Project Runway Bridal Gown Inspiration

"Project Runway" started airing in 2004 and we can thank the reality series for introducing us to lists of talented fashion designers. Eli Holzman is the brains behind the riveting show that was formerly hosted by Heidi Klum. Tim Gunn, who was a faculty member at the Parsons School of Design, also won fans over as the contestant's design mentor.

Christian Siriano won the fourth season, and he is perhaps the most successful “Project Runway” alum. In the show’s 17th season, Siriano replaced Gunn as the contestants' mentor. Carol Hannah Whitfield, who placed third during the show's 2009 season, launched a successful eponymous bridal collection. Rami Kahshou equally went on to do great things after the show, and he is particularly known for his groundbreaking feminine designs.

Any bride-to-be who is set on walking down the aisle donning a Project Runway-inspired bridal gown will definitely be spoilt for choice. Besides settling for a gorgeous gown aesthetic, it also helps to figure out how to choose the right wedding dress.

How The Wedding Dress Came To Be

Each story starts with a ring and before the happily ever after becomes a reality. Several more things happen in between, and perhaps shopping for a wedding dress is one of the crucial aspects leading up to the big day. With so much meaning ascribed to the dreamy dress, it helps to start by revisiting its history in weddings.

It wasn't Always A White Wedding

While white bridal ensembles date back to the Victorian era, nuptials at the time weren't always white weddings. Brides would wear their best outfits which meant that there wasn't a standard reference in terms of what the perfect wedding dress should look like.

Given that weddings were viewed as economic unions in ancient Roman times, you wouldn't have expected brides to dress their best. They still tried to don cheerful ensembles for the occasions and often, it was brightly-coloured garments. In general, the look varied from one culture to the next.

For instance, Roman brides donned yellow veils to symbolise warmth while in Athens red or violet robes were the preferred bridal ensembles. During the Zhou Dynasty, Chinese brides donned black garments featuring red trims. The bridal looks took a more fashionable approach in the Tang Dynasty, and green was one of the popular wedding colors at the time.

Japanese brides donned coloured kimonos for their big day while in Korea, a wife-to-be emulated royalty featuring long sleeves and an elaborate top.

Victorian Wedding Dresses

Before Queen Victoria's wedding in 1840, white wedding dresses were not common. There were exceptions, like in the case of Mary Queen of Scots who donned a white gown during her 1558 nuptials. However, it was Queen Victoria's white dress that would ultimately serve as the yardstick of wedding fashion centuries later.

The colour white didn't always represent purity, and that's why many brides previously wore blue outfits on their big day. White was a symbol of status, and Queen Victoria reportedly chose it as a suitable hue to highlight her extraordinary gown. Her gown was fashioned using handmade lace, and hence another tradition was born.

Modern Wedding Dresses

Wedding dresses keep evolving and it's been quite the journey for the outfit to make its way to its present form. A look back reveals that the modern wedding dress started taking shape in the '50s.

Wedding dresses in the '50s

Weddings were a big deal in the '50s, given that it was just after World War II ended. The bridal looks followed suit and they truly made grand statements. The bridal garments featured feminine elements like ball gown silhouettes and lace details. Strapless dress designs, as well as sweetheart necklines, also carried the day.

The '60s started introducing more column-like silhouettes and rising hemlines. The wedding ensembles of that decade also featured metallic elements. As the '60s came to a close, empire waists gained popularity while the '70s ushered in the bohemian look.

For a better reference, Rami Kashou's bridal ensembles present a modern take on the '60s wedding style. Andy South's romantic number conjures up the bohemian-chic aesthetic.

The '80s and '90s wedding styles

Going into the '80s, tulle and lace layers alongside large puffed sleeves, much like Christian Siriano's looks, were en vogue. The '90s ushered sleek and streamlined styles, and form-fitting wedding dresses were favoured at the time. Heidi Elnora's looks are reflective of the '90s flair with modern touches.

Wedding fashion in the 2000s and 2010s

When the 2000s rolled in, brides were gravitating more towards strapless and A-line silhouettes. The 2010s saw women take more control over their wedding dress aesthetic by personalising the look. For instance, most brides started embracing coloured accents as well as patterned styles.

That brings us to the present, and weddings, in general, are once again breaking tradition. The world is still grappling with the new normal scenarios that were adopted in the wake of the global pandemic. Micro weddings and elopements rose in popularity as well as bold designs and highly individualised nuptials.

On the other hand, full-weekend weddings are also catching on with itineraries that include welcome parties, brunches, and other fun daytime activities. Fashion-wise, black-tie is back and folks are happy to dress up for the occasion.

How to Choose the Right Wedding Gown

Every bride has a unique journey when it comes to finding her perfect wedding dress. Much like the history of the dress, you can conclude that it might take time and relying on influences to finally find an ideal gown. Some of these expert tips might help:

  • Do some groundwork

Pour through online bridal stores, bridal magazines, and wedding inspiration boards to figure out your aesthetic.

  • Have a budget in mind

Set a budget and once you get shopping, aim at spending less on the wedding dress. Also, avoid trying on bridal ensembles that are way above your price point.

  • Start shopping early

Whether you have a couple of weeks to the wedding or a few good months; you should start shopping early enough for your dress. This is even more important if you have settled for a made-to-order or bespoke gown.

  • Buy a dress that's true to your size

It's better to be stuck in a situation where you have to take in a dress rather than having a wedding gown that is several dress sizes smaller.

