The wedding industry is based on the idea that brides buy a unique dress that they will wear only once. But while the conversations about overconsumption in fashion continue to intensify, brides are rethinking the “wear once, save forever” mentality. “Now that there is a broader cultural movement towards sustainability, more and more people are becoming aware of it, ” says Alexis Walsh, fashion designer and bride-to-be. “And they realize that a wedding dress is the perfect opportunity to have a more durable garment that will live with them.”
During the recent times, the opportunity market benefited from a boost that will almost double the billion market by 2023, according to retail analytics firm GlobalData. In turn, bridal designers and retailers are looking for ways to expand their services or offer new ones for brides who want to reuse their dress after saying, “I do.”The bridal brand pronovias has announced its internal modification program in 2021, while the used ceremonial clothing start-up Queenly has expanded its selection of special occasions with matching looks for the wedding.
“People think about different ways of wearing a dress and think about things in a sustainable way, ” says Christina Tung, founder of the contemporary brand SVNR. “It’s not just like you wear it once and then have it in your closet.”
From selling to coloring the dress, here are some options that brides have to give a new life to their dresses after saying: “I do it.”
Sell a Dress
“[Ceremonial clothing] has been a very old industry for such a long time,” says Kathy Zhou, co-founder of Queenly. Unlike traditional luxury resale, it is often much more complicated for brides to give a different life to their wedding dress. “I’m trying to sell my dress,” says Kaileen Gaul-Suneson, who got married in September 2021. “Trying it in person is such a part of the concept of the industrial complex of marriage that I think a lot of people want to experience it.”
Gaul plans to sell his dress on Still White, a used online service that offers brands such as Pronovias, Maggie Sottero and Galia Lahav with options ranging. For Tricia Bantigue, co-founder of Queenly, giving brides access to dresses they otherwise could not afford is one of the biggest rewards: “usually dresses are between 20% and 70% off retail. I never want anyone to not have their Cinderella moment because they can’t afford it.”
Also for Still White and Queenly, other second-hand platforms have expanded their categories of ceremonial dresses to include wedding dresses, including TheRealReal, Poshmark, ASOS Marketplace, making it easier for brides to list, sell and ship their dresses after the wedding.
Re-coloring the dress
For brides who want to keep their wedding dress and wear it again, it has become popular to dye it in a different color. In 2021, when the wedding ceremonies and parties resumed in the midst of the recent times, several brides contacted Tung with a personal request: “They were interested in the white slip dress from SVNR and asked if they could come back to see if they could color it afterwards.”Silk is one of the lightest fabrics to repaint, and Tung says it’s a simple request for accommodation. Now she provides coloring services for brides who also want to change the color of their dress after the wedding.
Alexis Walsh has the same idea for her wedding look. The fashion designer makes her own outfit for the big day and chooses silk to facilitate the process of dyeing the dress after the ceremony. “After the wedding, I’ll probably color it in a very beautiful, rich, dark color, like the navy,” she says. “And then I will have it as a very nice navy dress that is easy to put on.”
For brides who don’t want the casual look of a silk dress, Tung recommends finding someone who specializes in dyeing the particular fabric of the dress, be it a brand or a textile company. She also suggests asking if the brand or the designer offers re-dyeing services before buying the dress if there is something the bride is interested in.
While today’s brides are opting for more wearable options – including bridal costumes and mini dresses — for their wedding, others still prefer the size of a princess dress. While many brides turn to freelance tailors to change their dresses into shorter dresses after the wedding, more and more brands are offering this type of modification services, indicating a push towards a more circular wedding industry.
Take, for example, the Spanish bridal brand Pronovias, which redesigns wedding dresses for free. The process is simple: brides can buy one of the 50 “Second Life” options available on the brand’s website or in stores and return it after the wedding day for customized alterations organized by the artistic director Alessandra Rinaudo.
After decades of unique mentality in the wedding industry, it seems that brides and designers are ready to embrace the versatility and portability of wedding dresses. “People don’t think about all the different options,” Tung says. “I hope that this will change.”