How To Curate A Modern Bridal Wardrobe That Lasts Beyond A Weekend

It’s not just about the gown.

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As someone with mostly classic taste who has long dreamed of a wedding, somehow I found myself against traditionally white bridal dresses for the festivities surrounding my “I do’s.” I selected a strapless floral lace gown by Oscar de la Renta for the big day that felt at once simple and whimsical for my Colorado farm venue. As for the rest of my wedding weekend wardrobe, I went in more of a fashion-girl direction, if you will, choosing decidedly non-bridal dresses by designers like Merlette, Tove, and Brock Collection. I opted for a dainty Nap Dress by Hill House Home while getting ready, too. Each label and others like them have become go-to’s for me in the occasion dress department — I’ve worn similar designs for numerous events, from my sister-in-law’s wedding to birthday parties and for fashion week. I wanted to look back on my wedding photos and feel like I looked like me, so the thing I considered most when choosing looks for my rehearsal dinner, after-party, and post-wedding brunch was longevity. Would I wear the dresses I procured once my wedding weekend concluded? The quick answer: yes. And I’m not alone in this desire according to designers and bridal experts.

“When weddings started to become a weekend-long event full of festivities — each event with its own theme or dress code and all photographed for social media — Alex Macon, the founder of Over The Moon and contributing editor at Vogue, and I saw a need for an easily accessible bridal styling service,” says Anny Choi, the head stylist for the wedding website, registry, and e-commerce platform.

Before social media, the stylist explains how a range of bridal outfits for the shower, rehearsal dinner, bachelorette, and the like weren’t necessarily considered off the bat. “It used to be that brides would go to bridal salons, try on a bunch of big ball gowns to then pick ‘the one,’ only to then have to wait up to nine months for the first fitting,” she says. “Traditional wedding photos used to only capture the day of the ceremony, from the bride getting ready to the walk down the aisle and the reception.”

From left to right: my bridal wardrobe dresses by Brock Collection, Oscar de la Renta, Tove, and Merlette.Annaleisa Friednash | Meraki Photo

Though a ceremony gown often remains the focal point for many brides, Choi says, “With social media, weddings have become an opportunity for modern brides to feel like a celebrity for the weekend. From the rehearsal dinner to the after-party, every special moment is captured, featuring statement looks for each.” I was definitely this type of bride, planning for various events knowing they’d be photographed, but also because I’m a lover of fashion — it’s innate in me. So, when building out my wedding wardrobe, I started by looking at brands I loved, intending to find dresses that felt special without looking overly bridal. Yes, I wanted to stand out with a more distinctive look. But moreover, my goal was to invest in dresses I was guaranteed to get more wear out of after saying “I do,” which Choi says is a popular pattern among current brides.

“For bigger or more traditional weddings, I think brides still want to wear a white dress for the ceremony but will incorporate more prints and colors into the other events,” Choi tells me. I did precisely this for my rehearsal dinner via my floral brocade Brock Collection cocktail dress — a popular bridal choice, according to the stylist. “Brock Collection, Markarian, and Johanna Ortiz are go-to brands for these modern brides. Alexia Maria and Agua by Agua Bendita have also been big hits for us. They have perfectly romantic options to incorporate into a bridal wardrobe.” She continues, “Brock Collection is also releasing a collection with H&M this summer which I think will sell out immediately.”

My Oscar de la Renta wedding dress.Annaleisa Friednash | Meraki Photo
I wore a brocade cocktail dress by Brock Collection with Jimmy Choo heels and a Porto bag for my rehearsal dinner.@lauralajiness

Laura Vassar, co-founder and designer of Brock Collection, tells me, “I love that women are taking a unique approach to bridal dressing outside of the actual day itself. The events surrounding are a nice opportunity to explore and show a more individual take on personal style.” Adding, “I think the bride should do whatever makes her feel most confident and her best.” I couldn’t agree more.

