A New era of wedding dress shopping

rows of wedding dresses on display in a specialist
(Photo: Envato Elements)
Four months before Ashley Moore’s April wedding, she still didn’t have a wedding dress. After hours of searching, and even buying and returning a gown she had changed her mind about, she finally fell in love with a dress she found at a department store. However, what she didn’t love was the price. So, Moore scoured the internet and eventually found the same gown being sold online for less at Mytheresa, a luxury fashion company.اضافة اعلان

Moore, 26, who works as an event content creator in Dallas, typifies the modern bride: resourceful and social media savvy, with a finely tuned idea (honed through substantial research) of what she wants in a dress.

The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout shifted the bridal industry as ceremonies went virtual or were canceled, delayed or downsized. Now, there is a boom afoot: Overall, the number of weddings in the United States has surged to figures not seen in four decades, with more than 2 million weddings predicted in 2023 for the second year in a row (there were 1.3 million weddings in 2020, 1.93 million in 2021 and 2.47 million in 2022), according to The Wedding Report, an industry trade group.

Bridal fashion and the way brides search for and purchase their wedding outfits has evolved, thanks to the demands of modern brides, many of whom are looking for unique, Instagrammable styles for multiple events.

A smarter, more informed bride
Gone are the days of flipping through the pages of a bridal magazine for inspiration. The 2023 bride has done her homework. “The thing about Gen Z brides is they do their research,” said Beth Chapman, the owner of the White Dress by the Shore, a boutique shop in Clinton, Connecticut, adding, “They’ll exhaust all of their options, and they really know their stuff.”

Brides may spend countless hours scrolling through social media, studying the gowns worn by influencers and celebrities, creating Pinterest boards and surveying the websites of designers and retailers. Only after doing all that — often months later — will she consider making a purchase.

When that finally happens, she is likely to prioritize the gown’s appearance and functionality over the price tag. The average cost of a wedding dress now is higher than it has ever been, at $1,900, according to a study by The Knot.

For that amount of money, many brides expect some degree of pampering and personalization in the shopping experience.

“Brides don’t want to just get a dress off the rack,” said Randy Fenoli, a bridal designer and a host of “Say Yes to the Dress,” a popular reality television show that follows brides-to-be as they search for the perfect wedding dresses at the Kleinfeld Bridal boutique in New York.

Since the show’s debut in 2007, it has spawned spinoffs and become a cultural touchstone that Fenoli believes has influenced the broader bridal shopping tradition. “I think brides have watched it and seen that purchasing a wedding dress isn’t like going in and purchasing any other garment,” he said. “You bring your family and friends, Champagne is popped, there is cheering and tears, and it is really something that is more of an experience.”

A complete bridal wardrobe
Brides are no longer focused on selecting just one beautiful dress. As more pre-wedding parties are being added to the calendar of activities and weddings are increasingly spread across multiple days and venues, the modern bridal wardrobe now consists of a collection of outfits.

“Brides are really wanting to have an Instagrammable fashion moment for their bachelorette, their shower, their rehearsal and their after-party,” Chapman said. “It is about a wedding wardrobe for them right now.”

That was the case for Moore, the Dallas bride.

Although she found her wedding dress only a few months before the main celebration, she had bought multiple bridal outfits since getting engaged in September 2021.

First, there was the engagement party dress, then another dress for the bridal shower, then two more for a separate elopement in Las Vegas.

all of that was before the wedding weekend in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In total, Moore had eight different outfits in her bridal wardrobe, she said. One was secondhand, another had feathers, and everything she wore was bought online.

Although her bridal wardrobe ended up costing more than what the average American bride spends on one wedding dress, she pulled it off, she said, because she budgeted for it. “I went into it knowing I wanted to set aside a part of my budget that wasn’t for my wedding dress, but for other looks,” she said.

Vintage and convertible dresses are in
Many brides are achieving unique looks by re-imagining vintage gowns, or picking dresses that can be converted and worn for multiple events.

Vintage and secondhand dresses, especially ones passed down from family members, are popular right now, partly because a used dress can cost either nothing or a fraction of the price of a new one. Sally Conant, the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, a trade group of experts who preserve wedding gowns, said that when economic times are tough, as they are now for many people, she sees an upswing in brides looking to restore dresses they inherited from family members. “When COVID hit, I saw a huge bump up in vintage dresses, as people shore up family traditions to try to feel secure,” she said. “I am seeing it again this year.”

There is a strong demand for convertible dresses, which proved popular at this year’s New York Bridal Fashion Week. Convertible dresses can be adapted to various style silhouettes through detachable sleeves or straps, for example, or with an overskirt, jacket or bolero. It might involve removing a train, which avoids the nightmare of bustling.

“We have tons of brides always emailing us and calling us, asking, ‘Do you have dresses that can be two-in-one?’” said Susan Wilson, the manager of Blue Bridal Boutique in Denver. She often gets requests for variations like a detachable overskirt over a pantsuit.

“I think brides want to get the most bang for their buck, and styles aren’t as traditional as they used to be,” she said. “I really think times are changing.”

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