Forget a subtle cream number, for the most fashionable brides it's all about the big dress.
If 2022 is the year of the extreme wedding, it is also the year of the extreme dress. Gowns are anything but shy and retiring, with "standing out from the crowd" now a crucial factor for post-pandemic brides who are throwing themselves into large dos. This means big and bouncy — think multiple layers of tulle and a scale that would make even the most precocious Disney princess proud. But this isn't the return of the meringue.
Today's big dress energy has an ease to it, with contemporary designers such as Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha emerging as the cool girl's choice for pumping up the volume. Think less about mutton shoulders and the 20ft-plus trains worn by Princess Diana and Céline Dion (fun fact: the My Heart Will Go On singer teamed her wedding gown with a Swarovski crystal-embellished tiara that weighed a migraine-inducing 3kg) and more about layers of tulle perfect for spinning around in on a dancefloor.
"There's something so invigorating and comforting about your dress literally taking up space," says Goddard, who launched her bridal range in 2020. "It's not a wedding if your dress doesn't fill up the car and cushion you when you fall on the dancefloor."
She's not the only one to think so. The fashion search engine Lyst reports that as big weddings make a comeback, princess dresses are emerging as a lead trend, with "ballgown" and "big tulle dress" the most searched-for terms alongside "wedding dress". The little-publicised nuptials (ahem!) of a certain Beckham offspring can only have served to add fuel to these flames, with Nicola Peltz and her Valentino floor-filler.
The fashion boutique Browns reports similar findings, with extravagant styles by luxury labels such as Taller Marmo and Anouki proving popular. "We are seeing more brides seeking out traditional floor-length gowns to match their opulent ceremonies," says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying for the retailer.
Kate Halfpenny, the London-based bridal designer who has dressed everyone from Rihanna to Emilia Fox, has undoubtedly scaled up her latest collection, with flowing trains and bows so large they'll require their own seat at the top table among the options for this year's brides.
Many have taken inspiration from the awards season circuit, where, after a brief hiatus, big dresses are back with a bang — witness Jessica Chastain in floor-sweeping Gucci at the Oscars as a starter for ten. For today's brides, going for a big and bold wedding dress is a chance to create a red-carpet moment all of their own.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Don't fancy the mega-frock? The emergence of the "naked" dress is the other side of this coin. Indeed, it's the second chapter in this extreme wedding love story. While for some the return to big bashes has brought with it dresses that are all about taking up space, there is a growing number of contemporary brides who are seeking the complete opposite. Inspired by the likes of Zendaya, who is an expert at barely there dressing, brides are choosing sheer and extremely fitted gowns. Thigh-skimming styles are also having something of a moment.
Lyst notes an 80 per cent increase in searches for "sheer white dresses" and attributes the popularity of such styles to recently hitched influencers such as Camille Charrière, who wore a lace gown by Harris Reed to her wedding in Paris last year.
Net-a-porter says the rise in "sexy bride" dressing tracks with an increased demand for a second bridal look — a trend made popular by Meghan Markle, who swapped her church-filling Givenchy for dancefloor-ready Stella McCartney. "We're seeing huge interest in a glitzy, fun, second-look party dress," says Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-porter.
Among the naked bridal brands of choice are Galvan — think bias-cut plunging satin — and Alex Perry, who specialises in simplicity. Backless styles and those that skim the body (see Pippa Middleton's famous bridesmaid dress at William and Kate's wedding for inspiration) are also popular.
The trend for having two wedding looks makes sense for those going all-out on full-scale parties this year. Undoubtedly it appeals because having an outfit change midway means you can please your grandma during the church ceremony and then the wildest of your old school friends when the party starts. Well, they say you only do it once (and next time around you can just wear a trouser suit).
Written by: Karen Dacre
© The Times of London