Stylist says a bride should be who she is — only more so

Frederic Fekkai's name is synonymous with style — and certainly with great hairstyles. And now he has a book that explores style, not only for hair and makeup, but also for special occasions like weddings, as well as for entertaining, dressing, decorating and traveling.

Fekkai's book, "A Year of Style" (Clarkson Potter, $35), is a visual journey through the philosophy that has made him the choice for some of the most stylish people around: Claudia Schiffer, Martha Stewart, Brooke Shields, Salma Hayek and Gabriel Byrne, to name a few.

Fekkai is probably America's premier import from Aix-en-Provence, France. His chic Manhattan hair salon sits above the Chanel store on 57th Street like a five-story aerie that's washed in Provence-inspired sunflower yellow and Mediterranean blue. Friendly and warm, it is an oasis in a city known for hard edges and chilly attitudes.

Fekkai understands weddings very well. In his book he says he's groomed countless brides and grooms and their attendants and, no surprise, he thinks a bride should be exactly who she is on her wedding day — only more so.

He doesn't believe in trends — ever. Instead, he says the best look for a bride is this:

"For your wedding, you want to look styled and groomed, but you don't want anything that isn't you. You need to look as though you have made an effort, but that you haven't gone over the top. The hairstyle you select needs to last all day and it must look natural with a veil. Style is never about trends. Style is about a common-sense approach to fashion and looking your best. A bride's hair, above all, should be shiny, soft and free."

He says the biggest mistake a bride can make is "if she styles her hair in a fashion that looks nothing like her. A bride wants to look like herself at her most beautiful."

In his book, he offers a particularly succinct caveat to the bride about the way to dress:

"You're not out to seduce anyone, so don't dress that way."

He also cautions against choosing fabrics or styles that hide your body completely, say, layers of crinoline combined with high necks and long puffed sleeves:

"Victorian is never flattering."

Months before the wedding, a bride should begin caring for her hair to achieve optimum beauty. Fekkai offers this time line for achieving your best:

*"In the months leading up to your wedding, avoid the following: unknown vacation spots where the environment can damage your hair; straightening irons and curling irons since they dry and break the hair; switching stylists — it's better to stick with someone with whom you are comfortable."

*If you're going to color your hair, don't wait until the last week or two.

*"Leave enough time to fix anything that might go wrong. It takes several washings after coloring for the hair to look transparent and natural."

*"To get hair in top shape before the wedding, I recommend getting conditioning treatments once a month. These will keep hair hydrated and healthy."

*On your wedding day, after the stylist washes your hair, ask for a little more gel or finishing cream to give hair more hold and texture.

"Squeaky-clean hair has a harder time holding a style. If possible, wash your hair the night before your wedding and let the natural oils set in."

As for various lengths, Fekkai makes these suggestions:

*For short hair, "think about accentuating texture. Bring out different pieces of hair to emphasize its color."

*For mid-length hair, Fekkai suggests a bob tucked very cleanly behind the ears and held with a satin ribbon or a small barrette, perhaps with freshwater pearls.

*For long hair, "opt for a loose chignon with part of the hair falling down around the shoulders, maybe with a soft wave." Set the hair with large rollers, leaving some pieces in the chignon and some falling down.

Fekkai also likes very natural makeup for the bride:

"The wedding is not a stage production."

Rather than too much makeup, he suggests concentrating on perfecting your skin. Use concealer, foundation and powder; keep eyes as natural as possible and lips simple. For an evening wedding, you can use a little more makeup.

"Either way, practice the look a few times before the wedding."

A last word of advice for the bride: Keep nails short.

"Long nails on a bride are just wrong," Fekkai says. " For evening, a deep, classic red is fine. Otherwise, go with very pale pink or clear."

And, if you absolutely have to have wild polish, Fekkai says, "Put it on your toes."