After you say ‘yes’ … It’s all about the dress

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By Laura Trask
The rituals that shape weddings of today: the venue, the flowers, the cake, right down to the choosing of the mate were not part of the process historically. And as with every tradition that has evolved over thousands of years there have been some improvements! In the beginning, marriages were arranged by the families of the two betrothed to ensure prosperity, protection and procreation.  I can assure you in the days of  “marriage by capture” no one was thinking about what they were going to wear! So when did fashion become such an integral element in the joining of two people? Well,  like every great storybook ending, it starts with The Dress.
More elaborate wedding celebrations started with nobility and the higher classes. Brides were expected to dress in a manner befitting their social status, not necessarily representing themselves but their families. Right down to the amount of material a wedding dress contained which reflected on the bride’s social standing and was a clear

An example of a 16th century wedding dress.

indication to all those in attendance of the families wealth. The concept of more is more was especially apparent when it came to the wedding dresses of royal princesses during the 15th and 16th centuries when the way to show a kingdom’s power was through rich costly fabrics such as velvet, damask silk, satin and fur.  Forget the “virginal” white wedding dress we know today; these royals showed their wealth through the use of expensive dyes and to that end their dresses were red, purple and true black which were extremely difficult to acquire. But when a royal wanted to show everyone who had the biggest, whoppingist tiara they held nothing back and went so far as to encrust their wedding gowns with precious gems; diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls. In some cases so thickly bejeweled that the fabric beneath was not to be seen and in the case of Margaret of Flanders the result was so heavy that she had to be carried into the church! Talk about being queen for the day!
So when did the white wedding dress prevail and  begin its rule of the matrimonial runway? Well, like every great trend that we have seen over the last century and a half, it started with a photograph and a love story. When Queen Victoria married her cousin, Albert, in a white wedding dress in 1840, the wedding being highly publicized resonated with brides everywhere and sealed the deal for white to win out as the number one choice for brides. When Victoria was merely trying to incorporate some prized lace into her dress which in the end dictated the color … white.
Today’s bride is unique in that the dress she chooses for her big day is a true representation of who she is and is also a way of sharing this piece of her self with all those in attendance. However, with so many options out there, so much money at stake and the anxiety of all eyes being on you, the decision can be an overwhelming and an intimidating one to make. Thank goodness we modern girls have Vera Wang! Her very name conjures up images of a sophisticated glamorous bride! She is the genius designer who has single handedly modernized all aspects of wedding and bridal wear, especially the dress. Bringing it from an outdated busy look to a more modern, chic and elegant design.

Helana, a dress in Vera Wang's current wedding dress collection

Vera Wang has a long history in fashion working at Vogue magazine as an editor for 17 years leaving only when she did not get the job as editor-in-chief. But as every turn of events that are meant to be, Vera went on to design with Ralph Lauren and then opened her own design salon at the Carlyle Hotel in 1990. That’s a surprisingly short time to become the reigning queen of everything wedding.
So what would Vera say if she were advising a new bride on choosing The One? And I am referring of course to the dress — not the guy! First and foremost, choose a style that you are comfortable in, because as we all know being comfortable translates into confidence. Remember also to consider that the dress has to work with all other tonal elements of the ceremony. Is it a first marriage? Second marriage? What is the age of the bride? Is the marriage in a church? Or a wedding chapel in Vegas?! All these thing elements must work together with the dress in order for there to be a natural flow and harmony. The last piece of advice that Vera gives out is try on as many dresses as you can and as many style. She feels confident that a bride will know when she has found her perfect dress. Or maybe it’s the perfect dress that finds you — just like he did. Either way, it will feel like a match made in heaven!
P.S. Check out Weddings, a new app where you can find all of Vera’s wedding knowledge. The app is free through February and beginning March 1st it will cost $9.99…so get it today!