Ask the Editor: A Modern Wedding Dress

Jan 29, 2019

Who doesn’t love a little bit of wedding shopping?  Let’s take an afternoon coffee break and help someone find their dress.

Hi Abra,

I loved your wedding posts, they’re amazing! I’m getting married in an outdoor summer wedding. Our theme is roughly “one step above eloping” – help! I’m looking for sleek, modern instead of princess-y, and the Wedding Industrial Complex is making me crazy.

With love, A.

Sleek and modern. That shouldn’t be too hard.  And since you’re sort of eloping, I’ll keep my choices under-$1000.

Rachel Zoe has a few options worth considering.  This long-sleeve dress has a bit of sequin on the sleeve and a deep-v back.  But for a summer wedding, you may want something with less coverage.  So check out this satin gown has a modern shape with a hint of lace and a lot of drama in the back.

This Dessy gown at Nordstrom has a sleek feel and cool open back.  It’s also an affordable $271.  But this gown is ivory, so if you need something similar in white, this Noel and Jean gown fits the bill.  It also comes in plus-size.

For one last pick, I like this Bronx and Banco trumpet gown.  The pearl accents are feminine but not frilly.  For something really different, try this tulip gown from the same brand.

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  1. Sam says:

    Check out BHLDN. I bought my short, lace, quasi-elopement dress there. They have a wide range of styles and prices.

    • Crystal says:

      Seconded! My friend just bought her wedding dress at BHLDN (for a summer wedding in LA) and I love it — fun but still classy and relatively simple. I looked through their selections and liked a lot of their options, particularly for a less stuffy ceremony and reception.

    • A says:

      Question asker reporting back in: I want to like BHLDN! I really do! But then someone says the name out loud, ‘beholden’ and I want to burn it all down.

      I keep wanting to make a fake wedding dress site with names like ‘Ball and Chain’ or ‘Entrapment’ or… you can tell that the Wedding Industrial Complex is getting to me.

  2. Cait says:

    I’m a huge fan of BHLDN (by Anthropologie) if you’re looking for non-traditional and very reasonably priced. Also – they ship fast, unlike “traditional” bridal shops that take a few months (different business models).

    Here is their “modern” collection:
    https://www.bhldn.com/bride-wedding-dresses-modern-looks/

    and “city hall”
    https://www.bhldn.com/bride-city-hall/?cm_sp=LEFTNAV-_-SUB_CATEGORY-_-BRIDE_CITYHALL

    *I don’t work for BHLDN but I did get my dress there. Kinda obsessed 🙂

  3. Siri says:

    After this, if you’re still struggling to find something that you like/fits what you have in mind, I got my dress custom-made at Anomalie (https://www.dressanomalie.com/). Prices start at $1,000 or so – mine was a bit more complicated, but came in at well under half the cost of the dresses I was looking at (with much better fabric, too). I’m still so thrilled I went with them.

    • Belle says:

      It says it takes 8 months to get the dress, is that right?

      • Siri says:

        I started the whole process about six months before my wedding – I got my dress after five (and then did some minor alterations). That matches what I am seeing in the FAQs. That said, they were pretty new when I reached out to them so it may be taking longer now that they have more customers – I have two friends who have gotten their dresses there recently (both very different and both gorgeous), I think they’re really taking off. It also depends how long you take to make decisions, etc. I had a pretty firm idea of what I wanted going in, which probably helped.

  4. Sarah says:

    Wear a dress that isn’t white/off-white/egg shell/etc. If you are sick of the Wedding Industrial Complex, go a different route! We had a small ceremony that sounds more like yours and I wore a beautiful blue, knee length dress that that I’ve worn several times to evening events. Not only did I think I looked amazing the day we got married in a dress that is a great color on me, I’ve had so much fun rewearing it. And I was making a bit of a statement that I don’t support the Wedding Industrial Complex either.

    • Jennifer says:

      The Madison is gorgeousssssss but also very sheer in white. Definitely factor some kind of shapewear into your budget for that one.

  5. DJ says:

    I bought my dress from the Dessy website itself (https://dessy.com/) which has a ton of styles that you can get in white/ivory and since they are technically bridesmaid dresses, they are less expensive and less elaborate than many + they have sales/free shipping from time to time!

