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Modern Brides Defy Tradition, Look to Personalize their Wedding Ensembles

Today’s bride is more interested in showcasing her personal style than replicating a look from a bridal magazine.

Now more than ever, she’s seeking to perfect her ensemble with individualized touches that reflect her own taste and the theme of her wedding.

“Our bride definitely has a vision before she comes to shop with us,” said Lindsey Love, an online stylist for BHLDN.

“The modern bride wants something a little different, and to veer away from the traditional,” added colleague Cassie Baden.

Part of breaking with tradition has meant diversifying from the ever-popular A-line silhouette that has dominated bridal racks for years. Now, brides are mixing it up with “form-fitting styles like fit-and-flares and mermaids,” said Jennette Kruszka of Kleinfeld.

Body-hugging silhouettes have seen a surge in popularity, according to a study on wedding apparel published by The Knot this month. Fit-and-flare styles captured more than a third of the market (35 percent) in 2018, while A-line dresses fell to 29 percent (down from 43 percent in 2011).

“She’s saying, ‘I want to show off my curves,’ or, ‘I want more drama,’” Love explained. “We’ve been surprised to see how much the sexy, fitted silhouettes have been coming up in the past four to six months.”

Strapless dresses were an unquestionable favorite in previous years, but that’s changed, too. Seventy-three percent of brides reported wearing strapless gowns in 2011, but in 2018, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of brides reported a preference for gowns with straps or sleeves, according to The Knot study.

“Right now, sleeves are trending heavily,” Kruszka confirmed. “From long, illusion lace sleeves, to beaded cap sleeves, to romantic off-the-shoulder sleeves—brides can’t seem to get enough.”

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Last year’s royal wedding played a part in the rising sleeve craze, with Meghan Markle’s silk boatneck gown sending ripples through the bridal industry.

“Meghan Markle helped to bring back simplicity, minimalism and sophistication,” Kruszka said, adding that classic dresses made of silk and satin have flooded the market.

Reformation, which added bridal to its line of sustainable women’s wear in 2014, has also seen an uptick in sleeved styles, according to the brand’s founder and CEO, Yael Aflalo. “We have seen more classic styles take off that are similar to Meghan’s—like the Hestia, which has long sleeves and a high neck.”

Perhaps the biggest trend of all, though, is the urge to customize.

BHLDN’s line of separates are made for brides who want full control over every aspect of their look. A lace bodysuit can be paired with a full tulle skirt. A “topper” or “capelet” can create a sleeved effect over a strapless silhouette. An A-line skirt can even be worn over one of the brand’s bridal jumpsuits for the walk down the aisle, and then removed for the reception and the dancing to follow.

Though the brand doesn’t sell nearly as many separate pieces as traditional gowns, Love said BHLDN will be offering an expanded range of removable overskirts this fall. “She’s definitely wanting to change up her look in some way, whether it’s with an overskirt or an entirely separate dress or jumpsuit,” Love said of today’s brides.

The concept of wearing multiple looks is becoming increasingly popular with to-be-weds, with 11 percent reporting that they wore more than one dress or outfit on their wedding day, according to The Knot.

For the bride who wants to change things up, Reformation offers a curated line of gowns that range from fitted and formal, to flowy and somewhat casual.

“We design our wedding collections to be comfortable, sexy and not crazy expensive,” Aflalo explained. Ranging from $248-$528, a bride could choose more than one look and still stay within her budget.

The idea of versatility appeals to the Reformation bride in a big way, according to Aflalo. “We design bridal collections that are on trend without being trendy and that our customers will actually want to wear, and wear again,” she said, adding that the brand tweaks some of its best-selling styles and reinvents them for a bridal audience.

Another subtle way for a bride to throw a fresh spin on her look is through the integration of color. “We have a bride who loves a non-traditional nod,” said Baden, adding that nude underlays, blush tones and silvers have been a hit for BHLDN.

“While ivory is still our most popular color choice, we often see a touch of color on the dress in other ways,” Kruszka agreed.

According to The Knot’s report, a majority of brides (73 percent) reported incorporating color into their attire or accessories last year. Those accessories have become a major business-driver, with the average bride spending $560 on supplementary items like jewelry, belts and veils.

“One of our favorite things to do is show a bride how dramatically she can change her look just by playing with her accessories,” Baden said.

On the whole, the modern bride is just looking to make her wedding day—and her ensemble—her own.

“She’s just looking for more special details,” said Love.