For the after-party attire, Choi says, “Brides have been loving Galvan, 16Arlington, and Paco Rabanne for their looks.” Similar to Over The Moon’s top-sellers, the pleated metallic midi by Tove that I wore for my late-night look felt occasion-worthy and festive, without being overtly bridal. These types of dresses, and other modern iterations, lend themselves to City Hall unions, intimate celebrations, or brides who opted for a micro or virtual wedding during the lockdown and are planning a bigger party now. No matter where they’re worn, Choi says uniqueness continues to be the top request.

“More and more, brides want to find options that they can wear again instead of putting all eggs in one basket on a dress you’re only going to wear for maybe nine hours max,” the stylist explains. “I think Covid played a huge part in gravitating towards a less traditional wedding wardrobe. When everything started to unravel last spring, I had bridal clients who had their wedding dresses stuck in production or literally locked up inside a department store. We had to start to think outside of the box.”

I changed into a metallic silk dress by Tove for the after-party, finishing with Sofia Zakia pearl earrings, a Zales tennis bracelet, and my vintage Chanel bag. @lauralajiness
My bridal shoe wardrobe included heels by Larroudé, Gianvito Rossi, Jimmy Choo, and Neous.Annaleisa Friednash | Meraki Photo

Though alternative colors and fabrics are popular, Choi notes, “I get many requests for white dresses with a floral print or designs with blue to add ‘something blue’ to the wedding wardrobe.” For a similar fix, Marina Cortbawi, the designer and founder of one of my favorite labels Merlette, customized a version of her new Ophelia dress — a long-sleeve tiered silhouette that’s part of her new bridal capsule collection — in a luxe silk-cotton fabric. I wore it both for my post-wedding brunch on Sunday afternoon with minimal sandals and again on my minimoon for dinner with layered gold jewelry.

“We love the idea of a bridal wardrobe filled with pieces that the bride can and will wear again as it is more sustainable and also allows the bride to express her personal style throughout the celebrations,” Cortbawi tells me. “[The] capsule bridal collection [is] based on our top styles and including our new ivory color from our Pre-Fall Collection with the idea of this modern bride pulling pieces she would normally wear.”

I wore my Merlette dress and Porto bag once again on my minimoon, this time for dinner with Neous heels, my Barbela engagement ring and wedding band, and a Kinn ring engraved with my wedding date.@lauralajiness

The getting-ready look is another highly photographed moment that brides are choosing attire for more specifically. “Many sleepwear brands are designing elevated pajamas and dresses for the ‘getting ready’ moments,” Choi says. She highlights Hill House Home’s Nap dresses as a great price point option, which I wore while getting my hair and makeup done at my venue. The label just released an official Bridal Collection, too, including silk robes, top-and-bottom sets, accessories, and of course, more Nap dresses. “Hill House Home’s offerings are something bridesmaids can wear well beyond the wedding,” Choi adds. “I also love Refine slips, and Sleeper has become a classic.”

While getting my hair and makeup done, I wore a swiss dot Hill House Home Nap Dress and slippers by P.J. Salvage.Annaleisa Friednash | Meraki Photo
Here I’m wearing a necklace by Sophie Ratner and my wedding earrings by Idyl.Annaleisa Friednash | Meraki Photo

“I love that I can get to know each bride, talk through their vision, research their location and help curate a unique wardrobe that’s specific to them,” Choi continues. “Having come from an editorial background, I treat each wedding like a photo shoot. My job is to ensure the brides’ looks are executed and make sure her bridesmaids, the groom, and the family all look cohesive for photos.”

No matter your vision, Choi says brides are having more fun and experimenting with their wedding wardrobes, investing in unique designs that feel authentic to their style. “My one tip for brides right now shopping for their big day would be, with so many weddings rescheduled for this summer and fall, a lot of the new dresses coming out now might get ‘too seen’ by the time your wedding comes around,” the stylist adds. “I always like to look at vintage and second-hand over what’s new. You can find some real gems on The RealReal, Yoox, or from private vintage dealers like Happy Isles.”

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