Twice before the pandemic hit Australia, designer Rebecca Vallance made fortuitous business decisions. The first was to expand her 10-year-old business to offer leisure wear, and the second was to launch a bridal range.
As weddings in some states return to our social calendars in greater numbers, Vallance has tapped in to a changing attitude when it comes to gowns – and it’s paying off. Eight weeks in, and some gowns, which mostly cost between $1300 and $2000, are on their third run, and the next collection will have about 30 looks.
Macgraw is one label that is catering more to the bridal market.
“There is a mood for something not too over the top,” she says. “The vibe is more considered and … [brides are] finding the dresses are more appropriate for what has happened in 2020.”
Off the rack
Rebecca Vallance’s pre-pandemic decision to make bridal gowns has paid off.
While there will always be the bride for whom only a custom-made dress will suffice, more women are no longer seeing off-the-rack as a second-best option.
Sister designers Beth and Tess Macgraw, of macgraw, noticed a surge in sales of white dresses, even at the height of COVID, in places where weddings, however small, were allowed.
Beth says the appeal of their brand is that it’s “not stocked everywhere, so it feels unique and special”.
Although shopping for a wedding dress online may seem like the final frontier of internet shopping, the Macgraw sisters have been surprised at how many women prefer to try their dress at home, rather than the full Say Yes to the Dress – a popular US reality show about finding the “perfect” wedding gown – experience at a “traditional” bridal boutique.
Shorter dresses are growing in popularity, according to Jess Andreatta.Credit:J.Andreatta
Macgraw’s speciality in romantic silhouettes that often feature lace was echoed in the latest collection by LA-based Staud that featured a full-length white lace gown that will likely cost about $500 when it’s released in the coming months. And popular label Bec & Bridge also released a range of bridal gowns during 2020 in the $300-$500 range.
Sydney-based couturier Jess Andreatta had about “99 per cent” of her brides postpone their 2020 weddings. And when they’re returning to her studio, many are rethinking their dresses for a range of reasons, including budget, location or a change of attitude.
Andreatta says one such bride was meant to marry in Tuscany in a full-on ball gown by an international designer but when the wedding went ahead recently in NSW with just a handful of guests, something more modest was required.
Together, Andreatta designed a ’60s’-style mini-dress that incorporated some tulle from the bride’s mother’s dress.
“So many girls went crazy when the photos went online,” Andreatta says. “It makes you think outside the square.”
She predicts so-called “elopement” dresses, encompassing shorter styles, or styles that are more versatile for small venues, such as restaurants, and dancing, will be popular right through 2021.
“The girls still wanting the big wedding are sticking to their ball gowns but there’s more diversity,” she says. “There are girls who want to create a gown that’s very much them; they’re not conforming.”
The ‘R’ word
Prior to COVID-19, the fashion rental market was booming but when it came to weddings, wearing a gown others had previously waltzed still carried a stigma. But more high-end designers are shedding the dodgy formal-hire image and offering couture rentals for a fraction of the cost of having the dress made from scratch.
Aphrodite Spiropoulos (centre) tries on a potential rental gown by Klovia Couture’s Sylvia Ktori (left) and Kony Diaman.Credit:Jason South
Melbourne’s Klovia Couture has just launched a red-carpet and bridal rental service, while in Sydney, Katy Nguyen of Em Bridal Boutique, even offers free alterations on rentals, so there’s no reason for a gown to be ill-fitting on the day.
Klovia client Aphrodite Spiropoulos, 28, got engaged in lockdown and has scheduled her wedding for June 2022. After battling to keep her new cafe, in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, running through 2020, she’s decided a custom dress is no longer viable, nor desirable.
“It makes so much more sense. It’s very hard to afford a $17,000 dress [like in the photo],” she says. “It’s not fair for everybody to miss out on the couture experience. It’s such as smart idea. Most people I know sell their dresses – so I thought what’s the difference for me if I can save myself?
“It definitely does not take away from the wedding experience, that’s for sure.”
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