The white wedding dress has been a rite of passage into our cultural retina for almost 200 years. It connects millions of women around the world, including little girls wearing pillowcases, mother-in-law taking care of too much cleavage, and brides surrounded by their best friends drinking free fizzy drinks and giggling over taffeta.

No sooner had Mel, my seven-year-old friend, made a suggestion for box wine and Doritos in a tree house in California than the algorithms flooded my Instagram with tulle and veil. Color wasn’t even an issue. Which was a problem because while I was all for dramatic wedding dresses, my assignment to baffled bridal shops in London was, “A colorful ball gown that is a cross between Frida Kahlo and a drag queen.”

Valentino’s ball gown was Alice’s main inspiration © @ pppiccioli

After searching dusty closets for the same ankle-length bridesmaid outfits in blush, gold, and silver that are considered “colorful bridal gowns” in every bridal blog’s bleak annual roundup, they gave up. “Try Selfridges,” sighed an assistant.

That’s exactly what documentary filmmaker Helen Conlan did when she married her gallerist husband in a floor-length yellow dress by Roksanda Ilincic in 2016 after walking around the high-end store like a kid and pulling beautiful dresses off the shelves. ‘The 43-year-old from East Dulwich, London said: “It is in the interests of bridal shops to continue the tradition that a’ real wedding ‘must have a white dress. But so many people don’t fit that shape. I felt great in this dress. ‘

Helen Conlan in her yellow Roksanda wedding dress © Clean Plate Pictures

But after spending hours at Selfridges, Liberty, and Harvey Nichols, flipping through Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi, I found that off-the-shelf prices weren’t exactly lower. The best colorful dresses were £ 4,000 + by Monique Lhuillier, Marchesa, Carolina Herrera and Vera Wang. I realized that bridal shops, whether brightly colored or not, offer something special. It’s not just about putting clothes together for every budget – with an in-house tailor so that they fit like a glove, changing the neckline, adding a train or changing the fabric if I feel like it – but also about a “bridal experience”, I sadly wanted to stand in my pants in another dingy dressing room on my lunch break and really wanted to.

I couldn’t be the only one?

Mel (L) and Alice (R) on their wedding day

Mel (L) and Alice (R) on their wedding day © Miss Gen.

In 2018, well before designers started sewing beads on face masks, an estimated 11% of British brides (around 25,000) opted for non-white outfits, according to the annual Bride Book survey. Not a rush, but anecdotally the numbers are rising as the LGBT + and BAME communities put pressure on the country’s £ 10 billion wedding industry to be more inclusive of diverse sexualities and non-Western cultures – like my British-Cantonese fiancée, the one would wear red silk qun kwa embroidered with gold and silver thread.

With Covid unleashing a record number of elopements and bolder outfits from couples freed from the stress of a big company, isn’t it finally time for a change? The problem boils down to tradition and economy.

Brides spend an average of £ 1,313 on their outfit, with the majority using boutiques 52 weekends a year, limited to eight to 15 appointments per day. This forces designers competing in a tough market to pursue the 80-90% who want to wear white.

“In many ways, the white dress juggernaut has become structural and self-enduring, like the diamond engagement ring that De Beers invented in a marketing campaign in the 1930s,” said Naoise McNally, founder of wedding blog[OneFabDay[OneFabDay[OneFabDay[OneFabDay

The blogger, who tried to find a brightly colored wedding dress for herself before giving up, added: “A lot of designers like Jenny Packham offer red in Asia, but here it’s mostly pastel colors. And while they do well on Instagram, there aren’t enough sales to make financial sense. ‘

Emma Chapman of Epic Love Story, a leading alternative wedding photographer with brides in blue sequins, pink suits, and cowboy boots, points out social pressures. “I see a lot of FOMO that they’re going to be missing out on that big white dress,” she said, “but a massive problem is parents who think if adding to the cost the bride must have a certain look if she is.” she should be allowed to be herself. ‘

Temperley London's Bibi Dress

Temperley London’s Bibi Dress

Kate Halfpenny and Alice Temperley could no longer agree. Favorite by everyone from Kate Moss to Kate Middleton, the two British bridal designers are leaders in adding color to the UK industry.

