Glamour is hard. Wedding glamour, thanks to all the tension and emotions tied up in the big event, is harder. And the wedding dress often bears the brunt of the responsibility for communicating that glamour – to the bride, at least.
About a year ago, Deep Glamour ran a series called, “Diary of a Groomzilla,” about the trials and tribulations of a DG contributor planning a gay wedding in San Francisco in the weeks just before the election. There were floral arguments and Vera Wang invitation discussions, and dramatic moments involving Safeway wedding balloons – all the little things that are mostly funny in the rearview of wedding planning (it takes a special groom to laugh at them during). There were sartorial issues, too, since Groomzilla’s fiance was “cheap” (Groomzilla’s words, not mine), though he eventually came around, purchasing a really nice suit for the occasion.
The Groomzilla was just lucky he didn’t have to convince his fiance to embark on a search for the “perfect wedding dress.” The mythical garment that combines sweetness and glamour and just the right amount of sexy (“church sexy,” if you will) – and takes off three inches around the waist without constricting breathing.
That’s the Western ideal, anyway. Every culture has developed traditions around wedding attire to help visually convey the solemnity and specialness of the event, and the social status of the bride and her family. In the West, the white wedding dress that most brides choose today was made popular by Queen Victoria in 1840.
The wedding dress is indelibly ingrained in my mind as a symbol of love, commitment, tradition, and coming-of-age ritual. When I see a bride – even on TV – I find myself sighing and getting a little teary-eyed. It’s Pavlovian.
But underneath all that lace and crinoline and symbolism, there’s some very hearty construction. Creating a wedding dress isn’t much less complicated than designing and building an actual building. From the outside, it’s the looks that count, but on the interior, the construction better be good enough to hold it together.
This past weekend, my brother got married. Standing in the church just following the ceremony, I got a major case of the post-wedding giggles, and it was all thanks to the wedding dress. There I was, bridesmaid dress on, bouquet in hand, standing in front of the altar holding the bride’s dress straight up in the air while the maid of honor and another bridesmaid figured out how to bustle the big, gorgeous thing. Underneath the dress, there was a collection of color-coded strings that, when tied together, pulled the train up underneath.
At that moment, all I could think about was hot-wiring a car. That’s what we were doing – making the dress work on the fly, by putting like colors together. It wasn't easy. But after a few minutes – a few dramatic, tense minutes – the bustle came together and my new sister-in-law was able to walk down the steps without worrying (so much) about tripping over her dress.
Talk about symbolism. Not tripping on a wedding day, in a wedding dress, thanks to its complicated, but hidden, construction, is a great metaphor for glamorous living itself. Nobody – not even Coco herself – wakes up glamorous every day. But sometimes, thanks to careful design (of a dress, a car, a building) – and a willingness to squabble with Safeway balloon-section employees just before the ceremony – the glamour ends up looking effortless.
[London Wedding Dress, circa 1870, by Flickr user the wee pixie, used under the Creative Commons license.]