And, lo, it came to pass that there was some small upside to the Corona crisis. Weddings, it transpires, are among the riskiest, most anti-social activities one can engage in. There are some of us who have always known this. However, now it has been proved by science. As a consequence, June brides are, like, so over. Sorry, breeders, you’re going to have to do without all the faux-virginal egotism and the croquembouche.
The fact that nuptials are a style-free zone isn’t the major reason to hate them. Indeed, it can provide some respite. However, it does remain one of their most glaring aspects. Marriage is unfashionable per se, of course, the rates for tedious heterosexuals being the lowest on record during 2017, with 21.2 per 1,000 unmarried men and 19.5 per 1,000 unmarried women. Less than a quarter of these were religious ceremonies. And, yet, still the monstrosity that is the Big White Frock looms large. So much for all the articles on “wedding style”. Reader, there ain’t any such thing.
Like so many of our time-honoured traditions, bridal white is a new-fangled phenomenon, a Victorian invention passed off as eternal lore. Before Queen Victoria stepped forth in her Honiton lace, royal brides may have worn white, but Joanna Public never did, merely rigging herself out in her best dress. As well she might. The mobile meringue is the great lumbering style crisis from which the tastelessness of weddings spreads like a cheap wine stain throughout the assembled crowd.
Accordingly, the demand becomes more fancy dress than a fancy dress, some sub-Richard Curtis affair in which costuming has been supplied by the late BHS. The name “Jacques Vert” hovers into the brain, the entirely non-Frog firm set up by two East End tailors in 1972, equipping generations of mothers-of-the-bride. Its hats remain suitably horrendous, and there is not a trouser to be found, trousers clearly being unthinkable back in the Home Counties. Administrators are being summoned as I type.
Back to bridezilla. The greatest joke is how much women are prepared to pay to resemble so many crinoline lady bog-roll concealers: an average of £1,385, rising to £1,677 in that London. They continue to do this despite the wealth of bleached high-street offerings now available at ASOS, H&M, Monsoon, French Connection, Whistles, Ghost, Kitri, Staud, Sleeper, Self-Portrait and Needle & Thread, or the option of sporting something that actually suits them.
Extracted from its heinous surrounds, I suppose a beautiful wedding dress is technically possible. Amused by my gamophobia, the editor of Elle once sent me to chichi emporium Browns Bride to see whether unearthing The Dress of My Girlish Dreams might sway me. My girlish dreams were all Angela Carter-esque nuptial nightmares – my dress a shroud, my train snaked round my throat – meaning I was a tad triggered by having to stand about in a thong with a scarf wrapped round my face (to prevent slap soiling frockage).
My body rebelled, generating my sole freak period in 40 years, an occurrence that did not sit happily amid £12,000 of tulle. Still, Browns is so chic that even a refusenik such as myself found something to lust after: a slinky, Marilyn Monroe-esque virgin/whore Monique Lhuillier number, the price of which was roughly that of a first home. I loved my Lhuillier, but it was still a wedding dress, meaning I would have loved it a lot more in scarlet or emerald.
I boast allies whose position is less phobic. My friend Lux purchased the most sublime Thirties’ creation for $120 on eBay, having been scared out of Harrods by a Stepford assistant demanding to know her wedding’s theme. (Lux’s answer: “Private”.) Fashion maven Emma favoured an off-the-peg 200-quid number on the basis that it would presently be covered in rioja and cigarette burns, and so it came to pass.
Michelle and Rainy took my advice (fancy!) and headed to the woman I am proud to call my dressmaker: demi-couturier, Sylvia Young of Beau Monde. Sylves is the genius to whom Voguettes scurry for espousal garb, who never imposes a wedding tax, hoicking up the price because it’s somebody’s big day.
Rainy’s beaded lace sheath cost £300, plus £800 for material from couture fabric purveyors and Royal Appointment holders Joel & Son. This was ten years ago. However, Sylvia is still doing the decent thing, and her impeccable designs average out at about £1,500, materials included. She can also act fast should a shotgun be in view, knocking up a dress in a day when occasion demanded it.
Right now, Sylvia is turning out fabulous couture face masks, meaning she will be adept at supplying not only the frock, but those breaking 21st Century traditions: veil, garter, gloves and mask.
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