Millennials turn to Pinterest boards and popular Instagram feeds — not their mothers — for inspiration.

Share story

When Susannah Cahalan,  author of the popular memoir “Brain on Fire,” shopped for a wedding dress late last year, she ventured well off the beaten path, stopping in at Stone Fox Bride for a cropped top and flowing skirt.

Her chief consideration, she said, “was that I be able to wear my dress more than one time.”

Then, with her wedding well behind her, Cahalan, 31, had the skirt dip-dyed in a muted shade of pink. She’ll wear it, she says, with flat Grecian sandals and a T-shirt.

Lindsay Carr, an account director for a fashion-rental house, who will marry next fall, has similarly turned her back on the layer-cake look of many wedding dresses. Instead Carr, 31, chose a slinky green satin gown by the ready-to-wear designer Sophie Theallet, reworked in white.

Her choice, like that of Cahalan, is likely to resonate with the candidly outspoken millennial generation: young breakaway brides whose no-nonsense tastes and attitudes have begun to infiltrate the once rigidly conventional bridal market. In their 20s or early 30s, many are inclined to modify or entirely shuck what they view as stuffy, archaic traditions, among them the long white dress, the bridal bouquet and the veil, rewriting the style rules to suit themselves.

“Ten years ago, you wanted to be this perfect princess on your wedding day,” says Molly Guy, 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,” says Guy, who finds that many of her clients are turning, not to their mothers or bridal publications, but to Pinterest boards and popular Instagram feeds for their inspiration.

To court them, the industry has loosened its stays. “We are becoming more experimental,” says 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,” Chapman says.

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 says.

Viktor & Rolf’s debut bridal line also bore the hallmarks of the designers’ most recent ready-to-wear. 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.

Looks from Lela Rose’s fashion-forward fall 2017 bridal collection. (The New York Times)
Looks from Lela Rose’s fashion-forward fall 2017 bridal collection. (The New York Times)

While the runways may inspire any number of contemporary brides, others are more likely to take their style cues from personal idols, like Lena Dunham 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.

When Emily Mainzer, an evangelical Christian in Mechanicsburg, Penn., 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,” says 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.”

Katharine Polk, Houghton’s founder and designer, says that some of her pieces reflect recent runway trends — among them, bomber jackets, miniskirts, and this season’s ubiquitous off-the-shoulder necklines.

“The choice no longer needs a ‘bridal label,’” Polk adds. “It should just be cool clothes.”