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Charity Lawson Takes Us Inside New York Bridal Fashion Week

Charity Lawson Takes Us Inside New York Bridal Fashion Week

Charity Lawson earned a reputation of being a sweetheart after starring in the 20th season of “The Bachelorette,” which ended in August with her engagement to Dotun Olubeko, an integrative medicine specialist.

Ms. Lawson, 28, seemingly always has a smile on her face. She knows what she likes and she does not put up with drama, a trait that was witnessed first hand this week amid the chaos that was New York Bridal Fashion Week — a chaos that this season was exacerbated by heavy rain and wind.

The three-day event, from April 2 to 4, was an opportunity for bridal designers to show their latest collections to journalists, buyers and, in Ms. Lawson’s case, a bride-to-be who is starting to look for dresses for her 2025 wedding.

She hopes to have a dress chosen by July for the wedding she is planning in California next fall, which will be followed by a traditional Nigerian celebration in Lagos, Nigeria, to honor her fiancé’s heritage.

Before becoming a “Bachelorette,” Ms. Lawson, 28, was a contestant on the 27th season of “The Bachelor,” which premiered in January 2023. Later that year, she appeared on season 32 of “Dancing With the Stars,” finishing in fourth place with her dance partner Artem Chigvintsev.

“It’s a lot,” Ms. Lawson, a former children’s therapist, said about appearing in back-to-back-to-back reality television shows broadcast last year. “I came into all of this quickly. I didn’t envision myself even being engaged.”

The New York Times followed her for two days during Bridal Fashion Week as she made her way to runway shows, presentations and private appointments around the city.

Ms. Lawson’s first Bridal Fashion Week stop was the Ines Di Santo runway show at Lavan, a venue in Midtown Manhattan. She was behind schedule, running on a few hours of sleep after a late-night flight from Los Angeles. The abysmal traffic she hit on the way to midtown from her brownstone near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, where she moved in January, did not help.

She frantically rushed into the modern event space bathed in blue lights, which dimmed just as she took her front-row seat.

After the label’s eponymous designer ended the show with a bow, some guests rushed to greet Ms. Lawson. One asked if she had chosen her wedding gown yet. Others asked for photos. An editor offered to feature her on the cover of a magazine. And a tabloid reporter ambushed her, asking Ms. Lawson a jumble of questions about topics like her wedding date and if she has any “travel hacks.” (“I don’t,” Ms. Lawson said.)

“Very random questions,” she later said. “Anything to get a little headline. People want me to disclose our wedding day so bad — that is between me, my family and fiancé.”

Ms. Lawson left the venue during a torrential downpour, scurrying around in the rain as she tried to locate her Uber ride. The moment had all the elements of a classic rom-com scene. As she made her way into the car, the driver shouted, “Hurry up!”

“Welcome to New York,” she said jokingly.

Rime Arodaky, a French bridal designer, makes wedding dresses that exude French-girl cool. For a preview of her namesake label’s 2025 collection, Ms. Arodaky had filled her airy showroom in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan with her dainty designs.

Ms. Lawson browsed the garments and, after selecting five of her favorite pieces, went behind a curtain with Ms. Arodaky, who pinned the dresses to fit her frame.

After trying on a strapless pleated gown with a detachable scarf-sleeve, Ms. Lawson walked over to a big mirror and stepped onto an elevated platform.

“I’m obsessed,” she said. “This is a moment. It’s so romantic and elegant.” She struggled to peel herself away from the mirror.

It was the first wedding dress she had ever tried on.

She’s a fan of the sweetheart neckline: “I have good collarbones,” she said. “I’ve got to show the collarbones.”

Ms. Lawson’s second day of Bridal Fashion Week began with an appointment with Francesca Miranda, a designer in Barranquilla, Colombia, who arrived in New York just days before she presented her collection.

Ms. Lawson selected six dresses from the racks full of items that the designer had arranged in a large, rustic studio in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

As she tried them on, she honed in on elements she preferred: strapless or off-the-shoulder sleeves; ivory shades instead of snow-white; and definitely no ball-gown silhouettes.

Ms. Lawson said that she thinks some people see her as a Disney princess.

“But that’s not who I am,” she said. “I don’t want my wedding day to be costume-y.”

She tried on a feathered pantsuit, which she thought was well-suited for her bachelorette or rehearsal dinner. “It’s bridal meets Cher,” said Daniella Jassir, Ms. Miranda’s daughter and the marketing director for her mother’s namesake brand.

Another piece — a long-sleeve illusion dress with a detachable tulle-organza overskirt — was completely out of Ms. Lawson’s comfort zone. When Ms. Miranda and Ms. Jassir fastened the matching veil in her hair, Ms. Lawson took a peek in a mirror and shed tears.

After gently wiping them away, she said, “Mark this as a favorite.”

Ms. Lawson wore a black trench coat, a printed mock neck dress and pointy vinyl boots for her second day of bridal fashion week. After getting caught in the rain in open-toe shoes the day before, she had learned her lesson, she said.

She took an afternoon break from her schedule of appointments and presentations at a coffee shop, where she ordered an iced matcha latte and a croissant. After taking a seat by the shop’s foggy windows, she reflected on her tearful moment while trying on the Francesca Miranda gown.

“It was hitting me, it’s happening,” Ms. Lawson said. “I look like a bride. I feel like a bride.”

She left the coffee shop and hopped into a cab. On the ride she played a string of twangy songs from “Cowboy Carter,” Beyoncé’s latest album, from her phone through the car’s stereo.

“I’m not really a country girl, but Southern by upbringing,” said Ms. Lawson, who was raised in Columbus, Ga. “This was the perfect combo,” she added of the album. “A little touch of the South, a touch of the country.”

About forty minutes later, she was greeted by the bridal designer Nardos Imam at Ms. Imam’s three-story salon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The designer’s new collection for her brand, Nardos, was displayed on the ground floor, with a few models roaming around in some of her latest designs.

“Her stuff gives more couture,” Ms. Lawson said after a tour of the salon. “Very high end. I like the drama of couture.”

She took a few mirror selfies, looked at a few more dresses and posed for photos with a few more starry-eyed fans before making her way to her final event.

Ms. Lawson’s last Bridal Fashion Week event might have been the one she was most excited for: The designer Esé Azénabor’s presentation at her Madison Avenue flagship boutique. Ms. Azénabor, who is Nigerian, has a cult following, particularly among brides of color. Her namesake label is also a favorite of Ms. Lawson’s mother-in-law.

The boutique had been reconfigured for a runway show, with seats for about 60 guests. Models walked onto an elevated platform one by one, with Ms. Azénabor popping up a number of times to unpin detachable trains, veils, tops and skirts. One such element was a silk mikado ball skirt attached to an off-the-shoulder top that, when unpinned, transformed the garment from a gown to a jumpsuit finished with pearls and crystals.

Ms. Lawson, watching with wide eyes and an open mouth, let out an audible gasp.

The 20-minute show was full of embellishments and bling. “Don’t ask me which one’s my favorite,” Ms. Lawson said after the presentation. “All of them.”

She excitedly told Ms. Azénabor about her future husband and their shared Nigerian background. “His mother loves your work,” Ms. Lawson said.

“You all have to come to the store,” Ms. Azénabor said. “When it looks like a store.”

Ms. Lawson replied, “I’m in New York, so I will be back.”

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