“Ten years ago, you wanted to be this perfect princess on your wedding day,” said Molly Guy, the free-spirited owner of Stone Fox Bride, adding that in an increasingly fluid marketplace such thinking does not always apply.
“The ready-to-wear, red carpet and bridal worlds are tending to converge,” said Ms. Guy, who finds that many of her clients are turning for inspiration not to their mothers or bridal publications but to Pinterest boards and popular Instagram feeds.
To court them, the industry has loosened its stays. “We are becoming more experimental,” said Georgina Chapman, who, with Keren Craig, designs the Marchesa ready-to-wear and bridal collections, as well as Notte, a new diffusion bridal line whipped up from lightweight materials that reflect the springtime runways. We are “exploring how to keep a dress or suit romantic while making it fashion-forward,” Ms. Chapman said.
Because their ready-to wear and bridal collections are shown within scant weeks of each other, an infusion of spring 2017 runway inspirations — shoulder-baring necklines, corsetry lacing and the like — has been all but inevitable in the bridal collection, she said.
At Carolina Herrera, the denim dress that opened the designer’s spring 2017 runway show rematerialized in cascading layers of white silk faille in the fall 2017 bridal collection. Similarly, the Viktor & Rolf debut bridal line bore the hallmarks of the designers’ most recent ready-to-wear.
“I would wear this dress to any summer cocktail party — why not?” Nina Hartmann, the Viktor & Rolf marketing chief, said of an abbreviated, giddily flounced white dress. She added that a particular hit with retailers was a minimalist jumpsuit rendered in white and intended for, but by no means limited to, a saunter down the aisle. Much the same could be said for the peplum top and trousers Lela Rose showed for fall 2017.
While the runways may inspire any number of contemporary brides, others are more likely to take their style cues from personal idols, like a Lena Dunham character or Solange Knowles, who wore a floor-length cape on her wedding day, their indie credentials emphatically signaling, “I’m no one’s property; I’m my own person.”
Even women professing less overtly feminist sentiments are kicking custom to the curb. “People are letting go of so many traditions,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, the executive editor of The Knot, a weddings magazine and website. “They are just doing what they want to do and wearing the colors they like.”
When Emily Mainzer, an evangelical Christian and elementary-school teacher in Mechanicsburg, Pa., married this year, she saw nothing amiss in rejecting the standard-issue alabaster gown and veil in favor of a silver-blue dress and matching headband. “Some people see the classic white gown and veil as anachronisms,” said Ms. Mainzer, 30. “I think a lot of people wear them just because they have this sense that things have to be done a certain way, but they don’t.”
Houghton, a label at the more waywardly extreme end of the bridal-wear spectrum, has all but eradicated the demarcation between wedding-appropriate attire and, say, rocker wear. The company’s fall 2017 collection includes such offerings as a slip dress topped by an outsize biker jacket stamped with the legend “Not Your Baby”; a shrunken T-shirt raffishly knotted over a ballerina-length tulle skirt; and a two-piece knitwear ensemble topped with a plushly overscale bathrobe of a coat.
Katharine Polk, Houghton’s founder and designer, said that some of her pieces reflect recent runway trends — among them, bomber jackets, minuscule skirts worn with over-the-knee boots, and this season’s ubiquitous off-the-shoulder necklines.
Her clients, she said, may have turned to her after scouring the racks at Barneys New York or Bergdorf Goodman for “a super-chic Stella McCartney or Lanvin dress, preferably in white.”
“The choice no longer needs a ‘bridal label,’” Ms. Polk added. “It should just be cool clothes.”
That notion jibes with the thinking of Avery Matera, who posted last summer on Racked, the youth-oriented fashion website, “‘Perfect dress’ doesn’t mean a skirt so full it could stand up on its own.” Nor do one’s nuptials automatically call for a mermaid silhouette, Ms. Matera wrote: “Your ideal wedding day look might not even be a dress at all.”
It may more closely resemble the custom-tailored motorcycle jacket worn by the model Nicole Trunfio when she married the musician Gary Clark last spring. Or the Chanel bouclé jacket Keira Knightley plucked from her closet for her 2013 wedding to the actor James Righton.
Those brashly improvised looks are not without precedent. In 1954, Marilyn Monroe wed Joe DiMaggio while dressed in a fur-collared suit; in 1966, Mia Farrow stood at the altar with Frank Sinatra, sheathed in a two-piece shantung dress; and in 1971, Bianca Jagger famously wore a white jacket and tailored skirt to marry Mick Jagger.
These days such departures often go hand in hand with a tendency to skip other orthodoxies. Ms. Cahalan, the writer, dispensed with traditional bridesmaids and wedding cake and had her brother-in-law stand in for a cleric to officiate at her wedding, “which made it more intimate,” she said.
Ms. Carr plans to drop the customary wedding reception and dinner, with its numbered tables and fleet-footed waiters, in favor of cocktails and canapés.
Her dress will naturally be in keeping with that unfussy mood.
“I’m not a conventional girl,” she said. “And I’m not going to look like a conventional cupcake on my wedding day.”