Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Disney Wedding

Unveiled has opened at the WA Museum, a lusciously lustful collection of wedding dresses from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London town and it has me thinking. Not about marriage, I've had enough weddings of late to keep me satisfied, but of a current phenomenon.

The exhibition which I spent four glorious hours examining and imbuing through every fibre of my being covers 200 years of bridal fashion history (with a few menswear items thrown in) and it was delightful to see such a diversity of styles, even amongst the very best of historical design. Some brides were practical, some subversive, some innovative and on trend, others conservative for the time and place. But they were all different, and through the careful attention of Edwina Erhman and her team at the V&A, each dress is infused with the identity of the bride and so each dress has a story to tell from how it came to be designed for the bride for her special day, to the love and care the family as put into recording the identity of these garments and accessories (including the bridegroom's waistcoat) and preserving them for our benefit today.

Looking at the variety of styles on display, they serve to clearly illuminate the overarching monotony of bridal gowns today. Here on display are 200 years of diverging styles, 200 years of inspiration: the beautiful and the unusual that women were willing to wear on their special day, clothes that truly did set them apart from the crowd and make their day a day to remember. I know its a terrible thing to say, but today so many brides look alike. I think I can safely say that the dress is the most important part. Too often it has been decided before the groom is even known. In a way it's nice to hope it means the bride has taste, or individuality and a sense of identity. But all too often each dress is big: a large crinolined skirt attached to a boned and beaded strapless bodice.

And its not even the most flattering of styles. So why do so many brides insist upon it for that one day when they are the centre of the world, the day when they get to marry their Prince Charming?
Is it that on this one day, their day, they simply want to be viewed as a princess... in the Disney Style?

This phenomenon appears to be prevalent among my generation, a generation of girls who grew up with Disney's version of Snow White and Cinderella, no doubt watched Beauty and the Beast in the cinemas, and wanted to be like Ariel with her cave of treasures or Sleeping Beauty with her ability to commune with the animals. Women who's life goal was to find 'the one' and marry. As impressionable little girls we adopt it quickly and apply our own dreams to this thing called a wedding. In more recent years we've added a few more goals to our list, but it still remains firmly implanted there: 'find the one and marry'.

Thankfully, I would add that my generation missed the brunt of the damage. We're just that little too old for the 'Disney Princess' scheme which has taken merchandising by storm. We escaped with our own clutch of Disney princesses, instead of having this growing clutch of vapid beauties stuffed down our throats by marketing giants. Still, we spent formative years amongst characters who's 'happily ever after' began with a big white dress.

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