The short wedding dress: Fabulously contemporary styles for modern brides

Zoe Gunn

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11 April 2022

Skirts and trains not your thing? A new wave of cropped gowns have got you covered (or not)

11 April 2022 | Zoe Gunn | If you purchase something via our website, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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hile still largely considered an alternative choice, the short wedding dress has in fact been a staple of modern nuptials since the 1920s, with famous fans including Hollywood royalty Audrey Hepburn, Keira Knightley and Raquel Welch, and actual royalty Charlotte Chasiraghi, daughter of Princess Caroline of Hanover. Also, an increasingly popular choice for brides on the hunt for something more fun and freeing for their reception, whether you’re after a vintage-inspired tea-length gown or a flirty, fashion-forward mini, read on for the best short wedding dresses for 2022.

Mid-length wedding dresses

Alessandra Rich ruffled dress

The perfect halfway house for those who like the romance and drama of a classic wedding dress, but are planning an event that calls for something a little more relaxed, a mid-length gown is formal enough for church ceremonies while still embuing a contemporary edge on your look. Alessandra Rich’s ruffled number features a flattering tie-waist and floaty skirt that hits mid-calf for ultimate leg-lengthening.

Alessandra Rich ruffled silk-satin midi-dress, £1,445, matchesfashion.com

 
 

Monique Lhuillier tulle dress

Part-1950s prom dress, part-cropped bridal gown, this whimsical dress from eveningwear expert Monique Lhuillier hits all the right wedding notes without tipping into twee or basic. Tulle? Check. Strapless? Check. Full skirt? Check. Featuring diaphanous layers spangled with miniature stars, its tea-length cut also makes it a great option for thrifty brides looking for a dress that can be repurposed after the big day.

Monique Lhuillier tea-length tulle dress, £4,525, harrods.com

David Koma feather-trimmed dress

If there was ever a time to pull out all the stops, it’s your wedding – and David Koma’s absolute diva of a dress does just that. Cut mid-calf, but with a thigh-high split that you may need to warn granny about in advance, it’s finished with voluminous feathers that are guaranteed to wow in your wedding photos.

David Koma feather-trimmed midi-dress, £1,967, mytheresa.com

 
 

Knee-length wedding dresses

Erdem Austin dress

Planning to eschew the veil as well as the floor-length gown? Erdem’s shimmering sequinned dress features a cape-effect silhouette, so you’ll still have the aesthetic effect of a traditional veil-and-gown without having to worry about fiddly hairpieces and overwrought updos. And we don’t need to tell you that all-over sequins are perfect for hitting the dancefloor.

Erdem Austin cape-effect dress, £2,490, net-a-porter.com

Halfpenny London Okotan separates

London-based bridalwear designer Kate Halfpenny has cornered the market for luxe separates, offering a range of mix-and-match tops, skirts and accessories (as well as full gowns) that give brides an experience that is as close to custom as possible without going fully bespoke. Happily, the range also includes a number of short options, such as this elegantly draped Okotan skirt. Pair with the matching Bardot-style corset for a bridal look that is simple yet utterly sophisticated.

Okotan silk-crepe skirt, £2,450, and corset, £2,495, halfpennylondon.com

 
 

Rixo Candice dress

If you’re opting for a short gown as a second (or even third) outfit, you’re probably not looking to pay couture prices – but that doesn’t mean you have to scrimp on style. Rixo’s highly-regarded bridal collection offers an array of laidback gowns designed with thoroughly modern brides in mind. This Sixties-inspired shift is crafted in silk crepe and finished with a feathered hem for the most fabulous of costume changes.

Candice satin silk-crepe dress, £650, rixo.co.uk

Mini wedding dresses

Vivienne Westwood Venus dress

Big name, small dress. Vivienne Westwood’s bridal line features the edgy aesthetic and masterful corsetting on which the British designer made her name, and is guaranteed to make you feel a million dollars. Of course, the original punk excels in short gowns: this Venus dress features delicate floral appliques and an asymmetric hem ideal for wearing with satin heels, or Dr. Martens.

Vivienne Westwood Venus ivory satin gown, £2,050, matchesfashion.com

 
 

Reformation Corinth dress

If you’re only going to wear a dress once it probably shouldn’t cost the earth – figuratively or literally. Originally conceived as a vintage fashion resale brand, sustainability has always been at the forefront of Reformation’s collections and its burgeoning bridal range is no different. Created, one suspects, in a nod to the Stella McCartney halter design Meghan Markle wore for her own wedding reception, Reformation’s Corinth dress takes four fewer gallons of water and creates eight pounds less carbon dioxide compared to similar designs made using standard US clothing production methods.

Corinth silk dress, £350, reformation.com

Viktor & Rolf Mariage playsuit

Okay, we know this isn’t technically a dress but it's so chic we couldn’t help ourselves. The ultimate in alternative bridalwear, this sculptural playsuit by haute couture master Viktor & Rolf eschews romantic detailing in favour of a single dramatic oversized bow. We can already hear the gasps as you walk down the aisle.

Viktor & Rolf Mariage playsuit, POA, brownsbride.com

Read more: The 2022 bridal edit