From the boardwalk to the altar: T-shirt, shorts, bikinis and boot sellers are now dressing brides | CNN Business (2024)

From the boardwalk to the altar: T-shirt, shorts, bikinis and boot sellers are now dressing brides | CNN Business (1)

Boot Barn, a seller of cowboy boots and western clothing, launched its first wedding collection this year of affordable wedding wear and accessories.

New York CNN

Wedding dress shopping may never go back to what it used to be.

Instead of collecting your entire bridal entourage to spend a few hours at a boutique trying on several dresses for the perfect find at a lofty price of a $1,000 or more, some retailers are offering to make the wedding dress hunt as easy breezy as buying a T-shirt off the rack.

Taking their cue from Millennials and Gen Zers who are turning stuffy traditions on their head and marking life’s milestones moments — such as weddings — in their own pared down way, a string of affordable fashion brands have jumped into the weddings industry to appease thrifty shoppers with inexpensive bridal wear.

Abercrombie, Forever 21, Boot Barn, Shein and Lulus, better known for their tank tops, shorts, ripped jeans, bikinis, cowboy boots and sparkly dresses tailor-made for Beyoncé and Taylor Swift concertgoers, are trying to dress brides for much less.

A couple exchanges rings during a Valentine's Day wedding ceremony on the steps of the Miami-Dade County Courthouse on February 14, 2024, in Miami, Florida. Twenty couples tied the knot in an outdoor service conducted by the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Marriage License Bureau. Joe Raedle/Getty Images Related article Gen Z is getting married. Together with Millennials, they’re putting their own spin on weddings

The move isn’t a complete headscratcher. For one, it allows these mass-market brands to get their slice of the more than $100 billion US wedding industry, according to The Knot Worldwide, a wedding planning and vendor marketplace.

“These companies see bridal as a natural extension of their business given that they are already present in many of these product categories,” said Janine Stichter,managing director and consumer retail and lifestyle brands analyst with global financial services and market research firm BTIG.

Plus, many of their core customers are older GenZers and younger Millennials who are in the sweet spot age demographic for getting married and attending weddings, she said.

“The move into wedding wear makes sense so long as it’s not a distraction from their core business,” Stichter said.

One-stop-shop for jeans and a wedding dress

Clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch — which has undergone a major metamorphosis by shedding its overtly sexualized marketing strategy of the past to more on-trend, age-appropriate and parent-approved clothing — is continuing its evolution, by going after brides.

The retailer in March launched the A&F Wedding Shop, a collection of more than 100 pieces for brides, the bridal party and wedding guests, all priced from $80 to $150.

Beyond dresses, the collection includes items such as bikinis, pajamas and skirts for other events tied to the wedding.

“Our customers live for the long weekend, and when we asked them about their exciting upcoming getaways, we heard so many of them speak about wedding weekends, wedding-adjacent occasions, and the all-important question of what to wear, which this collection is perfectly designed to answer,” Carey Collins Krug, chief marketing officer of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., said in a statement announcing the launch.

Online trendy fashion seller Shein sells bridal wear that costs $100 or less.

In April, fast-fashion brand Forever 21 debuted its first bridal collection, priced from $9 to about $50. The clothing includes dresses, sleepwear, accessories, such as a wedding-ready cowboy hat with a veil affixed to it. A white strapless satin and lace midi dress from its bridal shop has a pricetag of $24.29, while another altar-ready white split-hem halter midi dress will set a bride back only $27. That’s a basem*nt bargain compared to the average wedding dress cost last year of $2,000.

California-based trendy fashion chain Lulus has also got in on the act by opening its first bridal boutique, with dresses ranging from $100 to $270, in Los Angeles in February.

“At Lulus, brides won’t have to compromise. Attaining that luxurious look without breaking their budgets isn’t a dream, it’s a reality,”Crystal Landsem, Lulus CEO, said in a statement in February.

The standalone bridal boutique builds on Lulus’ 2019 entry into wedding wear and “enables the brand to offer its customer-first online experience to brides in real life,” the retailer said in a press release.

That’s a smart move, said Allyson Rees, a senior insight strategist at trend forecasting and analytics firm WGSN, in an interview with CNN.

“For these bridal collections to land with Gen Z, It’s important that these brands tap into the way that Gen Z shops. Gen Z is always online, but 97% of US Gen Z still shop in-store,” Rees said. “Wedding dresses, in particular, and the tradition of trying them on, is a rite of passage that Gen Z still want to partake in. So brands will need to create compelling in-store experiences that encourage socializing.”

A lot less traditional

As the oldest GenZers reach marrying age in their mid-20s, they’re increasingly putting their own spin on nuptials and are letting go of some antiquated traditions.

Part of this is also being driven by these younger non-conforming consumers being forced into even more cost sensitivity thanMillennials.

“The cost-of-living crisis has affected Gen Z, and they feel deeply insecure about their finances,” said Rees. “Over half are living paycheck to paycheck and a third are living with their parents. So it’s no surprise that fast fashion, which has seen its market share increase over the last few years due to the cost-of-living crisis, is capitalizing on the need for affordable, on-trend wedding fashion.”

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At the same time, wedding fashion is a lot less traditional now, she said. With wedding dresses in particular, one trend that emerged during the pandemic was the popularity of black wedding gowns.

“Gen Z is very much picking up where Millennials left off here. So it’s not uncommon for brides to wear alternative colors to white, or to change outfits several times during the course of the event. So this an area where fast fashion brands can really fill a void,” Rees said.

Shein, which launched in 2012 and has since ballooned into the world’s biggest online-only fast-fashion seller, also sells bridal and wedding wear. Its bridal gowns cost on average between $50 and $100, up to a maximum of $200. On Memorial Day weekend, the retailer will open a wedding-related pop-up shop in Las Vegas to showcase its new bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses.

From the boardwalk to the altar: T-shirt, shorts, bikinis and boot sellers are now dressing brides | CNN Business (5)

Boot Barn has a new western-themed wedding collection of bridal dresses, cowboy boots, hats and accessories priced mostly at $400 and below.

“Affordable prices are important for Gen Z customers, who often balance the desire for fashionable and trendy styles with a need for options that won’t break the bank,” Lisa Zlotnick, spokesperson for Shein, said in an interview with CNN. “As wedding attire evolves from traditional, occasion-specific outfits to versatile, stylish pieces that can be worn on multiple occasions, we aim to ensure our offerings meet this increasing demand.”

Even Boot Barn, which sells cowboy boots and westernwear, has jumped on the wedding bandwagon for the first time, with its new western-themed wedding collection of bridal dresses, cowboy boots, hats and accessories priced mostly at $400 and below.

“There’s been a surge in country weddings and casual garden weddings coming out of the pandemic as people wanted to get married outdoors. These are also budget-friendly choices,” said Isha Nicole, senior vice president of marketing with Boot Barn, in an interview.

“Couples are trying to move away from something that is formal and stuffy to weddings that embrace a different setting. We looked at these trends and it seemed like a right time to support our customer,” Nicole said.

From the boardwalk to the altar: T-shirt, shorts, bikinis and boot sellers are now dressing brides | CNN Business (2024)
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