There are always a few questions that follow the announcement of a proposal. "How did they propose?" "Did you cry?" "Can I see the ring?" But one of the first questions invariably tends to be, "And have you found a dress?" Ah, the dress, the one piece of clothing that will stay with you, immortalised forever in picture. And long after guests have forgotten the vows, the weather or what they ate on the day, they will always remember the dress. But as well-meaning as friends and family are, their vision for your outfit might not entirely match yours, and the first step to finding the dress for you is making sure your style and comfort are considered first.
"I can appreciate that starting your wedding dress journey can be overwhelming for some brides, so I think it's really important to do your research and understand exactly what features are non-negotiable for you in a gown," says Megan Ziems, CEO and founder of bridal boutique Grace Loves Lace. "Another tip would be to not bring too many guests along to your appointment, as too many opinions can become confusing. Stay true to how you feel in the gown regardless of what others think. What's most important is that you feel beautiful and comfortable on your big day."
Trying on different options is key, agrees Grace Richmond, co-founder of preloved designer bridal boutique The Loop. Ultimately, you might not immediately know what you want, but you will know how a dress makes you feel. "The most important part is to work out your overall style, fit and vibe. Book lots of showroom appointments and get trying; the more is the merrier! We pride ourselves on providing a comfortable, easy and fun trying-on experience—and that is half the battle."
If you've just started your research journey and so far the sea of ivory, full-skirted princess dresses is leaving you a little cold, you are not alone. Last year saw an unprecedented increase in searches for black wedding dresses, proving that there is a need to cater to the fashion-forward bride who eschews tradition. And thankfully, there are now more bridal shops, retailers and designers than ever who are pushing the definition of what we consider bridalwear, so whether you'd prefer a three-outfit gown change or a shotgun wedding in a vintage minidress, the options are endless.
EXPERT TIPS TO REMEMBER WHEN SHOPPING FOR YOUR WEDDING DRESS
So once you've found the shop, scheduled the appointment and assembled the bridal party, before you start looking through the rails, Ally Voss, founder and designer at contemporary wedding wear Clover London, has three key things you should bear in mind while you shop.
1. Budget: "Everyone has a budget. Stick to yours, and I promise it will help it guide your search. Also, always ask how much alterations are in all appointments. These can be hefty add-ons, so it's always good to budget."
2. Venue & Environment: "Narrow your search by eliminating gowns that won't work for your venue and/or the environment/weather. For instance, if you are getting married in an English garden in July, don't try on gowns with long fitted sleeves and huge trains, as they won't be hugely practical! But if sleeves and a train are part of your vision, opt for a lightweight jacket and long cathedral veil that you can keep on or take off."
3. Fit & Feel: "Most brides first port of call when they get engaged is to hit up Pinterest/Instagram for inspiration. While great to fill your mood board, I would recommend looking in your own wardrobe first. Think of the pieces that make you feel amazing (that LBD with a square neckline and low back for instance) and search for wedding dress styles that have similarities. You probably love those wardrobe staple because they fit and flatter you best!"
With that guidance in mind, it's time to get to the good bit: the shopping. And if you're a modern bride who panics at the thought of a crinoline meringue, never fear. We asked bridal experts for the biggest wedding dress trends of 2022, and I can guarantee that they will look just as good coming down the aisle as they will in photographs in 20 years time.
1. '90S-INSPIRED SLIP DRESSES
As it turns out, the current '90s revival isn't limited to halternecks, flatforms and denim. It's working its way into bridal trends too, albeit in a much chicer way. Think the minimal slinkiness of Calvin Klein, Helmut Lang and vintage Versace. "There is no doubt that we’re in the middle a major '90s throwback," says Ziems."I love seeing this influence coming back into fashion and beauty and being brought into bridal with the return of the slip dress.
"For our brides, sleek silk and satin gowns offer a modern and elevated take on traditional '90s bridal slips. Perfect for elopements or for the bride who wants to celebrate simplicity without compromising on style, our silk and satin gowns, such as the Bella, drape around the body as a celebration of the female form."
2. VOLUMINOUS SLEEVES
Thanks to its statement silhouette and sheer comfort factor, the XL sleeve is a dress you can rely on, and it makes sense that the dress of the summer could be elevated for bridalwear too."Puffy statement sleeves are everywhere at the moment, and we've created several custom clover gowns over the last 18 months with the sleeves as a very popular focal point," says Voss. "From exaggerated duchess satin puff sleeves (think Princess Di) to soft, tiered tulle sleeves with cuff detailing, sleeves are definitely a trend. This is a huge shift from the popular deep-V or sweetheart necklines that have dominated the industry for the past 20 years."
