Nothing says ‘this is now’ quite like a wedding dress. Witness the frothy, voluminous, ruffled-and-bowed ivory gown that Princess Diana wore to marry Prince Charles in 1981, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, and now on display at Kensington Palace.
With its yards and yards of taffeta and lace, this glorious confection of layered full skirt, puffed sleeves and 25ft train perfectly captures the exuberance and extravagance, the romance and the hope, of the 1980s.
There is a different kind of romance and hope now, less blatant opulence, perhaps more awareness of the need to stop destroying the planet with rampant materialism.
Last month, Carrie Symonds showed her support for the uber-fashionable new trend of fashion rental for her surprise wedding to Boris Johnston, choosing a boho-style appliquéd tulle gown by Greek designer Christos Costarellos, costing almost £300, but rented for less than £45.
The global online clothing rental market is expected to grow by £990m, or 10 per cent during 2021-2025. Not that wedding dress and special occasion designers need concern themselves too much, for now, about the possibility of their creations being loaned out to multiple brides, with an inevitable drop in sales. There is a wedding boom forecast right here, right now, as couples plan 2021, 2022, and 2023 nuptials, so the demand for wedding gowns, accessories and flowers is skyrocketing.
Like Carrie Symonds, many modern brides want a dress that reflects the current mood of liberation.
Based in York, independent British label Rolling In Roses has launched a new collection of what it describes as “conscious bridalwear for individuals who walk to the beat of their own drum”. All gowns are made to order by seamstresses in York and the new Chemistry collection features poet, lantern and flutter sleeves, frilled cuffs and wrapover blouses, bias-cut fluid slips and some lavishly full skirts.
“We spend an insane amount of time sourcing ethically produced, eco-friendly fabrics,” says Rebecca Newton, Rolling in Roses boutique coordinator and bridal stylist. “We use organic, recycled, locally made and closed-loop fabrics, and offer vegan alternatives to silk. For us, sustainability is a lifestyle, not a gimmick.”
Designer and founder Hayley Neil adds: “When I was beginning this collection, I was thinking about the science behind falling in love – the physical, psychological and chemical effects which completely engulf your body when you become infatuated with someone.
“My meandering thoughts and research drew me to the shapes and patterns made by the chemical formulas and molecular structures of the ‘love’ hormones, serotonin, oestrogen, oxytocin, testosterone. The hexagonal shapes have made their way into my designs. The overlapping or interlinked circles seen in elemental molecular structures such as oxygen or water are another motif found within the laces and embroideries, and I’ve used many circles in my pattern drafting, creating half-circle skirts and circular frilled sleeves.”
In Hull, Kerry Winter of Love Hats Millinery, teamed up with Osh Gosh Gowns of Scunthorpe and Moondance Flowers of Easington for a shoot at various locations including The Deep, showcasing their bridal creative work in preparation for the reopening of the wedding season.
Kerry says: “I for one have made the most of the free time and concentrated on all the things that I’ve been meaning to do but didn’t have the time, so for the first time I have created a bridal collection based on vintage ideas.
“I came across some vintage 1950s French cocktail headpiece patterns and adapted them. The whole collection is a reflection of my love of vintage fashion and old ‘50s movies, with one headpiece in particular being inspired by Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly.”
Several designers and retailers have decided to take a fresh look at bridal wear, some entering the market for the first time.
RIXO recently launched its debut bridal collection, designed by co-founders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey, as a part of London Fashion Week. They say the limited edition, vintage-inspired, 26-piece range was created “with individualism at its core” and includes traditional bridal gowns and contemporary tailoring (and some with feathered trims), all captured in a shoot at Home House in London.
Meanwhile, Whistles has a wide an eclectic new collection of bridal and bridesmaid styles, with modern takes alongside signature classics, all designed with subtle detailing including scalloped edges, detachable trains, contemporary ruffles, intricate beading, cutaway backs and romantic elliptical hemlines.
AllSaints celebrates “congregation and community” with its summer 2021 collection, AllSaints and Forever. Creative director Wil Beedle says: “This collection was designed for all the weddings we couldn’t go to and all the beaches we didn’t get to hang out on together.
“The crisis of the pandemic is not behind us, and our hearts go out to all those continuing to be affected by its devastating consequences.”
* Rolling in Roses is at 31 Micklegate, York and www.rollinginroses.co.uk.
Love Hats Millinery is at www.lovehatsmillinery.co.uk
Osh Gosh Gowns is at 4 Dunstall Street, Scunthorpe, and www.oshgoshgowns.co.uk.
Moondance Flowers is at 6 High Street, Easington, and ww.moondanceflowers.co.uk.
The Royal Style in the Making exhibition runs at Kensington Palace until January.