Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ritual Garments

Wedding dresses. They are ritual garments invested with a lot of emotion, and frankly some rather unpleasant patriarchal connotations. I don't wish to wear a dress symbolising my virginity*, nor one indicating how well off I/my parents are. White dresses, while also signifying purity, also showed that you were rich enough to afford a white dress that could be kept clean all day.

Wedding dresses today, are usually strapless white ballgowns, which all look alike to me. They are sold as being 'traditional', but in fact the strapless white ballgown look has only been going for about twenty years. Today's wedding dress, is in fact based on 1950s evening dresses; what my mother , who actually used to wear evening dresses in the '50s calls 'willpower'** dresses. Before about 1990, wedding dresses usually were more covered up, with sleeves and higher cut necklines. In fact I can remember the Domestic Goddess, who got married in the mid '90s scandalising some of the old ladies in attendance with her semi bare shoulders. In fact her dress was not strapless, or particularly low cut, but it probably was a little more 'bare' than many people were used to. She looked utterly gorgeous, in her sweeping blue velvet and ivory silk dress though.

So what do you wear if a strapless white princess dress isn't 'you'? We are having a registry office wedding, in June with a formal reception afterwards. And I don't know what to wear. I know I shan't wear a 'wedding' dress. But where does that leave me? Should I buy a designer dress off the peg? This is the option that most appeals to me, and yet it is surprisingly difficult to find something appropriate. Should I have something made? This also appeals, but I am very dubious about local seamstresses skills. I also believe in letting professionals do their job; I don't think I can design a better wedding dress than a professional. Case in point, a friend recently wore a beautiful, pleated, designer chiffon gown to her own wedding. I could never have come up with something as clever and original as that with a seamstress. But my own ambivalence as to what a wedding dress should look like is hampering me. I don't want a dress that is too evening-y, yet a daytime dress is too dull. I don't want a 'wedding' dress, but most off the peg dresses aren't special enough.

And there is the boy to consider. Generally, the boy has no input whatsoever into what I wear. If he doesn't like what I'm wearing, he usually has the grace not to mention it. But on our wedding day, I do want him to think I look pretty and like a bride. Recent probing as to his thoughts on wedding dresses revealed that he thinks brides  should wear 'big white dresses'. In other words, precisely what I don't want to wear. Logic tells me that, whatever i wear, he will think I'm beautiful, on our wedding day. And yet.. I want him to like my dress.

It's all so bloody complicated.

*That ship has definitely sailed.
**Because it took a lot of willpower to keep them up.