As a bride-to-be who became engaged during COVID-19, wedding shopping during a pandemic is nothing I ever could have envisioned. At first, I wasn't sure I'd be able to try dresses on at all. When New York City bridal salons re-opened, I scheduled socially distant appointments with masks and sanitizer. Luckily, as a fashion editor that covers bridal, I had a clear idea of what I wanted and only tried on a few dresses before finding the one. With a veil on loan from a friend (as "something borrowed"), I became focused on footwear. Surprisingly to me, shopping for bridal shoes during COVID-19 felt not so dissimilar from my usual online perusing — ordering a few options and returning what didn't work.
The process for me has been more about comfort and convenience then the pomp and circumstance that has come to be associated with wedding planning. I chose online shopping because I could try on shoe options with my wedding dress at home. I quickly landed on a strappy white sandal with a block heel for stability and comfort — my venue is a charming farm with tricky-to-navigate grounds that combine grass, dirt, and gravel. Wedding aside, it's a shoe I'd wear with pretty much anything in my wardrobe — and plan to, after my "I do's" — a win-win.
Considering the changes with wedding dress and engagement ring shopping over the last few months, I assumed that all aspects of my experience would be thoroughly different. And, since weddings themselves have become more intimate and casual given current health guidelines, I know that brides like me are re-considering what they envisioned their weddings to be like. If you're in the process of deciding what your ideal shoe is on your big day, below you'll find intel from the bridal-focused retailer, BHLDN, and the online fashion retailer, Net-A-Porter about how their customers are doing things a little bit differently these days.
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Bridal Shoe Trends: A Shift Toward Casual & Simplistic
In-person shopping came to a halt at BHLDN when COVID-19 hit, but customers still had the option to shop online. The bridal retailer's strategy of offering a selection of bridal shoes that range from classic to trend-inspired remained intact. But in place of high-heel and ornamented purchases, the retailer saw a shift toward more casual shoe styles. "Recently, we've seen that COVID-19 has led to a surge in nontraditional wedding locations from living rooms to front porches and backyards. All these places beg for a more casual shoe choice," Lori Conley, BHLDN's general merchandise manager, tells The Zoe Report, citing flats, sneakers, and low heels as popular choices. "In some cases, they may be opting to wear something they might already have in their closet for their mini-nuptials and save the dressed-up shoe choice for their future reception."
Net-A-Porter's global buying director, Elizabeth von der Goltz, says the retailer also saw a shift toward relaxed fashion across the board. "After the effects of lockdown and wedding dates being changed consistently, our customer's day-to-day style has comfort as a newfound essential," she tells TZR. Von der Goltz says Net-A-Porter has seen increased sales in understated looks for intimate celebrations with family á la '90s-style minimalism. "The bridal shoe trend is leaning toward a more sleek and timeless style," von der Goltz says, adding that brides seem to be pairing said classic footwear with equally clean, sleek ready-to-wear silhouettes from brands like Galvan and Michael Lo Sordo.
Bridal Shoe Trends: Shopping Online & Closer To The Wedding Date
For brides-to-be still in the planning stages, like myself, Katie Bistrian, a divisional merchandise manager for Anthropologie and BHLDN, says many are less inclined to shop in advance, particularly if their weddings are pushed to a later date or postponed indefinitely. "COVID-19 has definitely changed when the bride is shopping for shoes and accessories. With so much uncertainty around the big day, she is purchasing closer to her wedding date."
In addition to COVID-19 restrictions, Conley notes that even pre-pandemic, very few independent bridal boutiques carry a shoe assortment, leading to more online shopping, as I did. "In-person browsing, while you're finding your dress, isn't really an option for most," she says, adding that brides tend to shop for their accessories after purchasing their gown to give themselves more time to determine an overall styling vibe. "Online gives them the ease of taking their time and finding the perfect pair [of shoes] to complete their look."
Bridal Shoe Trends: Investment Shopping
The trend of investment shopping has been more prevalent across all fashion categories since COVID-19 hit, and von der Goltz says the movement certainly applies to wedding shoes. "Brides are shopping more responsibly and sustainably, purchasing outfits to celebrate now and for years to come," says von der Goltz, adding that Net-A-Porter's bridal offerings cater to a modern bride seeking a bit more versatility. "Gianvito Rossi's Silver Portofino on an 85mm stiletto heel is the perfect example of the ultimate timeless bridal shoe today," von der Goltz adds. "These are shoes that our bride can wear again after her wedding, it's a true investment piece added to her wardrobe."
The block heel sandals I chose are from Gianvito Rossi, which I selected for this exact reason. The simple style complements the intricate lace design of my dress, but even more, it's a shoe I'll regularly wear with my everyday wardrobe after my wedding so the investment feels well worth it. With my venue's uneven grounds in mind, I did consider a flat sandal to change into for my reception, but I'm a heels girl through and through. For those like me, a sturdier, thicker heel will make it easier to wear again.
Bridal Shoe Trends: Breaking Tradition
At BHLDN, Conley and Bistrian both note a desire for individuality over tradition among shoppers — a trend both experts see continuing through COVID-19. "Having been in the bridal industry for almost a decade, I have seen brides breaking the traditional rules across all facets of planning. They want a day and look that's as unique and individual as they are," Conley says. She notes a rise in styles with hints of embellishment, color, or texture. "I think brides are looking to add more personality to their shoes, and the trends are not limited to bridal. Whether it's the barely there sandal, a lace-up boot, or a classic oversized bow, they want their shoes to celebrate their personality," Bistrian adds.
Opting for a shoe you love, even if it is a bit louder, means you'll want to break it out again once the ceremony is over. "Living in a digital world, brides are more fashion-savvy than ever and want the same trends they see in street shoes to spill over into their bridal shoe selection." This means thinking outside of the box and shopping brands and styles that may not typically be associated with a traditional ceremony.
Bridal Shoe Trends: Multiple Shoe Options
Despite the shift away from wedding-specific purchases, Conley has noticed that modern brides desire multiple shoe options for wedding-related events from the bridal shower to the rehearsal dinner and afterparty (even if some of these take place virtually). She says a cute slipper for getting ready, a breathtaking shoe for the ceremony, and a stylish yet comfortable reception option are popular choices. Brides can wear all of these shoe styles repeatedly post-wedding, especially if they stray from a traditional bridal aesthetic.
Bridal Shoe Trends: Minimalist, Timeless, And Feminine
For brides seeking out a trendy look to invest in, von der Goltz says, "currently, we love the sleek, minimalistic aesthetic for the bridal shoes," highlighting refined sandals or pumps with a mid-heel that brides can repurpose throughout their wardrobe.
For Conley, it's all about the kitten heel. "They're perfectly practical but sublimely chic. Every time I slip a pair on, I channel my inner Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's." Her current pick: Seychelles Neve Heels. "Slingback styling + oversized satin bow = yes, please!"
Bistrian says bow adornments are a current best-seller at BHLDN, and she sees the trend continuing among brides with feminine taste. "Silk, tulle, oversized, in the front, in the back; it's really so feminine and classic," she tells TZR. "The idea that fashion looks can feel timeless really resonates with our bride. Comfort doesn't hurt either!"