Times used to be much simpler for brides-to-be when it came to picking their wedding dresses. The only exceptions to the rule were contrary celebrity figures, such as Bianca Jagger who tied the knot with Mick Jagger in a sleek, white smoking tuxedo jacket by Yves Saint Laurent, and Marilyn Monroe, who said 'I do' to her second husband Joe DiMaggio in a cute, brown suit. Otherwise, brides usually got hitched in virginal white dresses that made them look quite similar to each other.
But then came the 1980s, when Madonna was calling on us to 'express yourself' and women did just that. Nothing was sacred, spawning a cornucopia of bridal designs. Celebrities didn't shy away from making a bold statement (think Gwen Stefani in her pink wedding dress from John Galliano, and Dita Von Teese in her purple taffeta Vivienne Westwood wedding gown). Brides-to-be nowadays are spoilt for choice with designs, both unconventional and traditional, that scream individuality.
Jessica Lee, director of Trinity Bridal, which offers wedding dresses by renowned designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera, thinks that brides-to-be should decide between traditional or unconventional wedding dresses based on other factors such as the venue, their personalities, body shapes and, in some cases, the opinions of their fiances and families.
Using colours such as fire engine red and baby blue for his designs, Oscar de la Renta's spring 2013 bridal collection espouses the trend of coloured wedding dresses. 'He continues to surprise us with his refreshing designs of lace and tulle gowns with floral feminine embroideries. Peplum is another popular trend this season, as shown in Carolina Herrera's new collection,' Lee says.
For brides-to-be who gravitate towards traditional dresses, Lee suggests they try gowns with different silhouettes. 'Most brides have an initial idea of their dream wedding dress based on what they have seen on wedding blogs or in magazines. However, it is very important for brides to try on different silhouettes to find a style that suits their body shape, as what looks good in print or on websites may not necessarily look good on them,' Lee says. Brenda Ng, director of The Wedding Shop, which stocks wedding dresses from envelope-pushing designers such as Jenny Packham from London and Elisabeth B from Italy, says that the shift in styles from traditional to less formal has resulted in more brides opting for non-traditional wedding dresses.
'Many couples who prefer a casual setting choose to have a destination wedding, so the brides won't want a traditional, uptight dress. They go for a more manageable, lighter or multifunctional dress. A unique style and an unforgettable look become their first priority,' she says.
Jenny Packham's 2013 bridal collection has heavy doses of beading, crystal embroidery and special cutting. 'The collection's colour choice is a lot wider than traditional gowns. There are colours such as Champagne, platinum, pink and even black,' says Ng, who thinks that chiffon, charmeuse and organza made of 100 per cent silk make the best materials for non-traditional dresses because they are very light and drape nicely.
Greenie Chau, chief designer of fashion brand Own Image, thinks that brides-to-be are fed up with traditional wedding dresses and want a one-of-a-kind gown that brings out their character and the theme of the wedding.
'Thanks to the celebrity effect, the vintage style is among the most popular styles for non-traditional wedding dresses. Kate Middleton, Karen Mok Man-wai and Gigi Leung Wing-kei all wore vintage-style wedding dresses on their big days. Celebrities have helped to revive vintage-style wedding dresses,' she says. Another trend for non-traditional wedding dresses is East meets West, Chau says. 'Hong Kong is a city where East meets West. Hong Kong people are more appreciative of the oriental style of dressing than before because they now have a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. The result is a wedding dress style that melds East with West, a style that is traditional and contemporary.'
Chau believes that if the bride-to-be chooses her dress according to the theme of the wedding or vice versa, the dress and theme will be in sync with each other. 'If the bride-to-be has chosen a vintage wedding dress, the theme should also hark back to the past. If you pair a vintage dress with a cartoon-themed wedding, disharmony will be the result,' she says.