by MIKE CHAIKEN
Vaccines for COVID-19 are rolling out and romance for weddings is rolling back in.
COVID-19 forced New York Bridal Fashion Week to focus on virtual runway shows for this April. During the virtual shows hosted by The Knot Couture, designers and brands spoke about how they feel there will be romantic optimism in the hearts of brides, with just a touch of pandemic caution.
Designer Xay Vongphachanh of Watters said her brand is anticipating that brides are ready to celebrate and ready to embrace the romance of weddings.
“Romance is part of what we do,” said Vongphachanh. “Brides are craving that (especially after COVID).”
At Casablanca Bridal, creative director Crystal Lu said she believed “1,000 percent” that with the vaccine for COVID in hand, brides will be returning to “super romantic” weddings.
“I’m so happy people can celebrate again,” said Madeline Gardner of Morilee during her brand’s virtual show at The Knot Couture. “I’m missing all of those beautiful photos.”
To celebrate the chance to get married at last, Gardner said brides are embracing satin gowns. It’s a move, she said, that evokes a spirit of going “back to tradition.”
“Brides want to feel like royalty,” said Lu, and they will look to celebrate even more vigorously before.
Gowns will embrace a wow factor, said Lu, because brides are looking to make a “grand entrance.”
Although there had been a bit of a retreat of optimism during the pandemic, Vongphachanh said, “We also feel like romance has never left….We are in bridal after all.”
To evoke that new romanticism, brides are turning to Regency England for inspiration. In particular, the Netflix series “Bridgerton” and the author Jane Austen are playing a role in the trends expected for brides in fall 2021.
Gardner pointed out the new “Bridgerton”-inspired necklines in the new Morilee collection. The shapes and the touch of décolletage also reflected the fashions presented in the Netflix series. Another dress offered a “Bridgerton”-style tank neckline with a bit of a scoops, which had been requested by quite a few brides, said Gardner.
Watters bridal also is looking back to the English Regency era for some of its gowns, said Vongphachanh.
In Watters’ case, said Vongphachanh, she was inspired by the Jane Austen character “Elizabeth Bennet” from “Pride and Prejudice.” These gowns offer brides puff sleeves, empire waists and lace accents.
COVID-19 and the subsequent economic fall-out have the bridal brands still offering more minimalist designs for brides favoring micro-weddings and smaller bridal parties.
“COVID has made it important to offer simple designs,” said Lu.
Casablanca’s new brand LeBlanc was launched to address the need of brides during the pandemic, said Lu. The collection is designed for brides looking toward micro weddings and elopements. The gowns in this collection offer luxury while using sleek fabrics appropriate for the smaller celebrations.
Gardner said Morilee is offering “super sleek” gowns for backyard or city hall weddings.
At Watters, Vongphachanh said the company has several convertible gowns that address the needs of brides impacted by COVID. The gowns have removable sleeves and trains.
“So many of our brides have had to postpone their weddings last year, changing venues and changing times,” said Vongphachanh. “Convertible dresses provide the opportunity to go from day to night or spring to fall.” These dresses also off the option for brides to wear multiple looks on a wedding day, she said.
The brands hosted by The Knot Couture also offered views on other trends for brides this fall.
Brides are looking for sleeves on their gowns again, said Gardner. “They’re all the rage.”
Brides are also looking for extra-long trains, said Gardner.
The mermaid silhouette also is proving popular for brides this fall, said Gardner. “It looks so great on all types of body shapes,” especially for a bride who wants to show off her curves.
Strapless dresses also are going to be popular this fall, said Gardner. She said gowns in past seasons had favored strappy necklines. Now, she said, “People want something different.”
There are also more requests from brides for sparkles and beading, said Gardner. The effect is usually subtle, she said, “but it’s there.”
To address that trend, Lu said, Casablanca is offering a new sparkle tulle as well as a shimmer tulle.
For the fall, Sydney Dunbar of Watters said brides also are seeking out more floral accents on their gowns. It’s a classic look and will be a hot trend, she said.
Brides for fall also are seeking out intricate backs on their gowns, said Lu. Most times, the back becomes the focus of the ceremony for guests. Additionally, said Lu, intricate backs make for great photographs as a bride walks down the aisle.
Designers are also making a concerted effort to serve plus-sized brides. “Every bride should have the perfect dress,” said Gardner.
Morilee is offering gowns that hit a bride’s curves “in all the right spots.”
To serve plus-sized brides, Lu said Casablanca is offering gowns with rucching that accentuate a woman’s curves. The brand also has developed a fabric that helps provide more support to a plus-sized bride.
Watters also is introducing its first bridal pant set for the fall.
Vongphachanh said, “We’re seeing a change in what a wedding can be and also what a wedding gown can be… The sky’s the limit as far as a silhouette.”
The new gowns for fall are expected in bridal shops beginning in May.
Gowns from Watters
Gowns from Casablance Bridal
Bridal gowns from Morilee