For anyone with a fashion pulse you have come to realize, like it or not, everyone is devoting a little energy to brides. This means bridal options are truly endless. Twenty years ago many designers wouldn’t have touched bridal. Many retailers never considered it. Our mothers’ options were limited, but that all began to change when a select number of celebrated women started turning to their designer friends to make their wedding day uniquely fashionable. A major force was Carolyn Bessette. She asked her close friend Narciso Rodriguez to create the gown she wore to marry John F. Kennedy Jr. and a simple sheath never looked more stunning. Soon the previously unknown New York designer’s name made waves.
I recently read that in 2012 the overall US wedding market was worth $48 billion. According to a July 2013 report released by New York-based market research firm We Connect Fashion brides were spending an average of 16 percent of their wedding budget on the gown. This means the market for wedding gowns, in America alone, is roughly $7.7 billion per year. If you’re not new to dress shopping this may come as no surprise. According to TheWeddingChannel.com American women spend an average of $1,211 on their wedding dresses. Flip through Vogue while in line at the store and you’ll see this is a number that is on the low-end of what a designer ready-to-wear dress currently costs.
What does this mean for brides to be? First off, the most exciting brand is no longer Vera Wang. While her name is forever synonymous with designer bridal we have so many new options. Today, there is a dress for every bride. Luxury retailers like Net-a-Porter are turning the wedding dress experience on its head by offering modern designer collections exclusively online. Many of these designers are known first for their head turning red carpet looks and most recently for falling into the bridal market. Retailers like Net-a-Porter, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman know their customers already rely on them for brands they love and feel good wearing for important life events. It only seems natural to extend that to what most of us would consider the most important life event.
For many women their wedding gown is the most expensive dress they will wear in their lifetime, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of dollars they are willing to shell out. Business of Fashion interviewed Oscar de la Renta about his stunning bridal collection. For Oscar de la Renta it is, of course, about making beautiful gowns, but “it’s a fantastic way for us to showcase to a younger customer what our brand is about. It’s the one day when a woman is likely to splurge on herself.” With the same mentality mass-market retailers are getting into the bridal market as well. Brands like BCBG MaxAzria, JCrew, and Anthropologie’s BHLDN are all aiming to reach an aspirational customer. By this they mean “a bride who is increasingly aware of high-end fashion brands, but cannot afford their products, except perhaps for that very special day that they expect to remember forever.” With so much money spent who wouldn’t want to get a foot in the game. There is no such thing as an average customer. White House Black Market and the Limited have yet to go the full collection route. Instead they each launched 1-2 dresses this season priced in line with other product. In May of 2013 even Target launched a collection for the “no fuss” brides with dresses ranging from $70 – $130 that are also exclusively online.