Modest wedding outfits rise in popularity among brides during the pandemic

Sarah Holly wore a bespoke white two-piece suit made by UAE bridalwear label House of Moirai at her wedding in New Zealand, where she and her husband eloped amid the pandemic.

Harry Potter themes, succulents instead of bouquets and bridal jumpsuits are just a few of the wedding trends to have emerged in 2021 so far, according to recent review of Pinterest data by Money.co.uk.

Modest wedding outfits, like Holly’s, are another, with this style proving more popular than sheer, satin and boho designs in the survey.

“I definitely think bridal fashion has taken a more modest turn since the pandemic,” says Barbaranne Heaton, creative director of House of Moirai. “Necklines remain quite low still, but sleeves are being added.”

Marwa Elbehairy married in Cairo wearing a dress by House of Moirai. Mangawy Owes

Modest dress has always been popular in the Mena region because of religious and cultural sensitivities.

Eva Hachem, founder of online wedding dress marketplace Dress Come True, says conservative gowns are usually worn by “a bride who dresses modestly in her everyday life and follows the hijabi dress code”.

But Heaton says the trend has now spread further afield and among other communities, too. Where traditionally this type of clothing sported high necklines, long sleeves and to-the-floor hems, now, she says, “it’s more a reference to slightly more elegant, covered silhouettes that still show the curves of a bride but without flashing a lot of skin”.

The bride is looking for a balance between modest and slight reveal

Barbaranne Heaton, creative director of House of Moirai

Heaton has seen many of her customers requesting slim-fitting silhouettes. “So, skimming off the hip and fitted in at the waist but with additional sleeves,” she explains. “Necklines vary from a deep V that shows a little skin, or high into a boat neck for more coverage but may have a low back.

“The bride is looking for a balance between modest and slight reveal. Sleeves are often semi opaque in nature as to not seem too solid or heavy.”

We can even see this catching on among bigger wedding dress labels. Australian brand Maggie Sottero, for example, posted a blog about 10 top modest styles for 2021, dubbing it as a “fabulously unexpected trend” for the year.

Other brands such as Alex Perry, Rosa Clara, Alaia and Vera Wang all have well-regarded modest options in their collections for this year, too.

“Most wedding dress labels do not necessarily cater to modest brides, although the trend is gradually improving,” says Hachem, who stocks a wide range of items made in Turkey or Egypt, as both markets have a wider selection of conservative clothing.

“Modest brides usually select non-modest wedding gowns and then tailor them by either adding an inner thick lining to cover the cleavage and arms area.”

One popular way of doing this is to include a detachable bolero that can be worn over the gown, removing the need for any extensive alterations.

Hachem has also seen a rise in interest in preloved wedding dresses, as well as simpler styles and fewer embellishments, amid the pandemic as budgets have become tighter. “I call this the ‘less trend’,” she says. “Generally less volume, less glitter, less budget.”

Heaton has noted the same. “Styles are being simplified,” she says. “I certainly feel a more fashion influence within bridal. Clean lines, less fuss, definitely more modern silhouettes. That’s been coming through for a while now, but the pandemic has moved it forward.”

A look from House of Moirai’s elopement range. Courtesy House of Moirai

‘Multi-use’ gowns are also on the rise, she adds, owing to a move towards sustainability. With more elopements and city hall weddings on the agenda, she’s been creating more tailored suits, midi-length two pieces, separates and jumpsuits, being worn in place of gowns.

“I think after the past 18 months we’re becoming more aware of what is important, how we feel, how we connect and that feeds down into every aspect of a wedding, including the dress,” Heaton says.

“Brides have been through a lot and still are, when it comes to their weddings, so their approach to their wedding to me feels more cautious. Stripped back, elegant, simple. You can even class it as ‘modest’ in itself, but more in an overall sense of their approach to their wedding and their wedding style.”