With Zoom weddings, courthouse celebrations and elopements on the rise this year, some retailers say brides-to-be in the age of COVID-19 are opting for the “little white dress.”
Amsale, the bridal label and Madison Avenue shop in New York, has an entire division dedicated to the category. And while business has suffered this year due to the health crisis, like for all retailers, the section — which includes satin jumpsuits and sequin minidresses priced at $495 — is seeing growth.
“It’s become very popular, which suggests that people are following through with ceremonies but in a more casual way,” said owner Neil Brown, husband of the late Amsale Aberra.
“It definitely has increased because of the pandemic,” said Kamika Kiper, manager of David’s Bridal in Los Angeles, regarding sales of “simpler” designs. The wedding gown retailer, America’s largest, also has its own “little white dress” category. “We do see an increase in that.”
Weddings are taking place “two or three weeks out, on beaches, in backyards,” Kiper went on. Since reopening in June, the shop has been servicing customers who are eager to shop in-store and get their hands on wedding attires. “They want something they can buy now. Here, they can just come in and grab it and go.”
The company, which emerged from bankruptcy last year, makes in-house alterations. “We can turn a dress around in 24 hours if we need to, for a fee,” Kiper said.
Veronica Di Santo of Ines Di Santo, which offers both couture and a diffusion line, has also noticed an interest in “more clean structures,” she said. The label has a store in Toronto and is found at about 100 retailers in North America. “It’s the new norm.”
These days “anything goes,” said celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger, who runs a bridal company offering à la carte wedding services (including access to couture houses for custom creations).
“All rules are out the window,” she continued. “I’m seeing bridal clients wear prints or consider color or ready-to-wear pieces, not just your traditional bridal collections. This idea that you have to be in white or a more traditional gown is being reconsidered.”
Couples are throwing mini ceremonies and rescheduling larger celebrations for 2021, she added. (“Because who wants to postpone their wedding much longer”?) And with no vaccine in sight, it’s a guessing game when deciding on “safer,” alternative dates.
“I’m overwhelmed, and I feel like I have all the resources in the world,” she said.
A bride-to-be herself, Erlanger’s wedding was originally scheduled for October. She’s now working to postpone it for April. “It’s to be determined if I’ll do something small ahead of time.”
“We are not getting a sense that bigger celebrations are being canceled,” Brown echoed. “They’re being delayed.” Brides are getting married in “little white dresses” on their original date and saving the party for later, he continued.
His brand, Amsale, which is found at retailers globally, reopened its store with new safety measures and fewer employees. They’re holding 25 percent of usual appointments, he said.
Every aspect of the bridal industry has been incredibly disrupted this year, “from presenting a collection as a designer, from the store receiving that presentation, from the store purchasing their bridal offering, from being able to open your doors and have brides come in and physically see your bridal offerings,” Di Santo said.
The entire market shut down in the spring and is now working to recover, as designers and retailers resume work. To survive, the bridal industry has been embracing technology, exploring digital solutions and working together as a whole, Di Santo said. Brown shared similar sentiments. Like many retailers, he’s offering virtual appointments.
“I believe this will open the door to much more interaction of e-commerce in bridal,” he said of the pandemic’s impact. “The Bridal Council has been much more active, sharing ideas, researching alternatives, digital options and support.”
In partnership with Pullquest (a platform offering digital showrooms), The Bridal Council — a nonprofit whose members include fashion designers, retailers and industry experts in the bridal business — is providing a virtual market in October.
“By having it be one unified, centralized space, it streamlines the process for both stores and designers,” Di Santo said. “Just like brides have to reimagine their wedding day dreams, we have to reimagine our future.”