Minty green at Oscar de la Renta. Click for more photos

Wedding dresses that aren't white

Minty green at Oscar de la Renta.

I am unashamedly addicted to reality wedding shows, my latest dependence being TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress. The series documents the staff and customers of Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. There’s crying in clouds of tulle, countless asides on how the “perfect dress” will help overcome personal difficulty, overwhelming advice from overbearing mothers, budget concerns, and struggles with pre-wedding weight gain a la Bridezilla meets The Biggest Loser.*

A typical recap? “Kasey's OCD hinders her decision; Jackie's dress to mask her self tan; Angela has second thoughts ... Christie is a former stunt woman; Leah asks for a dress that doesn't have 'boob mirage.'” Basically, it’s everything you’d ever hoped for in a TV series and then some.  

My only qualm with the program is the sheer lack of alternative choices available to the bride, due partly to the overabundance of pricey eggshell, ecru and ivory Pnina’s on the showroom floor. As Randy Fenoli, fashion director of Kleinfeld’s and host of the show’s fifth spinoff series, SY2TD: Randy Knows Best, says, “If you want to wear color, you may want to save it for your shoes. This way your guests will only get a peak of color when the tip of your shoe is exposed from under your gown.”

To this I say poo-poo! When did wedding dresses get to be so, well, white? Brides in the Middle Ages would wear rich colours in luxe fabrics such as fur velvet and silk, Western Europe once favoured red gowns embroided with silver thread, while American brides donned a plethora of colours, including blue, yellow, brown and grey.

The double-wide white cupcake has only recently come into fashion with Queen Victoria in 1840, who wore it as a symbol of wealth and social status i.e. having enough money not to work and to dry-clean. Nowadays, you don’t need a white dress to flaunt your cash – show-off via vellum-overlay invites, fireworks, three-tier cakes decorated with gold-leaf icing and intricate scrollwork, and elaborate bonbonnieres. This site suggests a potted orchid? 

As SY2AD has taught me, a woman’s wedding day is all about her, a celebration of her beautiful uniqueness and a bold expression of her personal style. Thus, it’s ironic that the bridal industry presents us with such formulaic options. What if ivory or champagne isn’t your colour? What if you find the ever-ubiquitous strapless neckline particularly unflattering? As Slate’s Katherine Goldstein so accurately observes, visible tan lines, spillover cleavage, stick-figure arms, uniboobs and pouches of skin bunched up around the armpits become extra pronounced when wearing white strapless styles.

Thankfully, we need only look to the number of floral, red and black growns on the runway to realise that alternative dress styles are making a comeback. The unwritten rules of long, white and cap-sleeved have been jettisoned in favour of fashion-forward, statement-making gowns that need not be reserved for older brides or second-timers.

Isaac Mizrahi has jumped on the bridal bandwagon with an 18-piece collection, adding his playful touch with gingham sashes, pink lace, black embroidery and an all-black gown! The lady behind Priscilla Chan’s aka Mrs. Muckerberg’s dress, Claire Pettibone, has long favoured blue-toile lace. While Vera Wang, making her foray into the Asian market, has delivered a collection of 15 gowns in different shades of red, the colour of choice for brides in China, India and Vietnam.

What do you think? Would you ever wear a coloured dress down the aisle? Sofia Coppola wed her betrothed in lovely lavender by Azzedine Alaia, Cynthia Nixon looked a dream in seafoam green Caroline Herara, while Reese Witherspoon and Gwen Stefani both donned pink on their big day, if that’s enough to sway you?

*Intrigued? There’s also a fourth spinoff series, Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss, featuring Kleinfeld’s plus-size clientele.