THE NEW BRIDAL: WHY BRIDES WANTING TO REWEAR THEIR ROMANTIC WEDDING DRESSES LOOK TO CECILIE BAHNSEN
For our series 'The New Bridal', Natalie Hughes speaks to Copenhagen designer Cecilie Bahnsen – and five of her brides – about wedding dresses designed for rewearing.
This article was originally published on ELLE.com
Thanks to Cecilie Bahnsen, the wear-once wedding dress is becoming a thing of the past. Bahnsen brides – our moniker for those who don an outfit by the Danish designer for the big day – wear theirs again and again, long after the confetti has been thrown and the disco ball has stopped spinning. Identifiable by soft volume and couture-like detailing, Bahnsen’s dresses have that rare quality that equips them for all manner of occasions – weddings included.
Cecilie Bahnsen didn’t choose bridal; bridal chose Cecilie Bahnsen, after a number of stylish brides began choosing the designer’s white dresses for their weddings. ‘It’s such a compliment,’ Bahnsen tells me from her Copenhagen studio. ‘We thought it would be special to create a dedicated section on our website and a story around that.’ The Bridal Edit was born as a curation of styles that are wedding-appropriate. No piece is designed for this exclusive purpose, although naturally, some tend to stand out as such.
‘For the last show we did these really big bows at the back [of pieces] that had the feeling of a veil,’ Bahnsen says. ‘I also love the sheer layers and the movement they create – there’s something in the transparency of those styles that lends itself very well to bridal.’
The aforementioned bows appeared in pairs upon models’ shoulders, transforming them into winged creatures. It’s the stuff of pure romance, and unsurprisingly, it’s captured many a bride-to-be’s heart – in some cases, even before the engagement has taken place.
‘I'll never forget the moment when I laid eyes on a Cecilie Bahnsen creation for the very first time,’ says Nuria Val, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Rowse Beauty. ‘I distinctly recall thinking, if I ever get married, it'll be in a Cecilie Bahnsen dress.’ Val stuck to her word and wore the cloudlike Snow dress for her 2023 nuptials to photographer Coke Bartrina. Bahnsen even created a miniature version for their daughter, Oli.
For others, getting married is the perfect opportunity to invest in their very first Cecilie Bahnsen piece. ‘I’ve always loved Cecilie’s designs,’ says Art Director Ailie Philip, who chose an open-back, floral-applique dress for her special day. ‘A wedding was the perfect excuse to finally treat myself.’ Similarly, Japanese bride Yukina Yoshida fulfilled a longstanding dream when she wore the Selena top (one of the designer’s personal favourites) and Damara skirt at her wedding reception earlier this year. ‘Ever since I was a student, it has been a dream of mine to wear Cecilie Bahnsen at my wedding,’ Yoshida says.
Almost all of the Bahnsen brides I spoke to described their wedding dress as special yet comfortable (an adjective rarely used to describe traditional bridal gowns), and perhaps most importantly, a natural extension of their own personalities. ‘I felt like myself, just in a slightly nicer dress than usual,’ says fashion historian Ruby Redstone, of the puff-sleeved design she wore for her 2019 wedding at Sunset Beach on Shelter Island, New York. ‘And I could dance all night without changing!’
Swedish blogger and presenter Elsa Billgren rented two of the designer’s dresses for the renewal of her wedding vows in 2020 – white for the day and pink for the evening. ‘I always feel like a better version of myself in Cecilie Bahnsen’s dresses,’ she says.
‘I think that’s the beauty of it,’ says Bahnsen. ‘That the woman gets to be her and it gets to be her day.’ The designer delights in the myriad ways her dresses are worn and styled in a bridal context. She describes the wedding of her friend, model and Co-Founder of Caro Editions, Caroline Bille Brahe, as the perfect example.
‘The first wedding dress I ever made was for Caroline and her 12 bridesmaids,’ she tells me. ‘That's always been the starting point of bridal for us. Everybody was wearing different dresses and styled them in their own way. And really, yes, it was my dresses, but it was also each girl and her individuality, and also Caroline in her dress, it was so much her.’
Bahnsen’s designs are ethereal yet easy to wear, unabashedly pretty but totally cool. They defy categorisation and transcend dress codes, which is why they can be worn again and again. ‘I have already reworn my wedding dress a few times!’ says Redstone. ‘In fact, I just bought a slightly different version of it in blue because it is my favourite dress.’
In general, it’s not uncommon for brides to get their dress altered so they can rewear it. Curious, I ask Bahnsen if she has ever received such a request. ‘Not yet,’ she says. ‘But I think that really just speaks to how I generally see the collection, that you could wear [my pieces] for a special occasion, but also on a Monday in a totally different way.’
Bahnsen brides-to-be are invited to book an appointment, online or in-person at Cecilie Bahnsen’s new Copenhagen space. ‘You fill out a little questionnaire before with what you’re looking for, and Belinda from my team makes a beautiful edit of wedding dresses for each private appointment,’ Bahnsen says. ‘We now offer made-to-order and fully bespoke bridal, which is very new for us.’
As part of the bespoke service, Cecilie and her team can even unearth much-coveted, past-season shapes and styles. ‘We see a lot of brides who are very excited about dresses from a few seasons ago, so we have also managed to bring back silhouettes from the archive. The custom offering extends to bridesmaids and flower girls, too. ‘You can create a whole universe.’
Even though her designs have been worn by brides the world over, Cecilie Bahnsen still feels a thrill when she happens to witness it in real life.
‘A couple of weeks ago, I went to the museum, to the sculpture garden in Denmark, and there was this girl in one of our dresses,’ she says. ‘I was just at the gallery because it is one of my favourite places, and she happened to choose that place to get photographed in my dress for her wedding, which was quite amazing. My boyfriend kept going, “We have to go up and say hello," and I was like, "No, it's her day."’
That’s the wonderful thing about Cecilie Bahnsen. With a couturier’s hand, perfected in the ateliers of John Galliano and Erdem, she can transport you to another universe – all while remaining thoroughly down to earth. Just like her dresses.