Project runway stars with bridal lines

Christian Siriano

1. Christian Siriano (Season 4 Winner): Christian Siriano is definitely my favourite pint-sized diva and the sole reason I now can’t stop saying the phrase ‘hot mess.’ Since being vaulted into fame after Project Runway Siriano went on to start his own label in 2008 which was so successful he earned a spot on Crain’s Top 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40 list. While many of the dresses in this collection are from his seasonal shows, they certainly work as bridal gowns (seriously – just look at that first lavender one!) and he creates custom wedding dresses for lucky brides around the world.

Christian Sirano wedding dress
Christian Siriano wedding dress
Christian Siriano wedding dress
Christian Siriano wedding dress
Christian Siriano wedding dress
Heidi Elnora from Project Runway

2. Heidi Elnora (Season 2): Even though she was one of the first contestants out on Season 2, Heidi Elnora Standridge has gone on to produce successful bridal lines since opening her own shop in 2006. Her dresses have been featured in major magazines such as Weddings Unveiled and Southern Weddings Magazine and her 2013 line are simply gorgeous! It was a chocolate-coloured trim that got her booted, but since then Elnora has used trim and details to make her bridal line a massive success.

Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Heidi Elnora wedding dress
Carol-Hannah-Project-Runway

3. Carol Hannah (Season 6): Carol Hannah Whitfield has created arguably the most successful and well-known bridal line of all the Project Runway contestants. She made it all the way to NYC Fashion week of her season, but (unfairly!) came in third. While many of the other designers produce fashion lines, Carol Hannah focuses solely on bridal and bridesmaids looks. She launched her label in 2010 to rave reviews and this South Carolina native has been producing gorgeous gowns ever since. Her newest collection is absolutely amazing and it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re already familiar with many of these gowns – I’ve got one in this salmon and washed teal inspiration board!

Carol Hannah wedding dresses
Carol Hannah wedding dresses
Carol Hannah wedding dresses
Carol Hannah wedding dresses
Austin Scarlet

4. Austin Scarlet (Season 1 & Project Runway All-Stars): Austin Scarlet is one of the reasons I fell in love with Project Runway. He was just such a colourful character and he won my heart with that corn husk dress he made for the unconventional challenge. I’ll never forget it. In 2006 after Project Runway he joined Amsale as the creative director of its Kenneth Pool luxury gown collection and was there until 2009. He now continues to produce stunning bridal wear under his own name!

Austin Scarlet wedding dress
Austin Scarlet wedding dress
Austin Scarlet wedding dress
Austin Scarlet wedding dress
Austin Scarlet wedding dress
Leanne Marshall from Project Runway

5. Leanne Marshall (Season 5 Winner): Leanne Marshall is another favourite of mine and you can see one of her gorgeous gowns in this mountain mist wedding inspiration board. Leanne Marshall made it all the way to the finals in Season 5 and won with a stunning wave inspired collection. This quirky Portland gal has produced gorgeous looks ever since and has even designed a series of dresses for Paula Abdul and a maternity dress for Heidi Klum. Her beautiful bridal gowns are made-to-order and any bride would be lucky to waltz down the aisle in one of them!

Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Leanne Marshal wedding dress
Rami Kashou from Project Runway

6. Rami Kashou (Season 4 & Project Runway All-Stars): Rami Kashou lost his season to Christian Siriano (see #1) but this Jerusalem born designer has found success since. He is known for his groundbreaking one-of-a-kind designs and his runway shows are always attended by A list celebrities. While Rami Kashou is most well-known for his red carpet looks that have graced the backs of starlets such as Penelope Cruz, Heidi Klum, and Jennifer Lopez, his bridal line has some absolutely stunning looks for trendy modern brides!

Rami Kashou wedding dress
Rami Kashou wedding dress
Rami Kashou wedding dress
Kate Pankoke from Project Runway

7. Kate Pankoke aka: Elaya Vaugbn (Season 11):  Chicago based bridal label Elaya Vaugbn was started in 2010 by this season’s current Project Runway contestant Kate Pankoke. She got engaged last December to her high school sweetheart and I can’t wait to see what she designs for her to wear! Her favourite material to work with is satin-faced organza and her attention to detail is what makes her designs special. I’m really hoping that Kate makes it far long this season to gain some more publicity for her bridal line!

Elaya Vaugbn wedding dress
Andy South from Project Runway

8. Andy South (Season 8): I actually have had the pleasure of meeting (< when you get to that post look at #6) Andy South (who goes by Ariyaphon Southiphong) at the opening of the South’s design studio since we both live in Hawaii. If you ever find yourself out this way – I highly recommend paying a visit to this gorgeous atelier in Chinatown – a prettier space would be hard to find. Along with a whole array of chic clothing, Andy South produces custom-made one-of-a-kind gowns for brides and they are simply gorgeous!

Andy South Wedding Dress
Chloe Dao

9. Chloe Dao (Season 2 Winner) Lot 8 (now called DAO Chloe DAO) is a little boutique right around the corner from where I went to college in Houston, Texas and I used to walk over there and purchase things every now and then, but it wasn’t until owner and super cutie Chloe Dao became famous on Project Runway that this charming store really took off.  Dao’s designs are known for their effortless combination of sophistication, style, and comfort, and her bridal line is simply amazing! Better still – she’s constantly looking for ways to give back to the community and has spoken at Girl Scout events and produced pieces for breast cancer awareness.

Chloe Dao bridal
Chloe Dao bridal
Chloe Dao bridal

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