Haute couture is downright dreamy. It’s where the fashion world’s most-skilled show off the highest level of creativity, technique, quality, and craft. Indeed, wedding dresses have long served as finale looks of the couture collections, but for fall 2020—when the shows are virtual, when weddings have been postponed, when the glamorous affairs where one would sport these dresses are nonexistent, and when producing clothing is dependent on an atelier’s ability to adapt to social distancing—something feels different about the league of brides designers have dreamed up.
The fashion-forward bride has—and perhaps should—resent the notion of bridal archetypes. They are, after all, limiting in their labels. A single bride is neither solely glamorous, rustic, modern, nor bohemian. In fact, for the truly chic, she’s all of the above and so much more.
Haute couture always nods to the daring, fashion-obsessed, and surreally stylish, but when crafting this season’s bridal looks, designers seemed to have considered the current climate. They ushered in a new league of bridal archetypes more dynamic than ever before. Enter: the new goddess, the revisited princess, the amped-up civil ceremony bride, and others. These are fashion’s newest brides.
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The Effortless Princess
Ball gowns have long been associated with pomp and circumstance; a super-full skirt, after all, is for a woman who wants to enter the room with a sense of presence. She has places to go and people to see; she has a league of ladies in waiting (or for the British bride, page boys) to carry her train. But with new priorities in mind, a skirt and train that keeps you at more than a six-foot distance from guests seems needless—and, per Chanel haute couture, glamour shouldn’t have to be stuffy.
On her latest couture collection for Chanel, Virginie Viard echoed that sentiment. “I was thinking about eccentric princesses.” The collection was designed with It girls in mind, “the kind of women that Karl Lagerfeld liked to accompany at parties or at ‘Le Palace.'”
Enter the new princess, one who opts for ankle lengths and easy fabrics. You’ll notice this bride when she walks into the room—how could you not?!—but she doesn’t need you to carry her train or hold her purse; she just wants to dance all night.
The Ethereal Siren
Fit-to-flare silhouettes (read: mermaid gowns) come with sexy connotations. They’re for the bride who wants to show off her assets and highlight her curves from every angle. They often come with a corset that hugs the décolleté and a full, pleated skirt that juts from the mid-thigh for a major dose of drama. This silhouette is not for the wallflower, but until now, it wasn’t for the romantic either.
Giambattista Valli, whose confections could turn even the sultriest of sirens into a hopeless romantic, is best known for his trailing high-low ball gowns and artfully draped sheaths. This season, he surprised us with this sexy-yet-soft take on the ever-popular mermaid gown so many tend to love or hate for its outright sex appeal. This look, which we’ve dubbed the Ethereal Siren, seems to toe the line between whimsical and va-va-voom via oversized black bows, ruffles, and floral appliqués that mirror the look of oversized point d’esprit, a vibe more often associated with a fashion fairy nymph than a modern-day Jessica Rabbit.
Civil Ceremony 2.0
With micro weddings and elopements becoming the norm, it’s time to take even the smallest of affairs seriously. Courthouse ceremonies in Europe have always been a fashion moment, given that one must marry legally before participating in a religious ceremony in the EU, but that trend hasn’t been ubiquitous Stateside—until now (so we hope). More and more couples are postponing their larger wedding celebrations into 2021 and heading to the courthouse, the chapel, or their backyards to wed in intimate vow exchanges that, according to Christian Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri, deserve a look all their own.
Dior’s haute couture showcased 37 (mini) looks, hearkening back to wartimes when fabric was rationed. Then, haute couture pieces needed to be created in miniature to showcase to a global clientele. Grazia Chiuri was reminded of those hard times by our world’s current state of affairs and chose to interpret that unrest with “mystery and magic, which are also a way of exorcising uncertainty about the future,” she said. That allure extended to many white looks in the collection, but three standout suits that hearkened back to Dior’s historic New Look silhouette caught our eye. These shapes, it seems, stand to redefine and elevate the civil ceremony look to something equal parts timeless, traditional, and sophisticated. While much has gone the way of overly casual in our society, these suits are all about refinement and have an air of formality, fit for an appearance in—or holding—court.
The New Naked Dress
The after-party is all about showstopping, making a statement, and donning the sexiest of looks in your bridal wardrobe save for your lingerie—or including it, should you so dare. And haute couturier Alexandre Vauthier has long been a proponent of head-turning looks to suit a late-night fete. His looks ooze drama, allure, and a look-at-me air—without feeling try-hard.