While Temperley’s Toledo, Bibi, and Carnation designs – with their colorful embroidery – have become iconic staples, Halfpenny enables brides to customize designs in color if desired. Both say that keeping UK manufacturing going will allow them to take more risks financially. And it pays off.

When former Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh wore the Halfpenny Mayfair gown in pink, the brand was “swamped with brides”. Halfpenny, who has styled everyone from Rihanna to Twiggy, said, “People are scared of not looking like a bride, but if you feel amazing in it, this is your wedding dress. We encourage brides to come alone for the first appointment so they don’t have an audience to tell them what to think. ‘Temperley said, “There are no rules, the less the better – then it’s more original.”

Real bride Alana in Sarah Seven's Marigold Sullivan

Real Bride Alana in Sarah Sevens Marigold Sullivan © Jenn Brookes

But the star of the colorful wedding dresses is the US-based Sarah Seven – one of the few high-end designers who shows colorful dresses without pastels, black or sequins in her permanent western collection. Their hugely popular marigold, Sullivan, which can be found in boutiques in London and Northern Ireland, was launched in 2015. From New York, she said, “I expected to lose money, but it was an amazing achievement. Brides go to incredible lengths to get it. Sarah advises designers considering color: “Be brave. It can put you on the map. ‘

Alice (L) and her wife (R) in their wedding outfits

Alice (L) and her wife Mel (R) in their wedding outfits © Miss Gen.

As for my show stopper, the industry may be on the rise, but it hasn’t caught up in time. So I adjusted my own, bought a red Roland Mouret number, and with the help of tailor Lena London and artist Jess, added a neon pink train to Chan. It was perfect.

Alice's mother Jane wore her own wedding outfit in 1978

Alice’s mother Jane wore her own wedding outfit in 1978

I can even wear it again – just like my late mother. In 1978 she walked down the aisle in a gray and brown high street dress. She once said, “Years later, your father said he wished I had worn white, and I replied,” What I was wearing has nothing to do with you, you are just lucky that I showed up. “

Alice, Baby Lame and Mel

Alice, Baby Lame and Mel © Miss Gen.

I got my ‘White Fix’ and turned into a silky ASOS jumpsuit for the disco, in which we were with Baby Lame, the punk horror, the bearded drag queen and the only ‘bride’ wearing a white dress, Standing under the stars on my wedding day

Alice Hutton in her made-to-measure red Roland Mouret dress1 of 12CREDIT: Miss Gen.Freddie Harrel in a jumpsuit by By Natacha Baco on their wedding day2 of 12CREDIT: @freddieharrel    Tori Elizabeth in an Elizabeth Dye dress for her engagement to Keegan Phillip3 of 12CREDIT: @michellescottphotoValentino Haute Couture SS194 of 12CREDIT: @pppiccioliFor her first marriage to Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor wore a yellow dress by Cleopatra's costume designer Irene Sharaff5 of 12CREDIT: Getty Images@emma_epiclovestory6 of 12CREDIT: @emma_epiclovestoryFor her wedding to Gavin Rossdale in 2001, Gwen Stefani wore a John Galliano ombre dress7 of 12CREDIT: Getty ImagesMillie Mackintosh in Halfpenny London's pink Mayfair dress8 of 12CREDIT: @katehalfpennyThe bride @emani_divine wore a red tulle dress from Oyemwen9 of 12CREDIT: @ynot_imagesMandy Moore wore a pink Rodarte dress for her 2018 wedding10 of 12CREDIT: @mandymooremmIn 2012, Cynthia Nixon wore a yellow ruffled dress for her wedding to Christine Marinoni11 of 12Temperley London's Bibi Dress12 of 12