By Uday Sampath Kumar and Mehr Bedi
(Reuters) – Wedding guests should prepare for a few surprises at this year’s post-pandemic U.S. nuptials as people discard their sweatpants for sheer layering and body-hugging dresses.
Retailers are racing to tailor ensembles that capture that mood, with evening gowns and cocktail dresses taking pride of place at stores and websites as the United States prepares for 2.5 million ceremonies, the most since 1984.
“We have absolutely seen a push for sleek, bold, and more sensual styling with this year’s brides. After spending the last few years living in loungewear, she is embracing all things celebratory,” said Lori Conley, the executive in charge of merchandise at fashion brand Anthropologie’s bridal business.
Apparel inspired by period dramas “Bridgerton” on Netflix and HBO’s “The Gilded Age” is also gaining popularity, Durand Guion, head of Macy’s fashion office, said.
The rebound underscores a return to pre-pandemic lifestyles in the United States as vaccinations have helped with the removal of restrictions and eased fears of infections.
Total sales in 2022 of wedding-related products and services such as attire and catering will likely jump 31% to $68.66 billion from a year earlier, also well above pre-pandemic levels, The Wedding Report estimates.
BHLDN, Anthropologie’s wedding gown designing arm, has nearly doubled its inventory from last year, while clothing rental company Rent the Runway’s assortment for special occasions, which includes weddings and other social events, is 10% higher from pre-pandemic levels.
“The thousands of styles that we’re bringing in are more over-the-top celebratory in attitude than we’ve ever had on our platform in the past. We are embracing sexier styles and more fashion forward merchandise,” Rent the Runway Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Jennifer Hyman told Reuters.
Department store chains Macy’s Inc and Kohl’s Corp are also stocking up on evening gowns and party wear, with Kohl’s expanding space dedicated to dresses by 75%.
For Rent the Runway, the return of weddings and parties provides an opportunity to re-energize subscriber growth – its main revenue source – after the health crisis hit demand.
Months of supply chain disruption are still haunting retailers, however, with recent COVID-19 lockdowns in China likely to add to headaches over keeping shelves stocked.
“The supply chain was supposed to be largely back to normal by the middle to the end of the year. But as we move into wedding season … it doesn’t feel like supply is totally back to normal,” said Jefferies analyst Ashley Helgans.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath and Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)