oak), to find that perfect dress.
“A bride wants her gown to reflect her personality,” says Bonnell. “So it needs to be confident, maybe romantic and maybe even a little bit sensual.”
To accommodate her clients’ individual tastes, Bonnell carefully curates her collection, turning gown shopping into a science. She believes that bridal fashion can be divided into seven styles: traditionalist, modernist, sensualist, individualist, exhibitionist, romanticist and minimalist. “I have a designer or two that covers each of these styles,” she explains. “We’re the only store in the country that has Valentino, Lanvin, J. Mendel, Douglas Hannant and Vivenne Westwood all under one roof. If you were in New York, you’d have to visit several boutiques or flagships.” This all-inclusive inventory makes Belle Vie a national and international destination — according to Bonnell, 70 percent of her clients live out of state, with many coming in from overseas.
Once a bride-to-be selects her individual style, Belle Vie’s team studies her body shape, determining which dress silhouette would best flatter her form. But when it comes to the final decision, Bonnell relies on the bride. “[The right dress] makes her light up — you can see it in her face. It’s so much fun to watch. She’s confident. She feels beautiful. She is setting up who she will be for the rest of her life.”
With spring wedding season approaching, Bonnell is quick to share her insights into the latest trends. “This year’s dress is going to have a unique line at the neck, which will draw out the décolletage,” she says. “It will have whimsical flanges or draping, but the finished line of the dress will be polished.”
Here, Bonnell plans out her ideal Sunday.
Always on the go, Bonnell loves to visit Lake Geneva to hit the slopes with her two kids.
When she stays in the area, Bonnell encourages family bonding by taking her children to Church of the Holy Comforter in Kenilworth (222 Kenilworth).
Most Sundays, the family cooks brunch in their Winnetka home. When cooking isn’t in the cards, they head to Bistrot Zinc (1131 N. State). “They have the best quiche,” raves Bonnell. “It’s sort of a hidden secret.”
Bonnell heads to Niyama Hot Yoga (742 12th, Wilmette) for a workout with her favorite yogi, Kristin, or to Shred 415 (below, 230 W. Division) if she feels like breaking a serious sweat.
It’s time to sit back by a fire, watch a sports game — Bonnell loves the Bears and Bulls — and play cards with her family.
Jellyfish (1009 N. Rush), the new Gold Coast sushi restaurant, is a favorite. But when she wants to stay closer to home, Bonnell dines at the Wilmette Chophouse (1162 Wilmette). “It’s so European that you feel like you’re in a hole in the wall in Paris,” she says.
After the kids are asleep, Bonnell and her husband watch their guilty TV pleasures: “The Good Wife” and “Revenge.” The shows are on at the same time, so it’s never an easy choice.
Story by Zak Stemer