Today's brides want more than one dress. Welcome to the 'world of weddings'

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With five custom-made wedding dresses by Dolce & Gabbana, the Rome wedding of the late Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer in July 2021 was always going to be rather spectacular.

Lady Spencer isn’t the only celebrity to have changed outfits on her wedding day. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, changed from her Givenchy gown (designed by the label’s then creative director, Clare Waight Keller) into a sleek high-neck Stella McCartney dress for the evening reception during her 2018 nuptials.

Meanwhile, model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen wore not one, not two but three Vera Wang gowns for her 2013 wedding to singer John Legend. Model Hailey Bieber also wore three dresses when she married singer Justin Bieber in 2019: custom numbers from Virgil Abloh , Ralph & Russo and Vera Wang .

Not all weddings achieve this level of grandeur, especially at a time when social distancing measures because of the coronavirus pandemic have disrupted the event industry – yet Spencer isn’t the only one to have worn more than one wedding gown of late.

Jana Hofheimer, a buyer at luxury online retailer Moda Operandi, calls it “the world of weddings”, with brides purchasing several wedding outfits for an event that can be spread over several days (and continents).

“[F]or brides who are moving forward with the bigger visions [for their wedding day], they are absolutely going to their favourite retailers and personal shoppers to curate a full collection of looks for (what we call) ‘the world of’ the wedding,” she says. “Spanning from the engagement and bachelorette parties, beyond the wedding and to next-day brunches, they require looks for each event to be completely stylised, inclusive of accessories and jewellery.”

However, Hofheimer says the rise of the micro-wedding – a smaller, more low-key wedding as a result of a pandemic undoing all best laid (meticulous) plans – has influenced wedding day fashion too.

“A couple of years ago, we began to experience a shift in interest away from traditional, ornate bridal dressing and into more of a modern, ready-to-wear trend. This trend has continued and gained even more momentum amid the pandemic as couples began forgoing original plans of larger-scale parties for more intimate ceremonies and gatherings,” says Hofheimer.

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“Even the understated civil ceremony grew in popularity. So brides overall seem to be making less conventional, more unique choices; despite not being made-to-measure, some brides may find that a ready-to-wear option can actually feel more personalised and fashion-forward than the former.”

Some brides, it’s worth noting, are opting for both. Take Gabriella Givenchy, the niece of the late fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy. She opted for a chic skirt suit for her town hall wedding in London in 2019 and then a grand gown for a second wedding in Capri, an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples, earlier this year.

Jessica Andreatta, founder of bridal and red carpet label J. Andreatta, says 40 per cent of her brides are wearing two looks on their wedding day, with key trends being ’60s-inspired mini dresses, colourful prints, vintage inspired civil ceremony looks and short fun veils.

Meanwhile, Steven Khalil – one of Australia’s best-known bridal designers (whose embellished and dramatic ready-to-wear gowns have been worn by the likes of Kylie Jenner and Jennifer Lopez ) – says the shift in how weddings are celebrated has changed what brides are seeking.

“With weddings now being celebrated longer, and sometimes over a couple of days, the demand for more options has grown. For me especially, it’s more of a second party dress or pantsuit. Comfort plays a big role, as the brides don’t want to wear the wedding gown to dance and enjoy the party. Shorter options are popular or simple satin slips, but more so a great bridal pantsuit,” he says.

That said, Khalil believes the grand wedding dress remains as relevant as ever.

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“I still believe there is … a demand for extravagant gowns, and the styles are so varied it really comes down to a bride’s individual style and taste,” he says. “I believe it will make way for more soft draped gowns with a softer fall, less embellishments (almost a more 1920s feel) and delicate bead work.

“Our most requested style has been simpler gowns, but with a dramatic silhouette. Even fitted gowns are more in demand with the option to remove a fuller overskirt.”

Ultimately, he says, there is a demand for dresses that are “chic and somewhat relaxed”.

That would seem to be a dress code as fitting for a mini civil ceremony as it is for a very grand affair.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.