How COVID-19 Has Influenced Bridal Fashion This Year—Plus, What to Expect Post-Pandemic

A look into the shopping experience and what brides are buying.

Danielle Frankel

Courtesy of Danielle Frankel

Just like any other area of fashion, bridal fashion has always remained a constantly changing force of admiration. Certain traditions have remained the same and some trends have gone in and out of style, but much of the fashion you see in the bridal sphere is directly influenced by current events. 

In the past year, COVID-19 has swiftly and all-encompassingly changed the wedding industry for an undetermined amount of time—and it’s safe to say that the pandemic has greatly altered the bridal fashion sector with it.

The Pandemic Has Changed How Brides Shop

Buying a wedding dress has taken a total 180-degree shift and, for several months, appointments were not even allowed at most bridal salons due to mandatory shop closures. Though many bridal shops have since reopened, the highly desired "say yes to the dress" fashion moment has completely changed: Rules and restrictions are in place to keep staff and guests safe; prominent bridal salons are now requiring brides to answer pre-screening questions; and the number of guests allowed at an appointment has been greatly reduced. "Bridal salons have had to severely modify physical spaces to allow more separation between each bridal client, and because of this, we see fewer clients than average," says Mark Ingram, CEO of the renowned New York City bridal salon, Mark Ingram Atelier. "We also have staggered the arrival times of each client to minimize social interaction with others."

However, with change comes innovation, and the bridal industry has been developing new ways to stay connected. Fernando Garcia, co-creative director of Oscar de la Renta, tells Brides, "We created a Zoom call type of interview process to discuss what each bride wants to do. This leads to a more personalized experience for our brides and therefore increases the demand for gowns, which came as a surprise to us. We essentially developed a new selling tool that helped the business and increased our sales."

Christy Baird, founder and creative director of the popular California-based bridal salon, LOHO Bride, has also seen similar developments within the bridal salon sphere. "There have been many different waves of adaptation as salons navigated the pandemic; however, one of the strongest developments that have come from this time is being able to assist brides in purchasing their wedding dress remotely," she explains. "As there was no way to get into a salon during the lockdown, we developed processes to help you select your wedding dress sight unseen. While this may not be ideal for every bride, the lasting benefit has been the ability to serve women all over the world who are looking to gain access to their dream designers."

Wedding Dress Trends Are Evolving Mid-Pandemic

Despite the change in structure when it comes to shopping for and purchasing a wedding gown, as well as the increase in micro-weddings and smaller affairs, bridal fashion experts are still seeing brides lean towards full-blown wedding gowns. However, trends are certainly shifting.

An Original Vision

“Even though some brides might turn down the volume a notch, many are still looking for a showstopper,” says famed Israeli wedding gown designer, Galia Lahav. “While so many other aspects of their wedding being damaged or drifted away from what they have originally imagined, we see many brides holding on to that one dream of them in their perfect wedding gown.”

Alessandra Rinaudo, chief artistic director of Pronovias Group has also seen brides sticking to their original (dress) vision. “[With] so many other aspects of their wedding being damaged or drifted away from what they have originally imagined, we see many brides holding on to that one dream of them in their perfect wedding gown,” she says. "Whoever was set on a minimalist dress will still get a minimalist dress, but many brides are not giving up on their big ball gown or super glamourous dress. Feels like, while they have had to make compromises on the location, the number of guests, [and] potentially the honeymoon, the gown is the only part not restrained by the new normality."

Nayri, wedding fashion expert at Lovella Bridal in Glendale, California, is seeing the same elaborate emphasis being placed on wedding gowns despite weddings, as a whole, shrinking to a smaller scale. “We currently have brides wearing over-the-top ball gowns for 12 guests who live in their same household!” she tells Brides. “Fashion is fashion and the one day you get to be fabulous and the most glamorous version of yourself is not going to change.” She still believes that bridal attire will continue to evolve with or without a pandemic. 

