While browsing Instagram last month, I stopped to look at Lily Allen’s wedding photos. The footage showed the singer, newly married to Stranger Things star David Harbor, grinning with an Elvis Presley impersonator outside the Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas and greedily devouring a greasy burger wrapped in paper.
But what really caught my eye was her dress. Crafted in ivory silk, the 1960s style had a buckled waist and an A-line skirt that cut just above the knee. It suited him perfectly.
“It’s not vintage or bespoke, I got it from Dior a few hours before the wedding,” Allen told me. Quite unexpectedly, it was picked from Dior’s spring / summer ready-to-wear collection.
Allen exemplifies the growing trend for ‘off the rack’ wedding dresses, which has been accelerated by Covid-19 and the evolution of wedding guidelines. According to the UK government website, around 73,600 weddings and civil ceremonies were postponed after the lockdown was announced in March. In England up to 15 attendees are allowed (although wedding receptions are prohibited in Level 3 zones), while in the United States rules on the number of guests vary from state to state. ‘other.
When preparing for these intimate events, many brides decided not to shop for traditional clothing, whether it was ordering a bespoke dress or visiting a bridal boutique where you are greeted with champagne (or maybe prosecco) when you arrive.
This summer, Christina Macfarlane, CNN’s news and sports presenter, had to change her plans – and her dress. Before the pandemic, Macfarlane had planned a big wedding, but it has been postponed indefinitely. Instead, she had a scaled-down event in Scotland and wanted something flattering that she could wear again afterwards. She bought a mid-length puff-sleeve model from party wear brand Rotate Birger Christensen on Instagram.
“The dress cost £ 220 and wasn’t even labeled as a bride,” she says. “I love Rotate, but I never imagined I would get my wedding dress from there. I also bought a pair of Aquazzura stilettos to go with it – and they cost three times as much as the dress.
Vogue Scandinavia digital editor Natalie Salmon was also forced to be flexible. She had planned a big wedding in Portugal and a ceremony at the registry office in London, but the travel restrictions and changing guidelines meant rearranging dates and reducing her guest list. She only had two weeks to plan the registry office ceremony and found her dress just four days before the event: a fitted white strapless midi with a feather trim from evening wear brand 16Arlington ( £ 695).
With bridal and designer boutiques forced to close in the spring, many brides have had to rethink the way they shop for their bridal wear. For some online retailers, the bridal ready-to-wear categories are quickly becoming their top performing and fastest growing industry. Between April and July of this year, Matches Fashion’s purchasing director Natalie Kingham had to revamp bridal stock to meet demand. The most popular dress was Emilia Wickstead’s ivory ‘Cruz’ crepe dress, which features an exaggerated bow (£ 3,110).
Kingham also noted an increase in sales of “more avant-garde wedding outfits that could also be used for the holidays.” Most sought-after items include pieces from Russian designer Vika Gazinskaya (her English embroidery crop top with matching midi skirt was a bestseller), Ganni, and Copenhagen-based label Cecilie Bahnsen, known for their mini puffy lace dresses.
This willingness to do things a little differently is also reflected in clothing rental platforms. Georgie Hyatt, co-founder of Rotaro, a peer-to-peer rental site and app, says her community’s habits have changed, with a 200% increase in last-minute wedding rentals in the past three months only. “Our top-of-the-line brands, like Cecilie Bahnsen and The Vampire’s Wife, are loved by our brides,” says Hyatt. “They want their micro-celebrations to feel special and elevated, with an affordable price.”
Even before the lockdown, demand for bespoke and specialized bridal wear was under threat. American bridal company Alfred Angelo, which had 60 stores across the United States and more than 1,400 wholesale outlets, declared bankruptcy in 2017. The stores closed before the brides could pick up their dresses, many of which had already been paid. And in November 2018, David’s Bridal, once a market titan with over 300 stores, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Small independent boutiques have also been hit hard by changing tastes and the increase in online wedding dress sales. Mirror Mirror Couture in north London, specializing in bespoke and bespoke designs (prices start at £ 6,000), will soon be closing its doors for good after 31 years. In the past two years it has not been able to compete with companies offering online sales; and, since the pandemic, business has virtually stalled.
However, in the high end, Alex Bolen, Managing Director of Oscar de la Renta, believes that “there is always a demand and a need for high fashion dresses, and women always want accessories. For us, it’s all about customer engagement, it’s this special service that only we can provide. “
When Oscar de la Renta reopened its 10 stores in late May, bridal dates made up the majority of footfall – and still do. Wedding dresses account for 10-15% of Oscar de la Renta’s sales, and although this is one of their smallest categories, it has performed the best during the summer months.
At Oscar de la Renta ready-to-wear, prices start at $ 4,000 and go up to around $ 25,000, and for tailoring it’s even higher. Bolen says requests for sewing continued. “It takes about eight months to make a beautiful couture dress, and the trend I see is that women will always want this dress, but they will also buy other dresses, and that’s often our ready-to-wear offering. Says Bolen.
Versatility is also a major selling point. “Brides definitely choose several looks that you can wear again after the big day,” says Elizabeth von der Goltz, director of global purchasing for Net-a-Porter. “We noticed the popularity of adaptable, versatile and easy white dresses in clean, simple silhouettes – a clear change from the more dazzled and sequined evening dresses. Subdued looks for intimate family celebrations were key, from the minimalism of the 90s at Galvan to the clean silhouettes of Michael Lo Sordo. “
Reformation, a Los Angeles-based brand launched in 2009, is synonymous with affordable and sustainable dresses (£ 84 to £ 460), but has become a benchmark for brides. Managing Director Hali Borenstein said: “Our initial goal was to design a collection that you might actually want to wear more than once – is it necessary to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for an unflattering dress that you will wear? during a day?”
For Macfarlane, his understated ready-to-wear option turned out to be a wonderful surprise. “Choosing a dress that quickly gave me time to appreciate so many other things of the day. It wasn’t what I expected, but it ended up being more than I could have hoped for. When you take away all the other things that are consuming you for your wedding, you understand why you are really there. “
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