In Latin America the word “fashion” is intrinsically linked to “celebration”. Everything starts with the baptism, to further along celebrate coming of age at fifteen, a deeply rooted popular celebration which families allocate lofty sums to. The tradition to wear special dresses in key social events persists and reaches its peak, of course, with the wedding day.
The dress must fit both the taste and body of the bride
In Latin America, aside from a good price-quality ratio, it is also essential to sell feelings, the key moment being trying on the dress: the fitting weighs heavily on the final decision. Another important point to bear in mind is the design of the dress, which differs substantially from European ones. Every brand interested in selling their designs in Latin America must know the topics explained throughout this article in depth.
The wedding dress is considered a highly personal piece and in most cases is bought. In Latin America brides rarely consider rentals, aside from Colombia, where it is customary to do it in less wealthy social classes.
The bill for the wedding dress is footed by the bride or her family. The bride is the true star of the wedding, her opinion being final on the choice of dress. Depending on the wedding planner, she may or may not accompany the bride during the search process, as many brides choose to only involve family. We must bear in mind that hiring a wedding planner is not yet a generalized service, Brazil being the country where their presence is usual. Even so, in cases where a professional is hired, they participate in recommendation of designers and stores alike, and their opinion is highly valued.
The choice of dress is influenced even by the venue’s decoration, making sure the garment is in keeping with the atmosphere. Social media also has a great weight in the decision. Instagram and Pinterest top the list of digital platforms brides consult during the ripening process before the final choice.
Although it is still most common to wear a sole dress during the whole celebration, a new trend is shyly making waves, the use of a second dress for the party, where brides opt for a shorter and more comfortable design. Some brides choose to wear a detachable skirt that will smooth the way for a different look.
Mexico, the grand promoter
Countries like Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina or Mexico flaunt innovative designers that have crossed borders exhibiting their creations in Europe and the United States, they are true experts in outlining a woman’s body. Mexico, the country with most bridal fashion designers in South America, is home to renowned brands such as Benito Santos, Adriana Madrid, Alexia Ulibarri, Tristán e Isolda, Va de Blanco, Alexei Quintal or Claudia Toffano.
Mexico has always been influenced by the United States, where final clients usually travel to California or Texas to make their purchases. But at the same time, American brands such as Justin Alexander, which disembarked in the country in 2017, have reinforced their presence in Latin America by starting up business in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Puerto Rico (Moda.es Latin America, August 2019). Maggie Sottero, Allure, Yolancris, Rosa Clará, Pronovias, Inmaculada García, Cymbeline, Morilee, Nicole and Marylise & Rembo are other brands present in multiple countries in Center and South America.
Another European brand highly present in South America is Jesus Peiro, with sales points in Chile (The Bridal Shop and Ingenue Novias), Ecuador (Tules & Novias), Mexico (Belle Epouse), Panama (Gaudí Novias), Peru (Luna Blanco Atelier), Venezuela (in the Altamira Village shopping center, Caracas) and Colombia (Natalia Arango Novias).
According to Cynthia Garajales, fashion stylist, image consultant and owner of the store Bridetique, the Mexican bride is quite conservative and prefers voluminous dresses such as ball gowns. Moreover, this cut is complemented by a train, neckline, sheen and no transparencies.
In case the bride decides to wear two dresses, one will be for the religious ceremony and another for the party. When we talk about destination weddings, the bride may wear a different dress for each moment of the event: welcome cocktail, ceremony, party, civil wedding, after party…
The referential multi-brand stores in Mexico are: Veliah (with collections by Mira Zwillinger, Galia Lahav, Naeem Khan, Reem Acra, Marchesa Couture, Lazaro and Enzoani, amongst others), the aforementioned Bridetique, Lace&Lemons, Belle Épouse, Atelier Nupcial and Ceremonia. In addition, Pronovias, Rosa Clará and Protocolo (male custom made fashion store, with 9 stores in various locations in the country), also have their own stores in the Mexican capital.
Traditionally, all stores gathered around the same shopping area in the Mexican capital: Polanco. Stores like Ceremonia, Sposabella and Belle Épouse continue to offer high end international brands. During the past five years a new trend has taken root: a less traditional dress, simpler but highly priced, although not as much as high end stores in the renowned Polanco shopping area. This fact has driven the opening of new stores in every city, in less prestigious areas, focusing on a younger and more alternative public.
Colombia, a growing country
According to INEXMODA, Non-profit Private Institute with over 30 years experience based out of Medellín, the wedding industry in Colombia is currently growing. Companies offer consulting services, purchase and rental of garments for the couple, pageboys and bridesmaids, diversifying their supply with other products such as accessories, make-up or hairdressing.
Colombia welcomes the presence of consolidated international companies such as Justin Alexander, David’s Bridal, Mori Lee, Pronovias, Rosa Clará, Jesus Peiro, Chic Nostalgia, Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier.
Sposa Mia -with stores in Medellín, Cartagena and Montería- places the foremost international brands, both European and from the United States, at the bride’s disposal. The following stores in Medellín are also relevant: La Esposa, Tatiana Gonzalez -with rental and purchase options- and Natalia Arango.
