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Welcome to the Bridal Boom

From Jacquemus to Sandy Liang, all your favorite brands are introducing wedding attire—but why now?

Model Sara Stockbridge pictured on the catwalk during Vivienne Westwood fashion show at London Fashion Week.
Getty Images

If you’re of a certain age, your Instagram feed likely features a recurring picture: a happy couple, a raised hand, and a rock. That diamond is a sharp taste of what is sure to come: a long, arduous year or two of scrapbooking, strategizing, and, most importantly, styling.

While bridalwear has traditionally been dominated by the luxury big-wigs—with less-established brands serving as budget-friendly back-ups—contemporary seems to be the new cool. Call Her Daddy’s Alex Cooper eschewed the likes of Elie Saab for "it" designer Danielle Frankel at her Mexico wedding. Belgian up-and-comer Valentine Avoh recently graced Vogue, while Australia's Paolo Sebastian and New Zealand's Hayes Bridal are well on the way to becoming market mainstays.

Naturally, ready-to-wear wants a slice of the wedding cake. (In 2023, the global bridal wear market reached an estimated worth of $27 billion.) The past year has seen both Sandy Liang and Jacquemus debut bridal collections. In 2019, New York-based label Retrofête was asked to create an all-white capsule collection for a Net-a-Porter. “We are always there for your larger-than-life moments, so a bridal offering was an inevitable next step,” says creative director Ohad Seroya.

The shift corresponds with increased pressure on brides to showcase a range of meticulously curated white looks. A year ago, Sofia Richie Grainge entered a new echelon of superstardom when she rolled out a series of Chanel wedding looks on the French Riviera. Cooper went similarly viral last month for her various vintage and custom pieces. From the bachelorette party to the post-wedding brunch, brides are expected to roll out an array of diverse outfits for online onlookers. Throw in professional photography, and it’s nothing less than a campaign for your personal style.

“I have been feeling the pressure of turning two to three looks in a night with their own sets of accessories,” says Ivana Rihter, a Los Angeles-based bride whose weddings will take place in Santa Barbara and Serbia this summer. “#BridalTok is a terrifying place that will convince you that you need matching PJs for all your friends and a custom silk robe to get ready on top of the three dresses so I have tried not to get lost in the noise there.”

Verity Elks, who married her partner in Mexico City last October, says she refused to look at dresses for at least six months post-engagement.

“I was overwhelmed without the faintest idea of what I was after,” she says. “I stressed myself out too much so I just avoided it all together. At one point I was seriously considering blowing the budget and hiring a stylist to source a ‘98 Mugler corset.” Elk's reception dress was designed by Poster Girl, a party-centric brand from London that does not feature any traditional bridalwear among its styles.

Mary Furtas, whose label Cultnaked announced a bridal line in April, followed sheer consumer demand to the altar. “We have a huge fan base, and many were asking if we could make certain dresses longer or in white,” says Furtas. “I always thought it made so much sense. What's a party without Cultnaked?”

“#BridalTok is a terrifying place that will convince you that you need matching PJs for all your friends and a custom silk robe to get ready on top of the three dresses so I have tried not to get lost in the noise there.”

“Social media has meant weddings receive more visibility than ever before, heightening the desire to make every detail perfect,” says Veronyca Kwan, co-founder of Bella Belle, a bridal-focused footwear brand launched in 2013. “Ready-to-wear and luxury brands recognize these evolving needs and dynamics. They've been outfitting fashionable clientele for various events throughout their lives, so naturally, they’re extending their expertise to include wedding days as well.”

Bella Belle was founded after identifying a gap in the market for luxury, event-ready shoes that emphasize comfort. By contrast, Bella Belle began as an independent bridal footwear brand, before expanding into overall occasion-wear. Each shoe is formulated with extra padding, stable heels, and durable materials for ensured longevity. The luxury price tag reflects impossibly intricate details: lace, gems, beading, even three-dimensional butterflies.

“Each pair is a statement piece, intricately designed to complement the bride’s gown and overall wedding theme,” says Kwan, “This goes beyond simply adding white fabric to standard designs; it’s about crafting footwear that enhances the bride’s confidence and completes her look.”

