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Here Comes the Comfort

May 3, 2016

Catherine Salfino

It’s that time of year when something old, something new, something borrowed, and something comfortable…. Oh, wait — that’s not part of the traditional matrimonial rhyme. But for most brides, it very well could be.[quote]

While dreamlike styles epitomize the bridal category, many brides want a dress that will be comfortable from the pre-ceremony photos straight through to the last dance. That’s a lot of hours in a formal gown. So whether the nuptials take place in the warm-weather month of June, or the cool fall days of October — the top two months for weddings this year, according to The Wedding Report, a market research firm — designers are creating bridal confections that have the natural ease of cotton.

The Cotton Bride’s Fikre Ayele, co-founder with Chris Kole, says his studio’s brides love how cool and comfortable they feel in their gown.

“But, our brides are often as much in love with the idea of cotton as they are in the practical benefits it offers,” he says. “In terms of natural fabrics, none are as simple, pure and unpretentious as cotton. And it is those less obvious, more esoteric, qualities that many brides, and certainly we as the designers of The Cotton Bride, are drawn to and find so appealing.”

While, fit (94 percent), style (93 percent) and price (89 percent) factor highly in a bride’s wedding gown choice, comfort (88 percent) is important to brides, too, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. And almost 7 out of 10 women (69 percent) would consider purchasing a wedding gown with cotton as the primary fabric.



Nandi Chin, a Fort Lauderdale, FL-based designer says she’s made entire gowns whose entire composition is cotton, including styles made from “exquisite” floral lace.

“Today, bridal gowns come in all shapes and sizes, from a voluminous ball gown to slinky sheaths,” Chin says. “Cotton comes in a variety of hands. As a designer, I allow that to inspire the kind of silhouette I design. So I don’t believe it has to be a certain weight or weave to work — I make it work.”

Besides the designer bridal labels, women will find cotton wedding dresses carried by mainstream retailers like J. Crew and ModCloth.

There are, however, women who say they would not consider purchasing a wedding gown with cotton as the primary fabric, and the Monitor™ finds their main reason is they believe “cotton is not elegant” (42 percent).

But Ayele refutes that assessment, saying The Cotton Bride’s gowns go beyond a casual bohemian setting.

“If someone’s idea of a cotton wedding dress is nothing more than a long sun dress, then it would make sense to immediately think of casual beach weddings,” Ayele says. “But we do not make casual, long sun dresses. We make true, designer wedding dresses that are beautifully constructed and perfectly in sync with most any indoor or outdoor setting, be it a chapel, garden, vineyard, barn, mountainside, etc.  We just happen to use cotton, and other natural fabrics, to make our gowns.”

The Wedding Report finds most ceremonies are held closer to home, with just 12.5 percent of couples choosing destination weddings. The top destinations stateside are California and Florida, while outside the U.S., the Caribbean holds the top spot. But even if couples stay close to home, they still want themselves and their guests to feel “transported” to a far-off land. And couples think the location that will do that best is a vineyard (26.5 percent), followed by a castle (16.6 percent). The report cites the “open-air, natural gorgeousness of a vineyard” as a factor that helps “transport” guests, even if it’s within driving distance.

Like Ayele, Chin says the different weights and textures of cotton can make it suitable for any nuptial setting, especially if it’s part of the outdoor ceremonies that are growing in popularity.

“Cotton is such a breathable fabric, it makes it ideal for any type of outdoor wedding,” she says. “Working with brides, I find that one of their main concerns is being hot under all those layers. Many gowns are made with fabrics that don’t breathe well. So having a cotton gown is an advantage where this is concerned.”

Overall, compared to clothes made from manmade fibers, more than 8 in 10 consumers say cotton is the most comfortable (87%), sustainable (85%), trustworthy (85%), soft (85%), authentic (83%), and reliable (81%), according to the Monitor™.

And designers say cotton’s versatility makes it work with all of today’s looks. And right now that includes everything from a Kate Middleton-style lace-overlay gown to slim sheaths with sexy cutouts.

Chin says delicate, long lace sleeves and over skirts are two of her personal favorites that are trending right now. And Ayele says the slim, fluid romantic look remains a top contender with most brides.

“Bridal tastes and preferences are constantly evolving so we need to design dresses that today’s bride can see herself in,” he says. “As dressmakers, designers and artists, however, most of our new styles are born out of our love for the creative process. If we find a stunning new piece of cotton lace or fabric, it will often inspire us to design a brand new gown simply for the creative challenge and artistic pleasure it gives us. And, if we like the final result, it gets put into the collection.”