Colombia flaunts a nourished cast of national designers, out of which we can highlight the following: Silvia Tcherassi, Johanna Ortiz, Francesca Miranda e Isabel Henao, Luisa Nicholls, Alado, Andrés Pajón, Catalina Bayona, Diana Quintero, Héctor Rodríguez, Carolina Ruíz, Juan Pablo Murillo and Jorge Duque.
Colombian brides prefer sensual and elegant dresses that silhouette their figure, usually placing a high value on the small details which will make it different and unique. The choice of neck-line is circumscribed to the bride’s personal preference, as there is no existing trend for this element of the dress.
Panama, marked by religion
In Panama, generally speaking, the bride prefers to visit boutiques that offer international brands, although they also have local designers, like Sara Bassan, who creates tailor-made dresses for brides. Pilar Sainz is a Spanish designer residing in Panama City, she presents a bridal collection as well as creating custom-made dresses for Panamanian brides.
The referential stores in Panama are Porta Romana, with choice international brands of renowned prestige (Marchesa, Zuhair Murad, Saiid Kobeisy, Jesús Peiro or Isabel Sanchís), and Gaudí Novias, located in one of the shopping districts of the capital, with international brands for wedding and party dresses, as well as accessories. Gaudí Novias offers its clients renowned bridal brands such as Berta Bridal, Galia Lahav, Tony Ward, Ines Di Santo, Carolina Herrera, Anna Campbell and a variety of Spanish brands and designers like Pronovias, YolanCris, Jesús Peiró, Inmaculada García, Delpozo or Higar Novias, amongst others. The exclusive experience offered in customized appointments is the distinctive trait of this store. We also highlight among this list of stores Cocos, which dresses bridesmaids and guests with brands such as Morilee or Sonia Peña, and Bodas Gladis, that has brands like Morilee or Sincerity.
In Panama the influence of religious beliefs is highly apparent in the choice of dress: the Muslim and Hebrew communities mostly prefer highly elaborate designs in a ball gown style, while the Christian community, which opts for a more traditional style, mainly focuses on A-line or Mermaid silhouettes. Brides in Panama bet on sheens and transparencies.
The Catholic community usually wears necklines and uncovered shoulders, while the Jewish community leans towards dresses that cover shoulders and arms alike, or an accessory that covers the shoulders like a bolero or capelet.
The choice of train is usually sweep, court or chapel, the election of a longer one being quite unusual.
Brazil, eclectic country, houses every possible style, from ball gown to mermaid and including the most traditional to the most innovative. In contrast to other parts of the world, the Brazilian bride opts for a deeper neckline and transparencies.
The preferred national brands are Carol Hungria, Lethicia Bronstein, Sandro Barros, Lucas Anderi , Samuel Cirnanski, Solange Picoli, Marie Lafayette or Martuh.
Some of the most popular international brands are Elie Saab, Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera, Pronovias, Rosa Clará, Cymbeline, Yolancris and Anna Campbell. For the final choice, electing an international brand will hinge mostly on their designs and punctuality.
Some of the better known multi-brand stores in the country are Casamarela, Black Tie and White Hall, located in Sao Paulo, as well as Ivana Beumond in Rio de Janeiro. The store Kátia Novias by Andreia Marques, located in Minas Gerais, has brands such as Jesus Peiro, Justin Alexander, Rosa Clará, Pronovias, Eddy K or Nova Noiva. Pronovias and Rosa Clará are also present in the main cities of the country.
There will only be one dress, which occasionally receives small modifications to make it more comfortable after a few hours, usually for the party.
Argentina opts for simplicity
The preferred national brands in Argentina are: Gabriel Lage, Javier Saich, Claudio Cosano, Laurencio Adot, Fabian Zitta, Verónica de la Canal, Benito Fernandez, Iara, Patricia Profumo and Pia Carregal.
In terms of international brands, the favorites are Pronovias and Rosa Clará. One of the referential stores for Argentinian brides is Atelier Recoleta, which distributes both these brands.
The Argentinian bride’s dress is usually simple, but always with embroidery, lace, transparencies or some adornment. A few years ago the number of brides that appeared with more volume or tulle skirts rose, but they are still a minority. The focus is the neckline, front and back. The bride wants her dress to be distinguished, but above all comfortable, to be able to move and dance during the party. In instances where the dress has a train, it is usually removed afterwards to allow more comfort.
1. In South America the bride has total freedom over the choice of dress.
2. It is usual to wear a single dress, designed to allow a second look with the removal of some pieces it is composed of.
3. Customarily, the dress is a line-A or ball gown, with a neckline, lace and sheen applied.
Sources of information: Vicky Lujan, Bridal Expert, Bridal Fashion Journalist & Stylist and Romance Travel Specialist; Sary Chaki, owner of Sary Chaki Event Planning in Colombia; Guadalupe Pérez, owner of Gaudí Novias in Panama; Roberto Cohen founder of Roberto Cohen Ceremonial in Brazil; Cynthia Grajales, Fashion Stylist, image consultant and owner of Bridetique, in Mexico; Iván Meza, Vice President of the Marketing Group NY Group 868 and Verónica Barzi, owner of Fiancée Argentina online magazine.