For other designers, dipping a toe in the wedding pool is about doubling down on white within each collection. Ready-to-wear label Charo Ruiz has become an elevated bohemian alternative to traditional wedding wear, its implicit “special occasion” component making it a favorite among more down-to-earth brides.

“The concept of wedding has evolved in such a way that there are more and more events where the bride requires different looks,” continues Kwan, “And an increase in demand from brides who flee the pomp for more natural environments [and want their] dresses to flow with the same energy.”

Even swimwear designers are aligning with the shifting tide—which they claim is not just exclusive to brides.

"‘Wedding season' has a noticeable impact on consumer shopping behavior,” says Adriana Degreas, whose eponymous swimwear label indirectly caters to wedding attendees. “Especially with the increase in destination weddings, our customers need exclusive ready-to-wear pieces.”

Cynics might call ready-to-wear’s flooding of the bridal market a shameless cash grab—the bridal markup estimate is currently three times that of regular occasionwear—but there’s likely also an age-and-stage component influencing designers. Few millennials escape the all-consuming barrage of content that accompanies wedding season, let alone the evolution of their own relationships (31-year-old Sandy Liang married her husband in 2023, and Simon Porte Jacquemus, now 34, tied the knot in 2022). A near-constant bombardment of wedding outfits—the good, the bad, and everything in between—is guaranteed to set the creative wheels spinning. Perhaps their entry into the bridal space is a response to what they considered a gap in the market, creating non-traditional looks they would wear themselves.

“Not everyone wants the big white ball gown,” says Retrofête’s Seroya. “Drawing inspiration from vintage designs, we create silhouettes you’re not going to find anywhere else. I always say our bride comes to us looking for a special piece that will define her wedding style—whether it be with sequins, feathers, or lace—she’s open to taking risks.”

“The biggest [bridal shopping] shock was that I did not necessarily prefer the very elaborate and expensive gowns to the more affordable ones… They were beautiful, but not for me."

The bridal offerings of traditional RTW brands start at around $300—a much lower price tag than traditional bridal brands.

“The biggest [bridal shopping] shock was that I did not necessarily prefer the very elaborate and expensive gowns to the more affordable ones,” says Ivana Rihter. “I was expecting to feel devastation at my meager budget, but I don't yearn for the $10,000 dresses I tried on. They were beautiful, but not for me.”

While there is a growing resale movement among brides, Rihter is among the majority who chose to shop in person. This presents a challenge for traditional DTC brands like Cultnaked to grow their bridal base.

“Our main focus is selling directly to our customers who already know the brand well,” explains Furtas. “In the future, we might present it to more business-to-business stores because people love the collection.”

In addition to DTC sales, Retrofête sells accessories to Anthropologie Wedding, and it counts Revolve and Net-a-Porter among its top buyers. More recently, though, it’s focused on growing its network of bridal-specific boutiques.

“In-person bridal shopping is on the rise,” says Seryoya. “Our Soho store is constantly assisting new brides in finding the perfect look.”

“I was really lucky—the first dress I tried on was the one,” echoes Verity Elks, who opted for a corseted Vivienne Westwood gown she discovered at luxury Los Angeles bridal boutique Loho Bride. “I thought I was going to go gray in the process, but it turned out to be a Cinderella moment.”

As more brands seize upon the bridal market, Degreas is betting on consumer demand moving in a different direction. The new emphasis, as she sees it, will be on truly versatile wedding looks with a shelf-life that lasts long after "I do."

“I believe weddings are each time becoming more of an 'experience' rather than a regular event. Designers and brands are offering a wider range of bridal attire, including swimwear, party dresses, and casual pieces that can transition beyond the wedding day.”

If that’s the case, we might soon see bridal attire become the new activewear, the last category to experience a consumer boom. Whether the hyperattentive approach of brands like Retrofête will be continued by newcomers is too soon to tell. Ultimately, it’s down to brides and their budgets to discern what a Cinderella moment—or five—is worth.

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