More brides opting for pants rather than classic gowns

Amal Clooney wore a Stella McCartney white two-piece custom suit for her legal civil ceremony to George Clooney (both centre) in Venice in 2014.
Amal Clooney wore a Stella McCartney white two-piece custom suit for her legal civil ceremony to George Clooney (both centre) in Venice in 2014. PHOTO: PIERRE TEYSSOT/ AFP/GETTY IMAGES

NEW YORK • Some women are saying no to the dreamy walk along the aisle in a flowing gown of lace, silk and chiffon. They will instead take their spotlight stroll in wedding pants.

For these brides, young and old alike, stripping away the tulle and tiaras allows them to explore more honest modes of self-presentation, they say.

"I think the typical vision of a bride is an outdated thing," said Ms Courtney Raniszewski, 28, a freelance fashion stylist in New York, who says she will not wear a dress when she gets married next month.

"You don't want to try to adhere to an archaic image of a woman," she said. "You just want to feel like you."

Elizabeth Suzann, a Nashville- based designer, offers her Florence pants in washed silk crepe-back satin for US$365 (S$491) for brides who may feel as frustrated as she did when searching for a less feminine wedding outfit. She was inspired to "offer something that I didn't see out there, for people like me who don't feel comfortable in flowers and lace", she said of her White Collection.

I think the typical vision of a bride is an outdated thing. You don’t want to try to adhere to an archaic image of a woman. You just want to feel like you.

MS COURTNEY RANISZEWSKI, who says she will not wear a dress
when she gets married nex tmonth

Ms Kelsey Taylor Hunt, 29, a merchandiser at Etsy, wore a white leopard-print A.L.C. tuxedo suit jacket and cigarette pants (which her husband encouraged her to buy) to her New York City Hall wedding in September 2014. "I believe more in self-expression," she said of her wedding attire.

Ms Kate Siegel, director of public relations and marketing at Houghton, added: "I find that Australian and European brides are a lot more fashion-forward and willing to do a pants or romper look for their ceremony." Most American brides, she said, seem to save those styles for the reception.

A smattering of high-profile brides has also exchanged trains for trousers. Lawyer Amal Clooney wore a Stella McCartney white two-piece custom suit (with black detail and a matching floppy hat) for her 10-minute legal civil ceremony to actor George Clooney in Venice. (But she did opt for an Oscar de la Renta gown for the more elaborate wedding ceremony the same weekend.)

Ms Olivia Palermo, a socialite, wed model Johannes Huebl in white Carolina Herrera shorts with a tulle skirt overlay. And Solange Knowles, singer and sister of Beyonce, arrived at her ceremony in New Orleans in a Stephane Rolland jumpsuit.

"Wedding dresses, like every other garment in our wardrobes, reflect social and cultural change," said Ms Edwina Ehrman, curator of textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

She suggested that the informality of pants and their traditionally gendered heritage made them perhaps "too assertive or too unisex" a choice for brides, reasoning that their recent popularity "may be no more than a reflection of a wider fashion trend and the current interest in clothes that blur traditional gender divisions".

As marriage is transformed alongside cultural reconsideration of gender, sexuality, adulthood and identity, it is conceivable that traditional wedding trappings, such as dresses, may fall away, according to Rebecca Traister, author of All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women And The Rise Of An Independent Nation.

Ms Mary Pat Lee, 29, a sales manager from Honolulu, decided to let her bridesmaids in on the lasting nature of pants and eased the strain on their wallets. She chose J. Crew floral silk pants for her bridal party, knowing that dresses would likely be unworn after her ceremony in Honolulu last August. And they were on sale for less than US$60.

When it comes to the media messages from the wedding industry - currently worth US$60 billion in the United States, according to an Ibisworld report - Traister said, "the selling of the big dress as the pinnacle achievement of female adulthood is only intensified as it becomes clear that there are so many other achievements of female adulthood".

"It's not accidental that the fetishisation of 'say yes to the dress' comes at the same time that the other things women are saying 'yes' to are things like advanced degrees and salaries that are competitive to men's and running for the presidency," she said.

Ms Lili Garfinkel, 66, a national commercial real estate consultant based in New York, wore white palazzo pants for her second marriage. She and her husband even abstained from buying each other wedding bands for their ceremony at New York City Hall in February. Instead, he borrowed one while Ms Garfinkel slipped on three stackable rings she already owned.

Unlike at her first wedding in the 1980s, where "everything was within conventional parameters", she felt sartorially and ceremonially unconstrained.

"I didn't feel like I had to yield to convention."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Some brides say no to the dress - but yes to pants'. Print Edition | Subscribe