Covid cancelled weddings around the world in 2020. It also influenced dress codes
Other lovebirds eloped, commemorating their private unions with small souvenirs mailed back to family and friends — a gesture that trend forecasting firm WGSN predicts is here to stay.
But the past year’s lasting impact on nuptials goes beyond keepsakes. As more people get vaccinated, “normal” life — including social gatherings — in some countries is beginning to resume. And with bridal parties and guests resurfacing, emerging sartorial trends reveal how the pandemic may have a lingering influence on wedding dress codes.
Four one-of-a-kind vintage wedding gowns hanging in LA bridal boutique, Happy Isles. Credit: Emily Knecht/Courtesy Lily Kaizer/Happy Isles
Audrey Hepburn wears an empire line dress designed by Fernanda Gattinoni for the 1956 film “War and Peace.” Credit: SNAP/Alamy
Allyson Rees, a senior strategist at WGSN, says period-inspired flourishes like capped sleeves and statement ruffles will continue to influence bridal silhouettes. “We still think that cottagecore is going to be a huge styling trend for the year ahead,” she said in a phone interview.
But according to luxury retailer Net-A-Porter, large swathes of their customer base are choosing dresses that are timeless rather than time-specific. “There has been a newly created demand for adaptable, versatile, easy white dresses in sleek, simple silhouettes,” Net-A-Porter Senior Market Editor Libby Page wrote in an email. “Smaller scale celebrations have required fewer formal looks and customers are coming to us in favor of something simple and chic.”
Earlier this month, Business of Fashion reported a pandemic-induced ecommerce rush was sweeping the bridal industry, with “fewer custom gowns and more dresses bought straight off the rack.” The surge of quick-turnaround ceremonies could be leading many to shy away from outlandish styles and stick to classic, more reliable looks.
Brands with established online stores like Net-A-Porter are benefiting from this sense of urgency, Page said. “Some of our top (selling) brands have been bridal brands,” she noted. “Our ‘Wedding’ (section) on site is unquestionably receiving traction.”
Instagram became a key way for Lily Kaizer to reach brides-to-be during the worst of the pandemic. Credit: Courtesy Lily Kaizer/Happy Isles
The post-pandemic party bug
For Lily Kaizer, owner of LA-based vintage bridal boutique Happy Isles, there was a time last summer when she thought the appetite for after-parties would never return.
“All the ruffles and the glitz and the glam that do well for us in regular times just, you know, weren’t the thing people were after,” she said in a phone interview. “So there was a moment where I was like, ‘is anyone ever going to want an after-party dress ever again?'”
Kaizer began re-stocking resplendent pieces — think turquoise sequined jumpsuits and gold mermaid-tail gowns — in March this year, following a gut instinct that led her to believe “these bigger weddings are coming back, maybe bigger than ever.” By May, her suspicions seemed to be confirmed, as she says brides and wedding guests alike poured in hoping to bag unique, one-off looks.
However, while large-scale celebrations are certainly taking place, Rees believes the picture is more nuanced. “(WGSN) have seen it go in two different directions,” she told CNN. “We’re seeing a shift to more intimate settings — what we’re calling micro-mony.”
“There’s been a shrinkage in the last year of our social circle and our social groups,” Rees said. “And so, you know, do you really need to invite your mother’s friend from tennis to your wedding?”
Lily Kaizer, owner of vintage bridal boutique Happy Isles. Credit: Noua Unu Studio/Lily Kaizer/Happ
Here comes the groom
Rees remains unconvinced. “I think it’s a very niche audience for a men’s skirt,” she said. “But we are seeing a lot more attention being put into what men are wearing for their wedding day.”
Bold patterns and striking colors are set to dominate groom fashion in the coming years. Credit: Courtesy Lyst
The future of weddings
For Kaizer, the pandemic solidified vintage as a big player in the bridal market. “Over the pandemic, there’s definitely been a rise in people collecting vintage,” she said, citing popular resale apps like Poshmark as a driver of the trend. “We’re seeing more vintage bridal focussed businesses popping up.”
With Covid shuttering physical stores for weeks at a time and the environmental crisis looming large, platforms like Vestiaire and Depop filled an important corner in the retail market and ignited a passion for second-hand. Now, Kaizer says, vintage pieces will become a mainstay in the wedding industry through 2021 and beyond. “They just offer that special, unique thing that’s completely guilt free.”
Reflecting on future ceremonies, there will still be some markers of where coronavirus once was, Rees says. “There might be a little bit more space between tables, or maybe there is always hand sanitizer now in your goodie bag.”
Top image: a digital collage of upcoming 2021 wedding trends, courtesy of Lyst.