As the NY Fashionweek is nearly upon us, the lovely Lesley of Fashiontribes is hosting the pre-Fashionweek Carnivale of Couture. The topic? The State of The Fashion Union. This theme is, as Julie of Almost Girl put it, wide open to interpretation. Being that I am hot for all things bride, including the stress of being one, I want to discuss the relative importance of fashion in choosing dresses, place settings, venues, bands, and the like.
I think that, if called to, there are few people who couldn’t conjure up an image of the stereotypical wedding. In the West (or at least North America), that wedding would feature a glowing bride in a big, lacy dress marrying a fellow in a stark black tuxedo in a church. At the reception, this couple receives their guests in an orderly fashion, dances together, and then cuts into a bright-white, many-tiered cake. As designer Carolina Herrera said in an interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette, “How different can a bride really be?”
Herrera, who has designed wedding gowns since 1986, says that brides today come to her with the idea that they want to be different, more fashion-forward. They ask for dresses with uneven hems, or say they want bold colors, even black or red.
But when the big day comes, they’re wearing a white princess gown, complete with veil, train and high-heeled shoes, just like their mothers did.
When you announce your engagement, it is likely that your Grandma Bea, Aunt Alice, and Cousin Norm are all going to immediately picture you in that princess gown. People have expectations. You, whether you like it or not, have been psychologically influenced to think of certain elements (rice, veils, church, etc.) when someone says, “Wedding.” Your mom has dreamed of dressing you like the perfect lady or gentleman she knows you really are. Your dad has dreamed of dancing with his little princess on her wedding day. Your grandpa wants to see you walk down the aisle in white.
There is fashion and there is tradition, and it is in the planning of nuptials that these two elements of life often clash, with miserable results. So, is the perfect white wedding a fashion? No, it is a tradition. Wearing a simpler but still white gown with a bright splash of color when simpler and more colorful is the current style might be considered conforming to fashion. Yet it is not bowing to any particularly rigid rules of fashion. Beach weddings go from being in style to being a cliché to being in style. But how unusual or innovative is having a party at the beach?
Weddings represent a few hours in one’s life wherein one steps out of one’s usual role, be it banker, farmer, clerk, or CEO, and into a different and far more glamorous one. However, as Herrera implied, that glamour seldom changes or, at least, changes very slowly. Dress shapes and decorative highlights change by the year but are still recognizable as wedding gowns. Many of the favors brides and grooms give their guests in the modern age might have looked just as at home at a post-nuptial place setting in 1960. Some still consider a wedding in the park the height of daring. And most wedding bands still play the old, bland favorites.
Why? Because as much as we love fashion – particularly flashy colored wedding gowns, ultra mod cakes, non-traditional ceremonies, and kooky favors – we also love tradition. And when those of us who don’t particularly love tradition and would rather embrace fashion try to exert ourselves, we discover our relatives (perhaps those writing the checks) love tradition. Which is why, no doubt, the new wedding fashions are so slow to be adopted. Thus, when a soon-to-be-bride who in her mundane life is a beacon of fashion walks into a bridal boutique, she usually makes a bee-line for the poofy princess dresses rather than the sharp-edged dresses of the runways. Behind that decision lie decades and even centuries of tradition, her childhood dreams, and, quite possibly, the shining eyes of old Grandma Bea.
P.S. – Be sure to check out what other bloggers about town are saying about the state of the fashion union!