Once upon a time, getting married meant rocking a diamond ring, a white dress, and a fluffy veil. Now, the rules surrounding wedding fashion—and what it means to be “bridal”—have officially started to shift. “In my experience, bridal is constantly evolving,” explains Heather McReynolds, the vice president and general merchandising manager of David’s Bridal. “Brides today are really rethinking what ‘traditional’ means…We’re seeing them gravitate towards two-in-one looks, non-traditional colors, wearing sneakers, shorter ‘little white dresses,’ and dresses that lend themselves to wear again. They’re gravitating towards styles that feel unique to them and express their individuality,” she adds.
While you might think a wedding dress has to be something classic, white, and traditional, that’s no longer the case. In fact, nowadays, a true determining factor for bridalwear is how an ensemble makes a bride feel inside and out. Everything else is just a matter of what’s trending and personal preference. And for those interested in diving deeper, here’s a look at how the industry is changing, as well as some style forecasts for future brides-to-be.
The Traditional Wedding Dress
When you hear “wedding dress,” what do you picture? Chances are, you’re envisioning something like a ball gown or an A-line silhouette in white or ivory, says Alex Rivera, an expert stylist specializing in bridal fashion at Stitch Fix. A train is usually involved, as are luxurious fabrics like lace, silk, chiffon, or tulle. This demure wedding-day look—which many consider to be the traditional style—dates back to 1840 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert.
This celebration was special since Queen Victoria not only married for love (a still-new concept at the time), but instead of donning the then-traditional royal colors of red, gold, or silver, she opted for white French lace and a simple wreath of wax orange blossoms on her head.
Though the concept of the wedding dress has shifted slightly, the style’s roots are still based on Victoria’s day-of ensemble. The front hemline hits the floor, the color is white or very light ivory, and the gown features luxe fabrics. “What makes anything timeless is its ability to stay in style year over year,” explains Rivera. “The timelessness of traditional wedding gowns is found in simple yet ornate, and sophisticated yet glamorous, details.”
The Reasons Behind a Shift in Bridalwear
If traditional bridal styles have hung on for so long, why is it that we are just now seeing a major shift? A big reason is thanks to celebrity culture and social media. “We often see interest in trends when celebrities are photographed in their bridal gowns,” says McReynolds. The fact that fans can now see their favorite stars in real time has caused an immediate ripple in the industry. But beyond that, with more and more influential couples sharing their nuptials with the world, the amount of inspiration is increasing, giving brides more freedom to experiment with their favorite fashions.
Seeing celebrities move away from tradition has resulted in the changes we’re seeing in bridal fashion; in short, today’s couples feel empowered to honor their preferences because they’re seeing others do just that, explains McReynolds. “This is really being influenced by an overarching trend in weddings today to incorporate nontraditional elements, as well as a desire by modern brides to create very personalized wedding looks.”
Beyond celebrity inspiration, McReynolds acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in this newfound desire to create unique wedding aesthetics. “After several years of postponements and cancellations, couples are excited to celebrate and are opting to include some nontraditional elements to make their big day special.”
Traditional Trends That Are Currently Changing
Without all the rules to dictate what you can—or can’t—wear on the big day, it makes sense that some of the classic elements are going out of style. Both experts agree the biggest of which is the pure white gown. “Brides are moving away from the truly white gown and beginning to incorporate unexpected color for a chic and dramatic look,” says McReynolds. “Non-traditional colored gowns now make up about 10 percent of our assortment (a 30 percent increase from last year); and black wedding gowns became so popular, as of Fall 2022, we will carry select styles in stores (formally only available for a custom order).”
Even brides who do wear white or off-white gowns are branching out by way of accessories and silhouettes. “The days of brides wearing head-to-toe white are becoming increasingly rare, with many opting to incorporate color or prints into their bridal looks,” notes Rivera. “We’ve seen wedding dresses adorned with feathers, halter top necklines, sheer sleeves for showing more skin, two-piece outfits, jumpsuits, and dresses of all lengths. Many brides choose to forego veils or headpieces altogether, while others search for wedding dresses in various colors.”
