Full, fluffy, poufy or OTT. Whatever you call it, it’s happening: the big wedding dress is back.
Okay, so it never totally disappeared. But after years of slinky, sheer and figure-hugging silhouettes reigning supreme on the runways, the fuller skirt is taking centre stage once again *throws hands up in celebration*. It might not be quite how you imagine, though. Of course, the tried-and-tested Cinderella skirt is always going to have staying power, but a ball gown isn’t the only way to wear a big skirt. Nope. Instead, think 3D embellishments, textured fabrics and even feathers. These design elements will create volume and movement, without the need for crinolines, hoops or 20-layered underskirts à la My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. To show you how you can add some extra va-va-voom to your frock, we’ve picked out design elements that do just that.
Add another skirt...
An overlay or overskirt is the ultimate wedding dress hybrid: an extra layer of tulle, organza or lace worn over a slim-fitting gown. It’s the best of both worlds, and a great option for brides who are torn between a contemporary design and those Disney Princess feels. The overskirt is often detachable, so you can have a traditional full-looking dress for the ceremony and photos but then whip it off when it’s time to party at the reception. To make this look more modern, opt for an overlay in a different fabric to the rest of your dress. A satin skirt looks beautiful paired with a lace dress, while tulle and beaded fabrics also make a dreamy duo. If you go for a sheer overskirt, be sure to ask your photographer for some back-lit photos – you’ll see the outline of the dress underneath and the result is ah-mazing.
A feather-light touch
Move over Big Bird, feathers aren’t just for you anymore – brides are getting in on them too. A scattering of feathers will give your dress instant volume, as well as adding a super tactile element. Before you start conjuring up images of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert-inspired plumes, we’re not talking about OTT peacock feathers or the neon kind you buy in a multi-pack from a craft store. The most common type of feathers for a wedding dress are goose or ostrich. Feathers are a quirky way of giving a fuller effect without going for a ball gown or heavy fabric – think of it as a bridal optical illusion. We love this Lela Rose design with its blanket of feathers and angular pattern, but you could easily go for a skirt that has a light dusting of feathers from the mid-thigh down.
The 3D effect
Prefer florals to feathers? A wedding dress scattered with 3D motifs or embroidery is a contemporary way to give any gown a full skirt, no hoops or itchy petticoats required. The eye will be drawn to the outer edges of the motifs, rather than the line of your skirt. Floral motifs are the most popular option for brides, but butterflies and geometric shapes can be just as pretty. A skirt totally covered with motifs makes for a dramatic look, while cascading motifs that begin at the waist and become heavier below the knee will work for brides wanting something more understated. Avoid placing motifs around the waist as it will make the area look wider.
Get touchy feely
A fuller skirt can be done without florals or feathers. You’ll just need to work with a textured fabric, preferably one that already comes with volume-boosting powers. This style does rely on silhouette more heavily than 3D motifs or overskirts, but a simple A-line fits the bill. An A-line dress suits most body shapes too, so it's a great option for brides uncomfortable in form-fitting designs. Using a textured fabric is all about tricking the eye into thinking the skirt is bigger than it is. A fabric that is tightly ribbed or has tiny raised dots – brocade, damask, dupioni or hammered satin – will do the trick. Pleating or pressing the fabric will help too. There is one (tiny) downside to wearing textured fabrics: it’s incredibly tactile and chances are people will want to feel it, so beware food stains and make-up marks!
Stack 'em up
Tiers don’t just belong on a cake – they're also a fun way of adding instant volume to your gown and making it extra fluffy. A frilly frock with narrow, stacked tiers has plenty of swish-factor, and wider tiers are ideal for making a statement. Tulle is perfect for brides wanting a modern take on a princess dress; organza can be cut for contemporary, asymmetrical tiers; and lightweight fabrics can be tiered for a floaty, boho look. The clever thing about this style is that the tiers will create movement even when paired with a more streamlined silhouette like a column dress or a subtle A-line. To take your tiers up a notch, trim them with pretty laces or beaded fabrics. One thing to remember: where the tiers start and end can cut your body in odd places, so it’s always best to experiment with how many suit your height and shape before your designer or dressmaker cuts any fabric.
A skirt with layered fabric is the cousin to a tiered wedding dress. One of the most popular ways to rock a layered skirt is having the fabric pinned into ruffle-style waves. Of course, more fabric will create more volume, but it will also create extra weight. So keep that in mind if you’re planning on walking through fields for your photos or booking a venue with lots of stairs. Another unique take on a layered skirt takes its cues from the peplum. Instead of the peplum ending just above the hips though, the flared cut of fabric continues to the floor like a train – we’ve dubbed this one the super peplum. This style tends to work with slimmer fitting dresses (the contrast between the two skirts looks stunning) but that’s really the only guideline.
It’d be easy to think that more fabric equals more volume, right? Uh-huh. A short dress can have the same fullness of its long-skirt counterparts, and pulling it off can be as simple as incorporating one of the design elements above – feathers, 3D motifs, layers. A more structured fabric, such as satin or brocade, can be shaped into a skirt that flares out from the hip. Brides wanting laces or silks will need to think about layering these lighter fabrics; a frothy tulle underskirt or petticoat is also an option. Finding ‘the (short) one’ might take some extra graft, so if you’re struggling don’t panic just yet. It could be worth looking into the skirt-and-top combo. Doing this will be your chance to flex your fashion muscles and pair two separate pieces – go wild with mix-and-match fabrics, contrasting embellishments or even different colours.