Will the Casual Wedding Attire Trend Outlive the Pandemic?

Once the date was set for May of 2019, Allure’s Associate Beauty Editor Sarah Kinonen had one month to plan her courthouse wedding. She and her now husband decided to elope over margaritas and made haste to schedule their civil ceremony. “There wasn’t much time to make any major decisions when it came to wardrobe, venue, etc.,” she explains. “But that’s exactly what we wanted: a super lowkey day for just the two of us.” Kinonen said her vows in a Reformation dress and Loeffler Randall sandals, then sealed the deal with a Catbird ring. She later threw on a pair of sparkly Glitter Old Skool Vans for brunch post courthouse ceremony.

“I wasn’t set on Reformation at first, but after trying on a slip dress at Zara that wasn’t quite right a few days before, I talked myself into something with a heftier price tag,” says Kinonen. After selecting Reformation’s butterfly dress in-store, Kinonen was delivered the wrong one two weeks later. Due to her fast-approaching nuptials, she wore it anyway. “It was really long, but since it was far too late to do anything about it, I decided to just…hold the excess material in my hands the day of.” The final result pleased the bride, which is all that matters.

In the case of video producer Cleo Abram, the bride wore a coordinating creamy linen vest and matching trousers with platform heels and a veil for her and her husband’s 20-guest backyard wedding less than a year ago. “I loved my little wedding suit and my husband’s T-shirt,” she tells me via Instagram. The groom donned a black tee, trousers, and sneakers. Though the color scheme aligned with tradition, their informality might have some grannies clutching their pearls.

Naturally, Kinonen’s courthouse wedding instigates the uber casual. And though civil ceremonies like Kinonen’s were in the works pre-March 2020, the pandemic has made more intimate weddings a necessity, or for some, a placeholder until the larger versions could be held safely, as in Abram’s case. The attire followed suit. Brides have opted for shorter hemlines, more relaxed materials, and even shook things up with tailored separates in lieu of the more feminine dress option. “We wanted a wedding that felt like us,” Abrams says.

A more casual look can also alleviate the corresponding hefty price tag. “There is so much pressure to find ‘the dress,’” Over the Moon Bridal Stylist Anny Choi says. “And wedding dresses can cost upwards of $8K so when that pressure is off, I think brides are willing to be a bit more adventurous.” There’s also been a greater divergence between the scale of wedding and the style (or size) of the dress as people veer further away from the Cinderella gown concept while still maintaining some formal decorum. “I’ve had a lot of brides coming to me recently with the Carolyn Bessette reference,” says Choi of the ‘90s style icon’s simple slip-style wedding dress. “Just something super minimal and clean cut.”

Even amongst brides who do envision a grandiose ensemble for the big day, options are limited to find something that fits their unique vision. “Everyone has such different tastes,” Choi says. “And the fact that there are maybe about 7-15 ‘main’ bridal designers to choose from is so crazy to me.”

Fashion brands are currently capitalizing on this opportunity. “I have seen a lot of RTW designers include white looks in their runway and retailers heavily buying into this,” explains Choi, referencing Brock Collection, Markarian, and Max Mara. “There are so many more options now [available] to buy online versus even a year ago!” And as vintage expands in popularity, that broadens options even further. As Choi points out, it’s “not necessarily that brides are choosing not to dress up, but more that there are more ready-to-wear options.”

Photo: Courtesy of Daisy Johnson

Jana Hofheimer, a buyer at Moda Operandi, fell in love with her wedding look before she fell in love with her husband. Her chosen ensemble featured a creamy skirt suit with a slight ‘80s feel from ready-to-wear designer Alessandra Rich. “The moment I laid eyes on [the Spring ‘19 Look 39] during the sales campaign back in September of 2018 (only a week or two after I met my now husband, strangely enough), I knew I would one day have a civil ceremony at which I would wear this very look,” she tells Coveteur. “It felt absolutely aligned with how I envisioned myself as a bride: classic, yet in some ways unconventional; subversive (Alessandra’s specialty); low-maintenance, unfussy.”

Jenni Lee, founder of Comme Si, circumvented designers entirely and had her (pre-pandemic) city-hall-bound wedding attire custom made. “I knew I didn’t want to wear a traditional wedding dress and envisioned myself wearing a white suit,” Lee says. So both she and her husband turned to a family friend and sought-after tailor in Toronto. A cross between a blazer and a dress, Lee’s look was inspired by a Dior look from the Raf Simons era. Her husband’s featured an evergreen suit with a white dress shirt, black tie, and black Gucci loafers.

Photo: Daniela Spector

Some of Choi’s recent boundary-pushing casual wedding attire favorites include a super chic Helena Mareque midi-dress-and-hat look sported by Carmen Garcia Puertas and Lolita Jacob’s Alaia. My own mind can’t help but flutter to Bee Carrozzini’s 2018 Dolce Vita moment in Dolce and Gabbana.

Though the trend toward casual attire seems to have outlived the pandemic, plenty of brides are still opting for an all-out wedding extravaganza. With more avenues explored (and posted on Instagram), the modern bride simply has more options. When asked what makes a bridal look in 2022, Choi replies expressively, “authenticity.”

“I’ve never felt better wearing anything else in my life,” says Hofheimer. “That feeling, that confidence allowed me to be present at the highest level during my wedding, rather than worrying at all about what I looked like. For that I am so grateful.”

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