For many, getting dressed is a simple question of what’s clean. Occasionally, the process is a little more involved. An outfit for a hot date or a day at the races, for example, may be carefully curated over a few days or a week. But when the outfit planning starts in kindergarten and lasts twenty or thirty years, it’s a far stranger prospect.
The irony about such a long-term clothing project is that the colour and style of a wedding frock is pre-determined. Give or take the volume of your skirts or the exact shade of white, you’re going to be a mail-order cookie-cutter bride. Of course, you will be just perfect for your equally generic groom when you waltz down the aisle, but you might want to forgive the priest if he doesn’t get your name right. After all, he’s married a few girls in his time.
I remember being weirded out by my usually fashion-unaware high-school friends as we sat in our circle, wearing gorgeous grey stockings and plaid skirts, no less, discussing the benefits and pitfalls of sleeveless or with-sleeves bridal gowns.
While ordinarily, I love the opportunity to discuss the details of garments in a detail that could only be considered grossly frivolous, I found this series of conversations particularly vexing. Primarily, this was because, in my humble 14-year-old opinion, these girls were out of their minds.
Planning a wedding outfit is a positive fashion-based activity in theory. There will be cameras, you will need to dance. It’s a good opportunity to make a positive statement and get noticed. However, unless I have missed a cool rite of passage wherein girls get to do the wedding dress thing without the pesky ritual part (and if I have missed THAT memo, please send me an invite), the precursor should be a) a willing accomplice, AKA a groom, and b) a date for said ritual.
‘Ah friends…’ I urged my catholic counterparts… ‘should we not instead focus on the fact that our $10 a week pittance prevents us from owning the hottest tencel overalls in Miss Shop and we must find a solution, lest we be fashion-rejects at the uniform-free day.’ But my pleas fell on deaf ears, and instead I found myself marvelling at another discussion on the fantasy bride of their imagination. We needed to resolve the sleeves question before lunchtime was through. There was no time to waste!
I still muse at the amount of discussion by my otherwise grounded friends on their wedding outfit. They wouldn’t put together a cute trekking-through-the jungle safari ensemble for kicks, ‘just in case they happen to find themselves in Borneo in the next couple of years’ and they certainly wouldn’t plan for other similar rites of passage. To demonstrate, I have never been asked what I plan to wear to my grandmothers funeral, although the likelihood of attending that event in the future is more certain than finding a man to get wrinkly with.
In the end, regardless of extensive planning, what a girl wears on her wedding day depends on what she can afford, what doesn’t make her butt look big and what is church-appropriate. The sleeves or no-sleeves discussion is long-forgotten by the time she and her mum get to the shop and with tears in their eyes decide that ‘this is the one’. It seems all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for being smacked in the face by a dress you can’t resist.
I have that moment a lot. Last time, it was with a perfect little dark denim overalls dress. I saw it across a crowded room, shining like a diamond amongst imperfect jeans and worn out sweaters. I touched it gently, and melted. It was love. Not fantasy one-day-maybe love, but real, tangible ‘right now’ fun-love.
I am fortunate to have been raised by a fashion-conscious, if often derailed-by-the-80s, mother. I never saw a wedding day as my one opportunity to dress up like a princess. I feel like I can do that any time I want to. It’s never just a question of ‘what’s clean’, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.