A New Era of Wedding Dress Shopping

A New Era of Wedding Dress Shopping

Four months before Ashley Moore’s April 2023 wedding, she still didn’t have a wedding dress https://ariamodress4wedding.mystrikingly.com/. After hours of searching, and www.educapyme.com even buying and returning a gown she’d changed her mind about, she finally fell in love with a dress she found at a department store. But what she didn’t love was the price. So Ms. Moore scoured the internet and eventually found the same gown being sold online for less at Mytheresa, a luxury fashion company.

Ms. Moore, 26, who works as an event content creator in Dallas, typifies the modern bride: resourceful, social media savvy and has a finely tuned idea (honed through substantial research) for 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, https://ariamodress4wedding.mystrikingly.com/ with more than two million weddings predicted in 2023 for the second year in a row (there were 1.3 million weddings in 2020, https://ariamodress4wedding.mystrikingly.com/ 1.93 million in 2021 and 2.47 million in 2022), according to The Wedding Report, an industry trade group.

But bridal fashion and www.ghid-pitesti.ro 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, Conn., 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 Mr. 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.”

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After getting engaged last Christmas, Lori Bellino, 33, a sales executive in Houston, started hunting for the perfect wedding dress. “I wanted to share the shopping experience with my mom and friends, so I asked them to fly in,” she said. After putting together a Pinterest board of dresses and creating a virtual collection of bridal looks that she had found, she visited several local stores with them. “I wanted to buy it in person to try it on,” Ms. Bellino said. “They had me stand on a podium, and imagine walking down the aisle, and ring the bell when I decided on the dress. You don’t get that experience online.”

The demand for a hands-on boutique experience may have contributed to the recent bankruptcy of David’s Bridal, the largest bridal retailer in the United States. David’s Bridal, which once dressed a third of brides in the country, according to the company, filed for bankruptcy in April for the second time in nearly five years, one of many big retailers that were hit hard by the pandemic.

“We’ve proven it’s not a price or style issue,” Jim Marcum, the chief executive of David’s Bridal, said in a video interview.

In an effort to better serve modern consumers, David’s Bridal announced plans to introduce a new boutique-like concept in multiple locations last year. According to a news release from the brand, this new store model is geared toward brides who desire a more personalized process, and it includes “a one-on-one shopping experience with an expertly trained stylist and in-house alterations artisan.”

“We have spent a lot of time iterating the store of the future,” said Mr. Marcum.

Three mannequins with white wedding gowns beside windows in a store. There is also a rack of dresses.

“Purchasing a wedding dress isn’t like going in and purchasing any other garment,” said Randy Fenoli, a bridal designer and a host of “Say Yes to the Dress.” “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.”Credit…Melissa Stimpson/The White Dress by the Shore

Three mannequins with white wedding gowns beside windows in a store. There is also a rack of dresses.

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,” said Ms. Chapman. “It is about a wedding wardrobe for them right now.”

That was the case for Ms. 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. And all of that was before the wedding weekend in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In total, Ms. 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.

“I feel like for me, it’s just that time in your life when you’re the center of attention, and wedding dress shopping felt so high-pressure,” she added. “So buying these different looks was taking some pressure away from that, with the thinking that I have all these different moments where I can shine, and use my creative expression, and wear something I am super proud of.”

The desire for a multi-outfit bridal wardrobe is something that Amy Trinh, a co-founder of the brand WED, based in London, said she had noticed in particular because brides frequently want multiple outfits for multiple events that “are connected in aesthetic in some way,” she said.

She attributes this trend to the growing influence that Instagram and TikTok have on wedding fashion. “With social media, it’s a very different game,” she said. “It’s not just photos for the family and friends to enjoy, but it’s being put out to the world. So brides are wanting to stand out because of how many eyes are on it.”

Ms. Trinh added, “It means our brides are more adventurous and brave, and getting more creative with their looks.”

The desire for a multi-outfit bridal wardrobe can be attributed to social media’s expanding influence on wedding culture.Credit…Catherine McQueen / Gatty Images

A close-up photo of white dresses of different textures on a rack.

Vintage and Convertible Dresses Are In

Many brides are achieving unique looks by reimagining 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.”

Brittany Liane Dalena, 23, a marketing associate from Madera, Calif., recently caused a buzz on TikTok when she posted a video from her wedding rehearsal in April 2022, for which she altered a vintage dress that had been worn by both her mother and grandmother.

In the video, she reveals her rehearsal dress to her grandmother, who had worn it as her own wedding dress, except now it had been cut into two pieces at the waist. When the seamstress started pulling apart the vintage dress so that it could properly fit Ms. Dalena, the bride had an idea. “I said, ‘Why don’t you leave it in two pieces, since that’s a new style?’” she recalled.

“A lot of people hated it and said that I had turned it into a Shein two-piece dress,” she said, referring to the fast-fashion retailer. “But I thought it would mean more to me and my family to wear a dress that was passed down.”

Other budget-minded modern brides are picking wedding dresses that they can wear again, or that can be used for multiple looks.

“The opportunity to re-wear a big white dress may be slim to none,” said Alexandra Macon, the founder and chief executive of Over the Moon, an e-commerce business focused on weddings. Instead, she said, brides are seeking out “pieces that can easily be found at a more accessible price point, look like a million bucks and can often be re-worn.”

And 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.”