For too long, there’s been a clear line for what type of bride wears a ballgown. Are you a cool bride? Something sleek and simple for you. Are you a princess bride? You get to wear the royal wedding dress.
I bet I speak for a lot of modern, high-fashion-loving brides when I admit that deep down, in my alt-bride heart, I do dream of donning that perfect cool-bride ballgown. Where is the wedding dress that is all volume and grandeur but doesn’t make me look like a young, fairy princess? We feature so many whimsical, enchanting ballgowns fabulously fitting for our beloved classic princess brides here on Bridal Musings. But, what about us fashion-forward women who’d rather look like ranking members of art & fashion royal families?
Thankfully, a number of our favorite fashion-minded designers – many of which have spent the last decade or more focusing on sleeker ‘anti-bride designs’ – seem to be reclaiming the ballgown for their fashion-forward clientele. Using cutting-edge design details, avant-garde fabric choices & architecturally-inspired silhouettes, these designers are pushing the bridal industry into recognizing the dawn of an era of cool brides wearing statement ballgowns.
Stuck at home for the last year-plus starved for any excuse to dress up, it’s perfect timing. Brides finally shopping now who pre-covid may have chosen modern minimal gowns are reportedly requesting more over-the-top designs. We’ve predicted extravagance to be a top trend in 2021 wedding fashion. And we’re thrilled – thanks to the gowns and designers below – that the much-called-for-volume won’t be reserved only for our traditional, princess brides.
Rounding up wedding dresses with no shortage of drama & regality – in different colors, vibes & price ranges – I give you our favorite alternative ballgowns for all of you fashion-forward, cool brides…
Viktor & Rolf Mariage
Viktor & Rolf Mariage’s Taffeta Volant Dream is the perfect example of how making the slightest tweaks to another era’s traditional ballgown turns the gown into a runway-meets-aisle-ready garment. There was no shortage of voluminous taffeta ballgowns in the 1980s but rarely were they this paired down from their embellished glitz & glamour. Goodbye dated beading, hello modern, eco-friendly taffeta.
Featuring a sleek, strapless bodice, this art piece of a ballgown lets the folded tiered volant be the eye-catching design element. But, there’s not so much else ‘going on’ that you, the bride, get lost in the gown.
Kudos to Ritual Unions for knowing that there’s a bride out there who is feverishly searching for the coolest, baddest, blackest ballgown around. I don’t think we need to describe what makes Ritual Union’s Shadow Dress the perfect statement ballgown for the alternative bride. What I will do is plead to the fashion-loving gal teetering on the fence over ‘what so-and-so might think’ about their black wedding dress: who fucking cares. Wear what you want.
Walk into any bridal salon and say your bridal keywords “lace, long-sleeves, a-line” and you’ll likely be set up with a lot of really classic ballgowns. Ballgowns that have been in style since Duchess Kate married Prince William. Heck, ballgowns that have been in style…for decades.
But Vagabond Bridal, the Cape Town-based bridal designer known for producing very modern styles, has just dropped a lace long-sleeve number that says just as much ‘power’ as it does ‘princess’. The regal Olympia gives Kate’s dress genre a sexy, commanding update with an open-back, deep v neckline and those fabulous puff sleeves the bridal fashion world is dying over.
This isn’t the first time Chicago bridal designer Varca has taken the words right out of our mouths. From their latest collection, The Reign is described as a “sequin, feather, pearl, and crystal-encrusted gown [that] was created for the fearless fashion queens who want a true ballgown free from convention.” Calling too for extravagant styles in a post-Covid era, Varca is a master at marrying volume with coolness.
Odylyne The Ceremony
While the Mini Caspian may have been ‘gown of the year’ for 2020 Covid elopement brides, Odylyne The Ceremony‘s latest Ozma collection is filled with full-length ballgowns for our biggest celebrations soon-to-come. Featuring puff sleeves, ruffles & bows tailored for a modern bride, the gowns evoke dreams of a Bridgerton wedding mixed with, perhaps, a wild Labyrinth twist. What takes these ballgowns from ‘sweet’ to ‘killer’ are the sexy glimpses of midriff and leg.
