Wedding dresses for modern brides
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In 2020, London Fashion Week favourite Molly Goddard introduced a made-to-order bridal collection. Goddard’s brides have since married in acres of white tulle and crunchy taffeta, in bright blue with black ribbons, and in bespoke outsized veils. “One of our recent brides changed her dress in the evening for a green stiff tulle style based on one of our archive dresses and a bright-pink veil,” adds Goddard.
The made-to-order offering has been so popular that next month sees the designer launch a bridal collection that can be bought off the peg – or rather, as it’s available on its website, off-the-pixel. The range of 11 dresses includes floor-length and short styles, long-sleeved and one-shouldered, and is available in taffeta from Spain and stiff and soft tulles from Italy, as well as smocked cotton voile. “For a lot of people, bridal is for those who don’t buy designer clothes the rest of the time but love the clothes we make,” says Goddard. “They’ll spend more money on their wedding dress.” She’s particularly proud of the range of sizing the brand offers, and says requests for sizes of 20 and 22 are growing. “We have also introduced more stiff tulle into the collection because it’s one of the most inquired-about materials. People love the tulle, the smocking and the shirring.”
Goddard is one of several designers who have recently expanded or launched bridal collections – often with an unconventional flavour. Emilia Wickstead creates bespoke, made-to-order and off-the-peg gowns as part of a bridal business that has grown 25 per cent since before the pandemic; later this spring she will open a new retail space with a dedicated bridal salon. Rixo, the London-based brand known for its colourful print dresses, launched its first bridal collection at the start of 2021. There, brides can shop for white jumpsuits, tuxedo suits, halterneck dresses, 1940s-style frocks and miniskirts according to categories such as Registry, Ceremony or Party.
“We’re seeing a shift in our customers seeking out more understated bridal looks, deviating from the traditional go-to bridal designers,” says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying at Browns Fashion. “They’re now more eager to try out a relaxed fashion spin from the conventional bridal attire, as they’re not feeling the pressure to plan large, grand weddings since the restrictions imposed during Covid-19. Our edit aims to offer versatility – these pieces don’t feel like a one-day-wear buy in the way a traditional wedding gown might, so you can easily reach for them for other occasions.”
Han Chong, founder and creative director of contemporary luxury brand Self-Portrait, believes “the notion of a traditional wedding dress disappeared” last year. “There’s now a sense of independence and freedom in what women want to wear,” he says. “They’re wanting to look like themselves as opposed to feeling the pressure of projecting a certain image others might expect.” Chong launched a small collection of bridal last season and has now scaled up to a range of 60 styles featuring romantic pleats and dramatic taffeta adorned with delicate trims and details. “I’ve created pieces that are freer, less formal and more modern,” he explains.
Priscilla Royer, creative director of Parisian milliner Maison Michel, has responded to the new wedding mood with the launch of a range of 15 white modern bridal headwear pieces, including a taffeta bucket hat and a pillbox with a short veil and a giant bow that falls to the small of the back. Royer – who wore a black velvet dress over a white shirt with a black hat for her own wedding – says: “The shapes aren’t too princessy, they’re fuss-free. And the intention is that you can re-wear them again differently with another outfit. On a sustainable level that’s relevant to how we’re living in 2022.”
What kind of bride does she think will wear a bucket hat? “A very free and easy one! She won’t be spending too much time on her hair. She’ll be able to take it off and put it back on and dance.”
Brides often buy a second dress for “the 9pm switch-up”, when they change into something more suitable for the dancefloor. Last month, made-to-measure bridal brand The OWN Studio launched a collection of mix-and-match miniskirts and tops designed for exactly this purpose. “We already had a sequined minidress that did incredibly well in the UK and US,” says Rosie Williams, the brand’s co-founder along with Jess Kaye. “And there’s a big point around bridal separates. A lot of women are looking for a capsule bridal wardrobe that they mix and match over the course of the weekend – for the night before, the party, the ceremony, the recovery day afterwards.” To this end it is currently launching a “contemporary” collection of ready-to-wear styles, including separates. “They’re all pieces that continue to live in your wardrobe beyond the wedding.” Bridal dresses that are more fun and longer-lasting? Sounds like happily ever after.