The perfect antidote to the cookie-cutter aesthetic.
Of all the words that can describe the experience of shopping for a wedding dress, easy and simple don't typically come up. If movies and television have taught us anything, it's that the quest to "say yes to the dress" is a narrative of blood, sweat, and tears. Especially when browsing for wedding dresses leaves you feeling uninspired.
Booking appointments, stacks of tulle and lace aside, the issue with wedding dress shopping is that bridal has its mainstays, and you've undoubtedly heard their names before. That voluminous textured ball gown with a corseted bodice is most likely a Vera Wang creation, while a silk faille A-line gown adorned with hand-cut lace is most likely an Oscar de la Renta or Carolina Herrera. Oh, and that hand-embroidered tulle confection you saw on Instagram at a jaw-droppingly gorgeous wedding in Italy? That was likely Valentino, Elie Saab, Monique Lhuillier, or Marchesa.
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Although we're not ready to fully turn our backs on those picturesque Vera Wang gowns that we've lusted after for so long, we are looking to stand out from the Chantilly-clad pack. Thankfully, there are lesser-known-designers out there who are perfect for the bride seeking something unexpected—from a designer she's never heard of. No matter what your personal style, these new talents (who hail from Ireland and the world over) are driving the of-the-moment bridal conversation, offering twists on the traditional staples we've grown accustomed to.
Keep scrolling for our edit of the best new wedding dress designers you should really know about.
Pronounced "beholden", BHLDN is a US online store for all things bridal. The dresses are infused with the upscale bohemian look Anthropologie (it's sister brand) is known for. But it also offers a curated selection of gowns from well-known designers in this space, like Monique Lhuillier, Jenny Yoo, and Tadashi Shoji. The budget-conscious bridalwear at BHLDN doesn't stop at wedding dresses: there are also bridesmaid, bridal shower, and wedding-guest attire for online order. Dresses start at €250 and cap out at €4,000.
AIBHEIL OF ADARE
Nestled in the picturesque Limerick village, Aibhéil of Adare is one boutique you shouldn’t pass by if you’re looking for a showstopping designer dress. The company offers a stunning range of dresses from high-end labels like Paloma Blanca, Pronovias, Maggie Sottero and La Sposa. And thanks to their impressive website, you can browse the entire collection before you visit meaning you can focus your time and attention on what you really love.
lucy can't dance
Lucy Can’t Dance specialises in alternative wedding dresses for non-traditional brides. Experimenting with laces and colour techniques to give you an exciting, elegant and unique wedding dress designs, the bridal brand handmakes every dress in their studio located in Essex. What's more, if you live too far away for measuring and fittings you can still get your dream dress made. The designers only require some of your body measurements to start creating. Once ordered you will receive a detailed guide on how to measure yourself.
Last year, New Zealand–based designer Karen Walker announced her foray into bridal. KW Atelier covers everything from the engagement (rings galore) to walking down the aisle (dresses, suits, separates). All of the wedding apparel is €3,000 or less, and available for purchase online. And even if you do all of your shopping virtually, you can still get that one-on-one attention: Members of the Karen Walker team are on hand to help with picking the right style, getting the right fit and making any adjustments needed on your dress or suit to make it just right for your special day.
Sorcha Ó Raghallaigh
Sorcha Ó Raghallaigh is a young Irish designer based in London but originally from Birr, Co. Offaly. After studying fashion design at Central St. Martins in London, Sorcha went on to design dresses which were worn by international fashion icons, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Angela Scanlon. If you are hunting for something that is edgy and unique for your big day that doesn’t scream wedding dress and could just as easily be seen in Vogue as in a wedding album then Sorcha Ó Raghallaigh's dresses are just what you are looking for.
Ideal if you're opting for a 1950s look for your wedding day, Dirty Fabulous is a shimmering explosion of vintage glamour tucked away on Dublin’s Wicklow Street. Thanks to their amazing collection, you can channel your favourite old-school Hollywood starlets in one of their gorgeous gowns.
Makers of the infamous Azaelea dress, Self-Portrait have been the star of many City Hall and alternative wedding. With a host of celebrity fans (including the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton), Self-Portrait is an ideal choice for something a little different. Shop online or pop into Brown Thomas to discover your dream dress.
After graduating from NCAD, Helen Cody spread her wings and ended up in the fashion capital of the world, Paris. Here she worked at French Vogue and the iconic fashion house of Azzedine Alaia. After a number of years abroad, Helen has returned to Ireland (lucky for us!) to focus on providing fashion-forward Irish brides with a collection like no other. Helen specializes in designing the non-traditional wedding dress for fashionistas with individual flair.
If you're a bride who to cares about the planet, chances are you're considering the idea of wedding dress rental. Allow us to introduce you to Covet. This Irish boutique has beautiful dresses from an array of designers, available to rent at really affordable prices.
Bohemian bridal haven, Archive 12 is based in Belfast and is perfect for brides with a wilder sense of style. If you're more of an easy-breezy bride, they'll be right up your street.
House of delphine
Delphine Grandjouan is a French-born, Irish-bred Fashion Designer based in Ireland. Self-taught, Delphine is best known for her distinctive style in wedding dress design. She was won many awards for her designs has been described as “a couturier with a bohemian heart." Bohemian romance and vintage femininity are the cornerstones of Delphine’s designs, think the refined elegance of old Paris and let your imagination run wild. Delphine was the designer of choice when our very own Editor Naoise got married.
Parisian style without the hefty price tag - meet France's best-kept secret, Sézane. The brand was born as a vintage store on eBay but now produces retro-inspired, understated pieces that'll easily slip into your capsule wardrobe. Sézane is a beloved destination for minimal, Parisian-inspired pieces. And as of this spring, that includes wedding dresses. Sézane's approach to big-day attire you can order online includes short wrap dresses, tea-length knit gowns, and plenty of white suiting. These laid-back bridal looks can be completed with the brand's in-house occasion jewellery line—which, like the dresses, is all less than €600.
Every once in awhile, a brand comes along who just *gets* it, and you wish they’d make clothes for all of life’s moments. They inevitably, quietly, build up a cult following of women-in-the-know, gaining support from fashion editors and influencers across the globe, and then when the stars align, boom – they drop a wedding capsule so perfect, so considered, that it sells out immediately. Sleeper is that brand. Or @daily_sleeper, as you might recognise them from Instagram launched an eight-piece wedding collection for millennials, described as being “on the edge of leisure clothing and wedding fashion.” The range includes silk and linen dresses, a cape with a ruffled collar, and long opera gloves. The cornerstone of the collection is the perfect 90s slip dress that would make Kate Moss proud, hitting mid-calf with an easy cowl neck.
Main image by @karenwalker on Instagram