W is for Wedding Gowns

Wedding gowns are the stuff of dreams, often dreams that began in childhood. Every women wants to be gorgeous on her wedding day. She wants to live her dreams and create wonderful, lasting memories. Brides-to-be who want modest gowns often find themselves in a sea of strapless lace and tulle. At least 75% of what she will see will be strapless. Much of the rest will be almost strapless or unattractive.

And most of the gowns, unfortunately, will look very much alike. The overlay will have different embellishments and details but there are only a few strapless, wedding gown shapes that are then decorated in a variety of ways. Strapless wedding gowns are easier to design, easier to alter, require less work, and cost less to produce. (Sleeves and shoulders demand more work and materials a/k/a increased production costs a/k/a less profit.) Many women will settle for wide pieces of lace that are fanned out to make “cap sleeves.”

One of the hardest things to accept is that clothing manufacturers are simply out to make as much profit as possible. Designers do want to make beautiful wedding gowns but they must do so while spending as little as possible. They aren’t thinking of brides (though they might think they are) or offering a genuine variety of styles. They’re asking, ‘What will sell?’ and ‘How little can I spend and how much can I make’? (Materials and labour for a $3500 wedding gown come to about $500 or less. Then, alterations will cost approximately $500 or more.) A wedding gown is an opportunity to make a great deal of money by playing on the fantasies of each bride-to-be and reminding her she is creating memories to last a lifetime.

With rare exception, until about the 19th century, brides wore their best clothing, even if black, to be married. Wealthy brides wore more costly garments as a sign of their status. Nearly all brides (even royal brides) expected to wear their wedding garments again; fabric was just too expensive. In the 19th century, brides began wearing gowns that they would not wear again. Many daughters did wear their mother’s gowns.

Those gowns were memorable then and remain so today. Princess Grace’s wedding gown is still beautiful, relevant, and a source of inspiration nearly 60 years after she wed Prince Rainier Grimaldi of Monaco.

wedding gown grace kellyBrides who want a gorgeous, modest gown, would do well to take a look further back in history. The strapless gown phenomenon is recent and not based on what brides want (after all, they don’t see many alternatives) but on what is easiest and most lucrative for wedding gown manufacturers. In the past, brides can find modest yet truly exquisite gowns.

These antique gowns are as gorgeous and relevant today as they were in the 19th and early 20th century.

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These vintage gowns from the mid-20th century are still extremely modern and relevant. Each is covered but not excessively so. Each is unique. Each suits a different personality, a different wedding. Each is memorable.

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An actual vintage gown may not be right for many women. But, vintage wedding gowns can serve as inspiration. There are modern bridal companies making gorgeous, vintage inspired gowns. Just Google, “vintage inspired wedding gowns” and your city to find images online and bridal shops that carry wedding gowns like these:

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And stay tuned for additional posts about wedding gowns and accessories. In the meantime, Anthropologie has a line of vintage-inspired, “build-your-own-gown” pieces that provides another source for inspiration. Why not mix an antique corset with a new skirt and a lace “topper”? The pieces can easily be taken apart and worn again with other clothing. Since choosing and buying a wedding gown is a big job anyway, why not have one that is not only modest but perfect for your taste and style?

3 thoughts on “W is for Wedding Gowns

  1. My sister found a sixties Priscilla of Boston wedding gown in an antique store and bought it, at $70, for her daughter. It was made of silk organza and gorgeous lace and lined with linen. For an additional $300, some alterations were made to the top, leaving the stunning short lace sleeves intact, and my niece had one of the most beautiful wedding gowns I’ve ever seen.

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