8 Wedding Fashion Trends Forecasted to Dominate
With bridal fashion officially shifting, it’s no wonder new styles are taking center stage. In fact, when it comes to the current rules of bridal fashion, it ultimately boils down to…nothing. There are no new rules, and with an absence of guidelines, fresh ideas will only continue to cultivate.
From what’s currently trending today, here’s what the experts say will continue to grow and command the wedding scene in the coming years.
While colored gowns are becoming more popular, McReynolds notes that brides who opt for white gowns don’t purchase ones that are purely white. “One out of four brides is choosing a gown in champagne or other nonwhite-but-neutral hues, such as pink, blush, or cashmere,” she explains. Rivera adds that another popular trend is pairing neutral-toned dresses with colorful bouquets for an extra pop of color.
According to Rivera, one bridal style that started as a trend (but has now shifted into a bridal staple) is separates. “Sleek suiting and nontraditional two-piece styles continue to be popular with modern brides,” she explains.
Wearing multiple looks on the big day has become one of the most popular trends to date. This usually entails a ceremony gown—which is typically more traditional—and a reception dress which tends to be a little funkier. Beyond that, some brides add in after-party looks as well. For those who don’t want—or can’t afford—an additional wedding dress, convertible ensembles are growing increasingly popular, allowing brides to have more than one look with the same base gown.
“Party mini dresses are having a moment thanks to celebrities, like Kourtney Kardashian, opting for a short white dress on their big day,” explains Rivera. “They’re perfect for brides who love to have a bit of fun with their style, and a bonus is that a short frock is ideal for dancing the night away post-ceremony.”
Buying Vintage, Secondhand, or Rewearable
The younger generations are growing greener, which means brides are choosing looks that reduce waste and carbon emissions. In the past years, there’s been a major uptick in purchases for vintage gowns, as well as consignment ones from retailers like Preownedweddingdresses.com. Beyond that, Rivera says many brides are selecting items that can be worn again, allowing them to recycle their looks to become wardrobe staples.
From shimmering fabrics to luxe embellishments, McReynolds says dramatic options and romantic details are officially on the rise. “We’re seeing satin and shine fabrics, sequins and beading, and 3D florals, plus corsets thanks to Bridgerton,” she explains. “Also, the re-emergence of unique waist options like basque and drop have been popular, as well as sheer illusion or billowy sleeves for modern coverage.”
If there’s one thing today’s styles have taught us, it’s that brides certainly do not have to wear dresses on their big day. In fact, bridal suits are on the rise with more options becoming mainstream. With celebrities like Solange Knowles wearing a cream-colored jumpsuit and Emily Ratajkowski donning a mustard wedding suit, it should come as no surprise this new trend is taking hold.
For some, finding that special pair of wedding heels is almost as important as the dress, but wearing heels or traditional bridal shoes at your ceremony and reception is certainly not required. Many brides are now opting for non-traditional footwear like sneakers and boots instead—and the trope of complaining about how bad your feet hurt at your wedding is officially over.
Classic Bridal Styles That Will Be Forever Staples
Even though the rules of bridal fashion have shifted from strict to self-expressive, that’s not to say some classic elements aren’t still popular. In fact, that’s what makes the changing wedding landscape so exciting—you get to showcase your style whether you’re a traditional or non-traditional bride. “The simple clean lines of a slip-style gown, made iconic by Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, will never go out of style,” says Rivera, nor will silhouettes like the A-line, sheath, or ball gown. Then, of course, there’s the white wedding dress. While stark white is no longer as common, white-inspired dresses in cream, ivory, or neutrals are still—and will likely forever be—popular.
“Timelessness is always in style and the white wedding gown will forever be a popular go-to for brides,” Rivera explains. “The most important thing is that the bride feels beautiful and special, and the right outfit (no matter the style) makes all the difference.”