‘No white, no ivory, nothing that says “virgin” – I have a child,’ was Miranda’s brief to a hapless sales assistant when searching for a wedding outfit in the Sex and the City television series back in 2004.
Had Miranda been shopping in 2023, she would have found the process far more rewarding. It’s never been a better time for brides to buck the established formula in favour of a more individual look. Consider the new Alternative Bride section at Liberty, where your ‘something blue’ could be a Vampire’s Wife dress, and your veil traded for a peacock-print headband. The offering at Browns includes slinky midi dresses by cult label Khaite and feather-trimmed Taller Marmo kaftans; at Net-a-Porter there are Emilia Wickstead jumpsuits and Alessandra Rich co-ords.
As a bride-to-be myself, it’s taken immense willpower not to cave into the temptation to get a different look for each course of the wedding dinner. We have the pandemic to thank, not for igniting this trend, but for taking it mainstream. Scaled-down ceremonies were the only option, and we needed scaled-down bridalwear to suit.
The benefit was that smaller weddings offer a far greater opportunity to bend the ‘rules’. Take Lily Allen, who wore
a Dior minidress bought just hours before her 2020 Vegas elopement, or Monégasque royal Charlotte Casiraghi, who wore a dove-grey Saint Laurent minidress for her civil ceremony. Up there in the alternative bridal hall of fame are Elizabeth Taylor, who wed Richard Burton in sunshine yellow in 1964, and Bianca Jagger, who in 1971 married Mick in an Yves Saint Laurent skirt suit – minus the blouse.
According to bridal designer Kate Halfpenny, whose focus on separates means that brides can add or remove elements to transform their look through the day: ‘Brides are being more authentic in their style. Instead of being swayed by traditional looks, they’re being true to themselves and wearing whatever makes them feel amazing.’
Crucially in a cost-of-living crisis, a wedding look no longer has to be obscenely expensive. Rixo, Whistles, Reiss and LK Bennett make bridalwear more accessible than it used to be. Whatever your budget and taste, the options have never been more stylish. All you need to do is find The One – and say ‘I do’.
Ace the alternative look
Editor: Sophie Tobin