Faculty Profile – Paula Varsalona

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Paula Varsalona, internationally recognized as one of the principal couture designers of bridal apparel, has been a leader in the fashion industry for over 50 years. As the designer and manufacturer of the Paula Varsalona Group, Varsalona offers unique and personalized fashion statements for brides and mothers. She is an adjunct professor at FIT, where she teaches bridal and cocktail apparel.  
After earning her BFA from Washington University in St. Louis, it didn’t take long for Varsalona to recognize her calling, and, in 1975, she founded Paula Varsalona Ltd. Since then the acclaim and success of the New York City-based label has flourished. Over 70,000 brides have donned Varsalona gowns for their weddings, and the designs have made countless appearances in the media, including Bride’s, Martha Stewart Weddings, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, NBC’s The Apprentice II, and Lifetime’s 24 Hour Catwalk. In addition to being named one of the country’s top ten bridal designers by New York Magazine, Varsalona’s gowns have also graced the red carpet. In fact, when Grey’s Anatomy’s Chandra Wilson snagged the 2007 SAG award for best actress, she offered an on-air thank you to the designer who dressed her, Varsalona, and also donned a Varsalona when she hosted the red carpet at the 2008 Daytime Emmy Awards.  Most recently, Varsalona designed a special wedding gown for Bebe Neuwirth.  

The newest collection is no exception to the proven sensation that has been Paula Varsalona Ltd. This season, pure silk taffetas and Dupioni silks are joining feminine details such as imported lace, Swarovski crystals, pleated flounces, and soft floral embellishments. Accompanying the bridal designs is Varsalona’s Red Carpet Collection, a more recent and wonderfully successful line of special occasion gowns. Aside from filling a void in the market, these pieces also serve the ever popular “destination” wedding when worn in white or ivory.  

Varsalona is a charter member and currently on the board of the IBMA (International Bridal Manufacturers Association) as well as a former member of the BBA (Bridal and Bridesmaids Association). In 1991, she received the D.E.B.I. Award for Distinctive Excellence in the Bridal Industry from Modern Bride Magazine.

She was one of the first female members of Montville UNICO, one of the first females to vote at the national level, and was named its “Person of the Year” in 2006. She was the second woman ever to receive the Cianci Award from UNICO National for her philanthropic work and the first woman on UNICO's National Board of Trustees, which donates to cancer research, armed services, mental health, Cooley’s Anemia, St. Jude’s Hospital, educational scholarships, and food pantries. In 2008, she was acclaimed “Woman of the Year” by the Center for Italian and Italian-American Culture and is a member of NIAF (National Italian American Foundation). On March 3, 2012, as chairperson of the Dorothy Varsalona Cancer Fund, Varsalona raised $21,000 for the Jimmy V Foundation, to benefit the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Washington University School of Medicine, through UNICO. She holds the office of Vice Chargee de Mission and the rank of Officier Dame of La Chaine, of the New Jersey Chapter of Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs.

She is a member of Washington University in St. Louis's New York Regional Cabinet and a member of the National Council for the Sam Fox School of Art & Architecture, where she serves on the Scholarship Committee.  Some of her most notable accomplishments at Washington University include. Varsalona served on the Board of Trustees of Mount St. Dominic Catholic School for girls in North Caldwell, NJ for 25 years and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2000. A 1967 alumni of Raytown High School in Raytown, Missouri, she was nominated to their Hall of Fame in 2004.
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