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A Morsel of Fashion History


A morsel of fashion history is what I have to offer you today. I don’t want to cause any overdoses.

While ending an elliptical marathon at the gym two weeks ago, I flipped through Town And Country Weddings to make the time go by faster. Yes, I read wedding magazines. I read all magazines – architecture, gay and lesbian, travel, fashion, etc. But that’s not the point. Stop asking questions, okay?

So, in my last five minutes, I came across this paragraph,

“For decades, fashion designers have been enamored of the wedding dress. Beginning in the 1920s, couture houses such as Lanvin, Vionnet, and Mainbocher showed bridal gowns as a service to society women who were looking for complete wardrobes to accommodate every facet of their lives. By the ’40s and ’50s the practice had become increasingly popular, thanks in part to Jacques Fath, a Hollywood favorite who designed Rita Hayworth’s gown for her wedding to Prince Aly Khan, in 1949.”

The short article continued on to discuss how it was custom for designers to end their collections with a bridal look because, as stated in the paragraph above, it would create a “complete” wardrobe for a woman. That had my head, and not my feet, spinning. The fact didn’t alarm or upset me – it made me think. What kind of impression was that giving – that a wedding and a husband is what entailed “completed” look and in turn, a “completed” life? Who was influencing who? Were the designers pushing marriage on women or were the women pushing the designers to create wedding looks? Was this really a sign of the times? Lastly, oh my how times have changed, for better or for worse.




  1. Reply


    I always understood wedding dresses to be the ultimate ‘conspicuous consumption’ opportunity for a clothing designer – the client gets to put on a show where she’s the star, so it’s a canvas with more freedom and resources than the typical occasion gown.

    The “complete wardrobe” notion makes me laugh…does one marry every season? My Barbie doll always did. 🙂

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I never thought of it a wedding like that – as a time where the client gets to be a star for a day – but I agree.

      If Barbie can marry every season, why can’t we? 🙂

  2. Reply

    Anna Depew

    Thanks for sharing! One might presume that a socialite (often a muse for certain designers) drew the most attention with a much-anticipated wedding. How better to advertise one’s label, than to be the elite chosen for Milady’s big day dress? In the 20’s there was only a small market for couture, the rich and famous, and most of them in Europe new each other already, either from business or marriage. I would compare a socialite’s wedding dress and what the wedding party wore to today’s Superbowl advertisement. Everyone was watching.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      A wedding was like a Superbowl? Wow. Times have definitely changed.

  3. Reply


    I’m not sure that times have changed all that much, although they should have. In my area, a wedding hall runs a commercial on its services for “The most important day of your life.”

    I’ve always wondered about the purpose of the “bride” at the end of the défilé.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      It’s the same where I work too – a wedding is “the most important day of your life.”

  4. Reply


    I think wedding dresses are interesting because it is a chance for the average women to wear a extra special dream gown if she so chooses. Personally I prefer a wedding dress that is a tad more casual than a gown. It does seem wrong to say a wedding completes a woman.

  5. Reply

    Rebecca Wagner

    Interesting thoughts. Most expensive dress worn for the shortest amount of time:)

  6. Reply


    I mean, I loved my wedding (dress included) but I also remember that time as one of the most stressful of my life – mostly because Nick and I felt like we were having to contend with this HUGE tradition and all the expectations that just didn’t really feel right with our way of life. Weddings are big business – there’s no two ways about it. It really does set my teeth on edge that a wedding dress (and, as you said, therefore a marriage) was necessary for a complete wardrobe/life. No wonder so many women started self-medicating in the 50’s/60’s – what a let down!! Hahaha!!

  7. Reply

    Maggie Smith

    My younger sister is getting married in May so I am in the midst of all the wedding drama. She spent quite a bit of money on her designer dress even though I tried to convince her that it seemed excessive for a dress she would only get to wear for one day. It will be interesting to see how she feels about it a year from now.

  8. Reply


    It’s interesting to think how influenced everything is, and it boggles my mind a bit to try to think of which is the original source of it – sort of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of thing. I think that there’s way too much pressure, expectations and climactic importance laid upon a marriage, and a party for said marriage. I feel lucky to have a family that has never made me or my sister feel like a wedding and/or marriage were the most important things that we would ever do and, luckily, they are not obsessed with marring us off à la Pride and Prejudice.
    That said, wedding dresses are absolutely stunning and I think we should push to make it socially acceptable and common to see a gal showing off a gorgeous piece on the subway like it’s no big deal. haha!

  9. Reply

    Sarah Welsch

    Interesting, but I guess it was a sign of the times!



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