3. THIGH-HIGH SPLITS
Yes, you read that correctly. When it comes to splits this season, the thigh's the limit."We’ve seen a lot of brides loving a thigh-high split as part of their wedding look. It’s sexy, chic and a little less conservative," notes Ziems. In other words, the modern bride doesn't have to be demure; she just has to be herself. "A classic silhouette with a gorgeous split adds a wow moment to a gown, and what bride doesn’t want that? It's clear that brides seem to be leaning towards styles that are more modern and a little daring while still giving them that air of elegance."
4. SUSTAINABLE AND SECOND-HAND DRESSES
As conscious shoppers make steps towards buying better and more ethically and rewearing clothes for longer, the bridal fashion industry is finally catching up, suggests Richmond. And it's affecting the way brides shop for the better. "Overall, we fully understand and appreciate that in order for the bridal industry to achieve complete transparency, a circular business model and 0% carbon emissions, we need to continue making a lot of changes."
"At The Loop, our aim is to promote and highlight a new way of appreciating an item’s quality and longevity. We set out to amplify the belief, that considering the finite resources needed to create luxury clothing, more thought should be given to their lifecycles thereafter. Sourcing a dress for a wedding day is an incredibly exciting process, and looking at a second-hand option is fast becoming part of
this journey. No less new, and no less special, sourcing a preowned piece is simply an opportunity to consciously extend an item's story and build on its value rather than take it away. If we can encourage all new brides-to-be to view second-hand dresses as an equally special and viable option, then it will be an incredibly rewarding and importantly, sustainable achievement."
"Practicality and affordability are the biggest factors in choosing a preowned dress. Our customers are able to shop for dresses from brands that are in still pristine condition although second-hand and at a far more affordable price point, so its a no brainer," says Richmond. "Brides want something practical and versatile (as it might be one of maybe two or three different outfits they will be wearing throughout the day!). Going down the second-hand route means that they are able to factor in all those things without feeling like they have compromised on any other part of their big day."
"Sustainability is front of mind for so many, and it’s incredibly important for us to be able to offer sustainable gowns for Grace brides," says Ziems. "More brides are doing their due diligence and aligning their wedding dress purchase with their core values, so we are proud to be a brand that champions sustainable and ethical production.
"Two-thirds of the sustainability impact of fashion happens at the raw materials stage, so we made the decision to source and develop our own 100% eco lace in our signature pearl design. We were inspired to take materials that would have been otherwise discarded and used modern technology to create a luxurious fabrication that brides can feel proud to wear on their wedding day."
5. OPEN BACKS
One that summer brides will certainly appreciate, open- and low-backed dresses are not only practical for keeping you cool, but they make an entrance too. "Brides have been loving an open- and low-back moment in lace, silks and satins—it's the perfect way to turn heads and bring an element of drama to your look," Ziems assures. "It's been a top request, and Grace brides really can't get enough of this look. The Clo dress is a favourite for a gorgeous low-back moment, the perfect balance between elegant and timeless, elevated with a chic open back."
6. PLENTY OF COLOUR
Your wedding is a celebration, and what says party better than bursts of colour and texture? White dresses might be traditional, but colourful dresses embody the personality and spirit of the bride, and more than ever, colourful dresses are topping the list. "It's all about colour! I don't think I have ever seen as much colour in weddings as I have this year," notes Voss. "We are seeing it in bridal parties, flowers and accessories alike. From hues of electric sherberts to funky stationary, anything goes (and no detail is unconsidered!). Heart Zeena's wedding is an example of mega inspo."
7. STATEMENT ACCESSORIES
Choosing the dress is often thought of as one of the most important parts of the wedding, but what about the accessories, an equally integral part in pulling a look together? "Simplicity in bridal is definitely on-trend (think Nicola Peltz or Lucy Williams), and uncomplicated gowns are a good base for brides choosing a statement veil with bold embroidery, or sky-high emerald-green heels as the focal point of their bridal look," suggests Voss, and Ziems agrees good accessories can complete the look, but they can also be meaningful too.
"Brides have always loved to accessorise, and this year is no exception. Pearl accessories have been at the top of almost every modern bride's list because they've always been an indicator of timeless elegance and luxury, which makes them the perfect addition to any wedding look. But Brides also love heirloom pieces that can be passed down for generations after the wedding has come and gone.
"Earrings and necklaces have always been popular, but now we've noticed more brides gravitating towards accessories, such as our back pieces and anklets for something a little different."
"Brides love to make a gown their own. From extending sleeves to adding cuffs with silk-covered buttons, our Custom Clover offering has become increasingly popular for brides looking to coin their own look. We also partner with the brilliant Papir by Hannah and Cressida Jamieson for embroidery on veils and gowns alike—another trend we've definitely seen grow of late. Thank you, Hailey Beiber," says Voss.