Dare to be different in these unconventional bridal looks

Does the idea of a cookie-cutter wedding dress leave you feeling flat? Nicole Conner chats to Scottish stores and designers who offer up gorgeous bolder bridal looks that really take the biscuit

Left images shows a bride wearing Alyce Jayne Bridal two piece, right image shows bride wearing Unbridaled mini dress
Left: Gwen lace bodice, £600, Eira tulle skirt and satin cami, £1,860, Alyce Jayne Bridal (Photo: Mairi Tiffoney); right: Adley dress by Jenny Yoo, £POA, Unbridaled Boutique

Every bride knows that her dream wedding dress will be the one that makes her feel like the best version of herself. But even so, some of us end up with a gown that’s just not ‘the one’. My mum and I were looking back at snaps from her big day, and the first thing she told me was how much she disliked her dress. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s a fabulous Princess Diana number typical of the 1980s, but it wasn’t her first choice and so the discontent at the gown has persisted through the years, despite how lovely she looked.

For brides these days, thankfully, the rules around what you can wear are less rigid, so my advice would be to choose something that sets your heart aflutter, even if it strays outside the standard bridal norms. If you’re already unsure if a typical bridal gown would work for you, don’t worry – there are loads of gorgeous alternatives out there. Six bridalwear experts talk us through the options, such as mini dresses, trousers suits and separates, that really push the boat out.

Long and short of it

Mini dresses have seen a surge in popularity of late, with some famous faces choosing to wear them for their weddings: Kourtney Kardashian, Lily Allen, Gwen Stefani and Made in Chelsea’s Sophie Habboo all strayed from tradition. In each case, interestingly, the gown was very different, proof that there are plenty of ways to make this trend your own.

The styles at Flossy & Dossy, a bespoke bridal dress­maker in Glasgow, tend to have a vintage edge. “Short dresses are fun and carefree, which is why brides love them,” explains the brand’s designer Wendy Harman. She reckons “anything goes” with bridal fashion now, and says her clients want to “bring personality into their outfit so they don’t look like everyone else”. Wendy loves anything with a nod to the 1960s, as well as 3D elements for texture, including fur trims and coloured embroidery.

If you like the idea of a short gown but still want to keep your overall look on the traditional side, that’s possible too. “I’d suggest something with all-over lace and a bishop sleeve with deep buttoned cuffs,” says Wendy. “I think this, worn with a delicate veil and drop earrings would be beautiful. I really want to sketch this idea out now!” Collection dresses at Flossy & Dossy range from £1,400 to £2,500, with fully bespoke services starting at £1,800.

Left image: Flossy and Dossy feather-trimmed mini dress; right image: Mini dress from Kudos Bridal Boutique in Dunfermline
Left: Feather mini dress, £POA, Flossy & Dossy (Photo: Lena Sabala); right: Delilah gown by True Bride, £POA, Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Dunfermline)

Retro minis are a firm fave at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Dunfermline, too. The store’s Megan Carberry hails True Bride’s Delilah gown (pictured above) as her go-to if a bride is looking to flash her pins. “I love the confetti-spot tulle and soft off-the-shoulder sleeves – it’s vintage and modern all at the same time,” she says. “One of my favourite eras for dresses is definitely the 1950s. I’m quite petite, so I often find myself drawn to styles like the tea-length gowns from True Bride’s Brighton Belle Collection.”

If you’re going for a shorter gown, you may worry that certain accessories (such as lengthy cathedral veils, for example) have to be ruled out, but Megan disagrees: “That particular combo is a dream if the bride wants that quirky juxtaposition. Most commonly, though, we’ll find that brides with shorter dresses will opt for either cropped veils or statement headpieces instead.”

Bridal minis can be a great alterna­tive to the traditional wedding dress: if you’re marrying abroad somewhere hot, not wearing lots of heavy fabric will feel great, for instance. Even if your wedding is in Scotland and you want to wear a big gown, you could always slip into a short one for partying. Read more about wearing two wedding dresses here.

What Emily Plunkett, owner of Ayr’s Unbridaled Boutique, loves most about her store’s collection of short gowns is their price point: costing between £300 and £500, they promise the bridal experience without breaking the bank. “I’ve seen lots of brands bringing out minis priced at more than £1,000, which puts them out of reach of many brides (especially if the mini is a second outfit or for a low-key affair),” notes Emily. Is the high street worth considering? “Yes, but be careful,” she says. “At the lower end of the price scale, white fabric in particular tends to be cheap, and gowns can be unlined and see-through.”

Pairing mini dresses with quirky accessories and statement shoes is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, and this kind of look could also work for your hen do.

Canar gown from Rosa Clara available at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Edinburgh
Canar gown with beaded lace playsuit by Rosa Clará, £POA, Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Edinburgh)

Choose trews

“I’m just not a dress person!” Those are words Chloe at Reflections Bridal Boutique in Kelso has heard so many times from her customers. Thankfully, she notes, nowadays you don’t have to be. Jumpsuits or sleek tailoring more your vibe? Go for it! “I love that women can now be their authentic selves on their wedding day,” she says. “Just because you’re not wearing a dress doesn’t make you any less a bride.”

Trouser suits aren’t exclusively for laid-back nuptials, either: accessories are a great way of amping up your ensemble to match any style of wedding. “Jumpsuits can work for a more relaxed day; but add a veil or a bold tiara and you’d still look very much the bride walking down the aisle in a church or a grand hotel,” Chloe adds.

Australian bridal designer Wendy Makin has plenty of cool jumpsuits and separates to choose from, and Chloe rates the label for brides who want a more out-of-the-ordinary ensemble. “Modeca or Randy Fenoli gowns also tend to have a modern edge and really push the bridal boundaries as well.”

If Michelle Kelly at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Edinburgh had to pick her favourite ‘out there’ bridal look just now, it would be Rosa Clará’s Canar gown (on p.14). This two-piece consists of a fully beaded playsuit with a romantic overskirt: “It is the ultimate day-to-night bridalwear option,” she says.

Two jumpsuits from Reflections Bridal Boutique
Left: Mena top and Phoebe pants, £POA; right: Amal jumpsuit, £POA, both by Wendy Makin, available at Reflections Bridal Boutique

Be true to yourself

“Today’s couples really want to show off their personalities when they wed. They’re spending a lot of money and they want to feel comfortable,” Alison Malcolm, designer at Alyce Jayne Bridal, tells us. The Glasgow brand offers a wealth of alternative options: cool separates; add-on sleeves and bodices; tulle overlay gowns with satin slips underneath; and colourful dresses. These are available to buy from the collection or you can go bespoke (where prices start at £1,600).

“Many brides want a certain look for the ceremony then something more comfortable for the party and dancing. If you opt for a two-piece or layering option, it gives you two looks in one,” Alison points out.

This is echoed by Michelle at Kudos Edinburgh, who says that a bride looking to combine a short dress with a more traditional look could opt for a tulle or organza overskirt that can be taken off when she is ready to make her transformation.

“Many people love the traditional look,” Alison adds, “but they can be put off for various reasons: standard dresses don’t always suit different body shapes, or perhaps you’re looking for more of a statement outfit that shows your personality. There’s no longer the same pressure to conform, and I think brides just want to be themselves.”