Last year, very few brides walked down the aisle as planned. According to wedding planning app Bridebook.com, an estimated 15 million weddings around the world were postponed because of the pandemic. In the United Kingdom, where weddings have been banned or restricted since last spring, many brides simply decided to embrace smaller, more intimate ceremonies, and with that decision came a sense of freedom. And many women looked to the runway for bridal fashion inspiration.
"Versatile pieces such as the draped high-neck midi- dress from Emilia Wickstead, tailoring from Christopher Kane, full-length dresses from Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Jones headpieces have all performed well," said Natalie Kingham, global fashion officer at Matchesfashion, the London-based luxury retailer. The retailer launched its own "wedding edit" at the beginning of 2020. "We predict a shift toward feminine, romantic wedding dresses and statement pieces that will make an impact on the big day," Kingham said.
While not everyone has the budget for high fashion, the shift away from traditional bridalwear has certainly been noticeable. In a 2020 report conducted by Bridebook.com, 67% of brides no longer want a traditional wedding dress.
"The wear-once meringue dress is being passed over in favor of trouser suits and dramatic silk separates that can be dyed a different color for a new lease of life," said founder Hamish Shepard. The search for jumpsuits and trouser suits increased 200% last year on the app.
Awon Golding, the London-based milliner known for her contemporary headpieces, wore a jumpsuit on her wedding day four years ago in Goa, India. Now she's busy making headpieces for brides who have all had to downsize their nuptials.
"People are choosing shorter dresses rather than long gowns, headbands rather than long veils; there's been a lot of birdcage veils," said Golding, who also serves as head millinery director at Lock & Co. Hatters, the London hat shop. "I have a bride I'm making an abstract tulle veil for, who is wearing a black dress from the Vampire's Wife, and she's wearing it with opera-length gloves. It's completely out there, but it will look stunning. It's great that people are willing to step outside the bridal box."
That was exactly the thinking that led Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, founders of London-based label Rixo, to launch their 26-piece vintage-inspired bridal line during London Fashion Week in February.
"No one was doing what we imagined a bridal line should look like, and we really felt like we had the ingredients to make it work," McCloskey said. Those ingredients include flouncy feathered hemlines; a fully sequined ivory midi; a fringed, embroidered halter neck; and a chic jumpsuit.
"We want our brides to dance and have a good time and just feel amazing," Rix added.
Love was in the air elsewhere at the fall 2021 collections in London, which all took place digitally for the first time in its 35-year history. The duo behind the label Palmer Harding presented their show, titled "I Love You," with many of their signature shirts but also a white broderie anglaise dress with horizontal pleating and billowing sleeves that had an air of structured romance about it, perfect for a relaxed, spring wedding.
Over at Temperley London, which launched its own separate bridal line in 2016, there were festival-inspired looks, from frilly lace pieces to bright florals offering a kaleidoscope of color that would brighten any nuptials. A shimmering gold lamé halter neck with romantic ruffled sleeves and peek-a-boo shoulders would elevate any celebration.
There were more romantic offerings at Bora Aksu, where the Turkish-born designer recorded his show in the grand surroundings of the Tate Britain's neoclassical central hall. Showcasing a vibrant selection of organza and lace dresses, inspired by the French Revolution, many had the flouncy, decadent feel of the hit Netflix period drama "Bridgerton" or Golden Globe-nominated "The Great." One such creation featured layers of frothy white tulle and lace and came complete with a veil slash cape. The look was accessorized with long white gloves embroidered with yellow spring flowers -- perhaps signifying a new dawn physically and metaphorically.
With the recently announced plans for the lifting of lockdown restrictions in England, including wedding restrictions easing gradually throughout the summer, the unwritten rules concerning bridalwear might cease to exist.
For Erdem Moralioglu, who debuted his take on bridal in February, alternate bridalwear has always interested him. Moralioglu, who debuted his eponymous brand Erdem in 2005, said he wanted to offer brides a more pared-back aesthetic that might offer itself to multiple wears. "I think there is something wonderful about creating something that has a permanence to it," he said. "There are pieces in the collection that you would hold on to forever."