  6. Susan says:

    Just came here to say that this post and comments made me so happy! I too am a happily eloped/married and very opposed to the wedding industrial complex in this country. I eloped ten years ago and there was NOTHING in between the Disney princess bride and a Hillary Clinton/mother of the bride pantsuit. Kudos to you modern ladies!!

  7. C says:

    I had a very similar wedding last summer, and wore an Elizabeth Suzann jumpsuit in ivory (they have them in linen or silk) – https://elizabethsuzann.com/collections/dresses-jumpsuits/products/mara-jumpsuit-midweight-linen?variant=1021463167001. It might seem a bit odd to wear a jumpsuit, but it felt like it reinforced the ‘one step above elopement’ vibe, and the fact that it was white and elegant meant that it still felt a tiny bit traditional/bridal.

  8. Clarissa says:

    Nicole Miller has great, simple bridal and as a bonus you can usually find them on consignment at great prices. When I looked for my dress I thought I would buy a cheaper dress from Nordstrom or wherever, but the design and structure that goes into a $300 dress isn’t great compared to official bridal lines and it really showed when I tried them on. Nicole Miller was a nice option in between that and the crazy say yes to the dress crowd. I got a different dress, but NM “Abigail” was really lovely.

  9. Sharon says:

    An acquaintance wore a gorgeous beaded Jenny Packham dress at her 2016 wedding… but she definitely had the budget for it. It was very modern in its cut, but with a lot of very cute antique details. I second everyone’s recommendations for BHLDN, they have very similar boho-chic dresses, but at a much more reasonable price point.

  10. Maggie says:

    I had a similar struggle. A wedding boutique suggested I look at the bridesmaid dresses and order one in white. It took me about half an hour to find the perfect dress after that. Best of all, it was under $500. Good luck!

  11. Devon says:

    I got this dress for my outdoor, summer, one-step-above-elopement wedding last year: https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/bardot-cutout-detail-tiered-maxi-dress/4816206

    It fit beautifully for a $150 price tag. It’s sold out at Nordstrom but on sale for $80 at Neiman Marcus: https://www.neimanmarcus.com/p/bardot-v-neck-sleeveless-cutout-tiered-maxi-dress-prod207890240

  12. RR says:

    We just got married and “just above eloping” is a perfect description for our wedding so this made me excited! We got married at City Hall and had a small family/friends brunch immediately after – I wore the Alexis Elize dress with a white Lele Sadoughie headband and gold Loeffler Randall heels. The next day we had a big reception and I wore a silver sequin ML dress with the same shoes in silver.

    Anyways, sorry to highjack but I just had to comment! When I was shopping, I had a ton of luck at Revolve, BHLDN and Anthro!

  13. Melissa says:

    Possibly a little late to the party, but if you looking for a shorter dress (I did this for my 20 person, “1 step above elopement” wedding), you might try looking at bridesmaid dresses. (This could also be true if looking for something long but not overly princess)

    MOST dresses can be ordered in ivory/white/etc and this allows for a wide choice of styles while also preserving price point.After visiting multiple salons seeking this specific aesthetic and not having anything resonate, a consultant actually clued me in to the above and needless to say, I was able to find a dress I loved.

  14. Anna says:

    For an alternative to BHLDN, Needle and Thread has some absolutely gorgeous things that I think you could absolutely wear to a wedding. I bought a NWT J Crew gown from Ebay shortly after the line folded and was very happy with it, but I think if I had known about N&T I would have gown that route.

  15. Andrea says:

    The TJ Maxx online site has some bridal dresses. https://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/shop/bride-dresses/_/N-2497926153?ln=1:1:clothing
    I’ve also seen some in the stores, including J Crew bridal gowns for $100 and less this week (and these are not locations with a Runway section).

  16. Jules says:

    I got a Claire Pettibone dress which was more on the casual/boho side – I had an outdoor beach wedding and it was perfect! Their site has a sample sale section with options in the $1200-$1600 range if that is in your budget.

  17. AmanDa says:

    Congratulations! I can’t recommend the book The Practical Wedding highly enough – We got married last August, and this book has become my go-to gift for ladies who are doing their best to keep it together when the wedding industrial complex tries to make you feel crazy. Best wishes!

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