Christie Nicole Bridal
Honestly, we had a hard time choosing a favorite alt-bride ballgown from Christie Nicole’s latest Adele collection. For fashion-forward brides looking for anything stylish & over-the-top, your choice is ample. Choose your own extravagant adventure between two ballgowns: Rachel‘s full-volume ruffles & massive bows or an extra-feminine structural masterpiece, Amber.
Katherine Tash Bridal
Just barely toeing the line between sweet princess ballgown & fashion-forward art-piece, Nova‘s architectural waves land it definitively on this list. As with all fashion choices, achieving a certain vibe is all about styling & attitude. Designing from her LA studio, Katherine Tash has a knack for designing deceivingly classic wedding dresses in more elevated, trend-setting ways.
The powder blue gown that could woo either side. We could see it both ways: a classic, traditional princess bride who plans to turn heads with the slightest change: a pop of color. Or an avant-garde, fashion-forward bride who wants to surprise her guests with the unexpected: a ballgown.
While maybe not your traditional ballgown (its voluminous skirt is in fact, fluted) our Fashion Editor Christina often generously classifies ballgowns as ‘more than a regular dress’. “Anything with the tiniest bit of volume will look like a ballgown on someone petite. Women who are 6 feet tall might make a ballgown look less voluminous.” It’s the train, the fabric & those fabulous poofy sleeves that make it ballgown enough for us, no matter your height or size.
Georgia Young Couture
How do you sharpen the edge of a soft & sweet silhouette? In Carlton, Australia, Georgia Young Couture uses a unique, laser-cut fabric for an ultra-edgy ballgown, Gertrude. A classic, off-one-shoulder silhouette is the canvas for this incredible, high-fashion material. Carving clean lines throughout the skirt as well, we can already see the cool, line-art invitations to match this glorious work of art.
We’re high on Markarian right now. It could be our mutual love for cottagecore style – their new accessories collection of straw hats & hair accessories rivals their gowns. Or, it could be their unique skill of turning a seemingly classic & old-school bridal style into something completely fresh.
Yvetta, a duchesse satin ballgown, has all the makings of “sweet, princess dress” but two tiny design alterations give this full-skirted gown a cool-bride update. One, the sharp-lined strapless neckline, with an unexpected v-neck. And two, the puff sleeves that sit off the shoulder, giving the gown a looser, more laid-back vibe.
When we featured E&W Couture’s Summer Haze collection last October we knew Madison would be turning heads. The UK bridal designer injected so much rock & roll coolness into her latest line of alt-bride gowns, separates & jumpsuits that it would be a crime not to include her on this list. A sexy, strapless bodice, poof hem detail & styled with a rad belt rarely found in the bridal accessory world, this ballgown is for rebellious brides.
Tabitha is a silk taffeta ballgown we truly have never seen before. A voluminous draped sleeve that literally falls of the shoulder then tightens for a tailored, high-fashion look. This ballgown is truly meant to be worn by a fashion-trendsetter and we can’t wait to meet the bride that says “Yes!” to this Danielle Frankel dress.
How do you make tulle cool? Dye it, layer it beyond the realm of reality, and let it float in every damn direction of the room. Elizabeth Dye, the funky-fun designer keeping Portland bridal weird, has crafted an entire collection of wild, avant-garde ballgowns in every neon color you’ve never thought of. In highlighter yellow, Big Dress Energy is about as far from classic as you can get in a tulle ballgown, and that’s what makes it so rad.
Or forget the tulle & don Blair, the alt-ballgown from her newest collection, Summer & Smoke. “Regal and impossible to ignore, Blair is a gown for a queen. Namely: you.”