New Traditions, New Styles

Not all brides are opting for elaborate gowns—and with an increase in micro-weddings, civil ceremonies, and smaller affairs, the rise of non-traditional bridalwear has skyrocketed within the past year.

Mini dresses, jumpsuits, and separates (even hairpieces in lieu of veils) have all made their way down the aisle. And while these bridal fashion trends may have been less desired in past years, bridal experts anticipate that the rise of non-traditional bridalwear is here to stay. Danielle Hirsch, CEO and creative director of the contemporary bridal line, Danielle Frankel, told Brides, "There are no more boundaries for brides, so many things have shifted for women and their weddings–they just want to look beautiful." She continues by highlighting the transition to "color and texture, [and] the concept of wearing a beautiful gown that isn’t obviously bridal."

One interesting shift in bridal fashion decisions that Tali Gallo, co-owner and stylist at The Bridal Finery in Orlando, Florida, is seeing as a result of the pandemic is a move towards individualism as well as greater variety in style and taste. She believes this is a direct result of the lack of bridal fashion industry events being hosted in the last year. “The press would circulate the footage from large-scale runway shows and brides would arrive at their bridal appointments wanting to try on those newest collections,” she says. “Without bridal fashion week and the runway shows, the newest and latest dresses are less influential and it’s become more about the bride and what they love, even if that means a past-season dress.” 

What's the Future of Bridal Fashion?

It's evident that bridal fashion has drastically changed in only one year. But the question that still remains is: What can we expect in a post-pandemic world? In short, bridal fashion experts expect the course of the pandemic to impact bridal fashion in years to come. Here, a few universal bridal fashion trends they predict will stick in a post-pandemic world.

Direct to Consumer Collections

Lahav believes that more and more bridal designers will shift away from the traditional bridal calendar, towards a more time-sensitive window. “Yes, we will all be still releasing new collections every October and April, but on a much lower scale,” she says. “Instead of producing 40 gowns each season we’ll be seeing smaller collections and more products throughout the year according to seasonality, trends, and what the market demands.” Baird shares a similar sentiment, highlighting an increasingly urgent demand for bridalwear. "The biggest change we've seen is that brides are feeling more spontaneous and taking less time to plan their weddings. As a result, there are more rushed brides (and rushed gowns) than we've seen in previous years."

More Versatile Dresses

With the future of weddings still uncertain, many brides are opting to purchases dresses that can work in any venue, season, or bridal theme. "A big trend is versatility," Rinaudo states. "As brides still face a lot of uncertainty regarding how they will be able to celebrate their wedding, they like to be able to adapt the dress. Like adding sleeves, or adding a cape, or a jacket–to be able to adapt to colder weather–if they need to change the date of their wedding to a different season. Also, as brides might be celebrating two weddings, they either get a second dress or opt for accessories like overskirts or veils to be able to transform their dress."

Transforming the actual dress is another sustainable option, says Gallo. "We love the idea of cleaning the dress after the micro wedding and altering it to provide a fresh new bridal look for the reception and adding a skirt, sleeve, or slit for the second look.”

Non-Traditional Looks

As already mentioned, in light of the pandemic, there's been a huge shift in unconventional bridalwear and experts don't anticipate saying goodbye to this trend any time soon. Katherine Holmgren, founder and commercial director for Galvan, designed the brand’s 2020 bridal collection around 2020’s pared-down celebrations.

"For the intimate ceremonies happening now, we see brides choosing less formal dresses that feel effortless, simple, and timeless," she says. "We also see an emphasis on re-wearability: Brides love the idea of a chic white suit or clean slip dress that they can wear for their civil ceremony, but also wear in the future for their honeymoon or just in normal life." Baird adds, "We have seen a huge uptick in intimate backyard weddings, so there is definitely a shift towards more casual looks in those cases—minis, jumpsuits, gowns without trains, suits, and more openness to color."

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