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Saying “YES” to Cotton

March 4, 2015

Catherine Salfino

With the close of the “engagement season,” future brides and grooms start thinking about the details of their Big Day. Of course, the gown and tuxedo are two of the biggest decisions to be considered, and never has the ability to express their own tastes been more important to both.[quote]

“I don’t think the rule of ‘all white’ is so much a factor in a bride’s choice,” says designer Claire Pettibone, who is known for her romantic cotton bridal fashions. “And what is acceptable for brides has a much wider range than ever before.”

As for men, “I’m sure there are some guys for whom a tux will always mean black and traditional, which is great – I love those too,” says Bonobos’ Dwight Fenton, vice president of design. “However, I would say the naturally adventurous, sartorially speaking, will be more immediately inclined to try a navy cotton tux.”

Consumers describe cotton as comfortable (88%) and soft (85%), according to the Cotton Incorporated 2013 Environment Survey, so it makes sense they would want it on the day they might be in the same outfit from morning until late at night. Almost 7 out of 10 women (69%) would consider purchasing a wedding gown with cotton as the primary fabric, according to Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. Women ages 18-to‐24 (77%) are significantly more likely than women ages 35‐to-70 (64%) to consider buying a cotton wedding gown. When it comes to suits, cotton and cotton blends are the top fibers of choice for men (40%).

Today’s brides will see gowns are trending toward more body-conscious styles that feature detailed backs, embroidery and lace, as well as delicate beading. Grooms will be able to deck themselves out in a more traditional black cotton tux, or try a version in blue or marled twill. Gowns and tuxes account for just part of the wedding industry, which is valued at more than $54 billion in the U.S., according to WeConnectFashion.com.

This is the first season Bonobos is offering a 100% cotton tuxedo, after making cotton suits for the last four years.

“The cotton tux is a great option for spring-summer weddings, since it’s lightweight and breathable,” says Fenton. “We’ve had a great response so far – it’s almost sold out. It’s a modern take on a classic menswear piece. It’s very versatile and looks just as good with a pair of Vans slip-ons as it does with dress shoes. The navy is also a great alternative to a classic black tux.”

Bonobos is in good company, as designers like Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, and Etro have been adding cotton tux pieces to their mix.

“If I had to give a reason for the practicality of a cotton tux over traditional wool, it would definitely be the lightweight, breathability of cotton, which would make it ideal for a warm weather wedding be it destination or not,” Fenton says. “But the real reason we did a cotton tux is that we loved deconstructing the tuxedo both in reputation and details. We just thought it would be cool. Tuxedos used to mean two things: black and formal. This one is the snarky younger brother to that traditional tux. It understands the rules and listens to them just enough to not get in trouble.”

Modern grooms can find edgier formalwear inspiration by looking no further than the recent red carpet ceremonies. Celebs like Jared Leto, Matt Bomer, and John Legend rocked the recent award shows in flattering, yet non-traditional styles. Of course, the red carpet may be providing brides with some inspiration, too.

Pettibone says that’s because a wedding can be seen as a non-celebrity’s red carpet moment.

“With the popularity of celeb style, and the influence it has across the board, it’s no surprise that bridal style would be influenced as well,” says Pettibone, whose famous wearers include Carrie Underwood and Mark Zuckerberg’s bride.

The Cotton Bride’s Fikre Ayele, co-founder and designer, agrees.

“Without question, the gowns and dresses being worn on the red carpet have a direct impact on the aesthetic choices brides are making,” he says. “While Hollywood has always had a stylistic influence on fashion in general, this has become more and more pronounced with the enormous growth of media coverage devoted to celebrity style and fashion on television, the internet, and in print in recent years.”

For sure, consumers say their clothing ideas come from the internet (32%), fashion magazines (19%), TV shows (16%), and celebrities (10%), according to the MonitorTM survey.

Of course, the popularity of destination weddings has had an impact on what the bride chooses to wear. Among U.S. couples, destination weddings represent 24% of all weddings, according to XO Group Inc.

“The rise in popularity of destination weddings is part of a much larger shift towards non-traditional and more relaxed weddings in general,” Fikre says. “This, in turn, is what we see as most influencing the wedding planning choices that brides are making today. In terms of the wedding dress itself, while styling remains an important consideration, weighty, voluminous gowns and over-embellished designs are losing ground to a simpler aesthetic that is more organic and fluid, and that places as much importance on how a dress feels and moves as how it looks.”

Pettibone says her collection has always appealed to destination brides – mostly because such ceremonies have a more relaxed style.

“Everyone is feeling that ‘vacation’ vibe, and so the bride usually opts for a flowing, effortless look,” Pettibone says. “That doesn’t mean that her gown is not embellished or elaborate, just that it should appear to be in harmony with the setting.”