But his riff on the naked dress this season puts Carrie Bradshaw’s easy slipdress from her ad on the side of a New York City bus to shame. This dress is walking body glitter; it’s a flute of champagne in the form of a gown. This is hand-beading strategically placed and uninterrupted; this is delicate, dainty sex appeal like we so rarely see. This look is meant for candlelight, a glass (or three) of bubbly, the dance floor, and every New Year’s Eve party you attend moving forward. This is haute couture—for the party set.
The ’80s Update
If fashion’s taught us anything in recent seasons, it’s that we shouldn’t be so scared of the ’80s. Bring on the statement sleeves, the biker shorts, the blue eye shadow (done differently and with restraint), and the leopard print. Many might be pushing for minimalism given the tough times we’re facing, but Olivier Rousteing has (and will) never be a minimalist.
Enter his riff on bridal maximalism, mixed with what seems like an ode to Christian Dior’s iconic Junon gown. Bring on the ruffles, the supersized waist cinch, and the layers—and cap off the look with easy glam and long leather gloves for a bridal look that feels extra, but also like you woke up like this.
The Mod Maven
It’s a party—have fun if you want to. Viktor & Rolf’s haute couture ranges always aim to make a statement. At times, that’s a societal one; in others, it’s political. No matter the message, the looks come complete with a wink and a not-so-subtle nod to the inspiration behind them. The design duo have their own made-to-order bridal range, in which they showcase minis, jumpsuits, and gowns that take themselves more seriously. But in their most intellectual offering, haute couture, the bridal looks this season celebrated—what else?—but love. And like most things by this fashion house, the designers are challenging brides to get cheeky with it.
Unlike most wedding gowns that take themselves oh so seriously, this look features some serious technique, craft, and construction, but also serves to make you and your guests smile. Per Viktor & Rolf haute couture, wearing your heart (literally) on your sleeves, or on two drop-waist pockets, could just be what the world—and your aisle—needs now.
The New Goddess
Say goodbye to the basic slipdress that’s for cocktail parties and vacation dressing. The bohemian bride has often been limited by hippie connotations, but Dior’s boho bride is a combination of a Greek goddess and a magical, dreamy forest nymph.
This easy shape comes with artful draping and the most skilled of hand-craftsmanship in tow. Don’t be fooled by her ease; this look epitomizes haute couture without a shred of beadwork, embroidery, corsetry, petticoats, or a flowing train. The boho bride has long been all about ease, but this look is effortless and special—without being overly simplified.
Snow White Goes Late Night
What if the winter bride wanted to stay out all night, dancing until the sun comes up? Of course, the aforementioned king of the after-party, Alexandre Vauthier, has you covered for this winter’s intimate weddings too.
Feathers are a second-dress staple in wedding dressing, but leave it to Vauthier to take plumes and turn the volume way up. And he doesn’t want brides to forget the edge either—hence the black hosiery and easy-to-sport ankle boots. This is couture with function; you won’t need a coat if you opt for an party look this cozy.
Vauthier gets us; after months of distancing and sheltering in place, we (and brides the world over) just want to party, but we might not be able to do it until December or January. And with the weather in mind, what else would suit a winter dance party better than a minidress of all-over plumes?! Nothing, it seems.
Post Gender Chic
Bridal suiting used to be dubbed as “borrowed from the boys,” but when it comes to gendering what’s appropriate or fit for the aisle, time’s up. Bouchra Jarrar seemingly agrees, having showcased three all-white suiting looks with hints of formality in her 10-look haute couture range of pieces that feel like worthwhile investments, rather than one-time-wear splurges.
The truth is: There is nothing stronger, sexier, or smarter than a perfectly tailored suit, paired with the softness of a chapel-length, raw-edged tulle veil. Make this look your own by donning a look with beadwork, or an embellished veil. Or, like Jarrar, keep it simple—the suit, and you, are perfect, elegant, and chic as is.
The New Traditionalist
If you’re going to go classic, go big and all out—or stay home. You’ve already been doing the latter for months, so we suggest you take traditional bridal à la Grace Kelly up multiple notches if you’re going to don a look fit for the most prestigious of royal weddings.
Head-to-toe coverage, super-full skirts, sleeves that extend down to the knuckle, and tightly cinched waists are musts. As is lace, but per Dior haute couture, that’s where you get to have some fun and differentiate yourself from the Chantilly-clad pack. Enter the new classic wedding dress, which takes all the creeds of bridal and epitomizes them to the max. This look’s accessories are textbook: petite drop earrings; a long, trailing veil; and a chignon—but we suggest you consider modern takes on those traditions too.
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