#SuzyCouture: Is Feminism Fighting Against The White Wedding Dress?
Until the dawn of the millennium – or maybe just a single decade ago – the couture tradition was to close a show with a wedding gown.
This is still true of some designers, such as India’s Sabyasachi, whose poetic and intricate hand-made bridal outfits are part of an ever-growing industry. While rising stars such as Rahul Mishra show both in Paris and in India in the special weeks devoted to that country’s major industry.
But what about the European bridal scene? While a few designers at the Paris couture season still include love-and-marriage outfits, the big names mostly ignore the concept of putting weddings and their dressy surroundings publicly on the runways.
In the case of Maria Grazia Chiuri at Dior, the absence might be related to the designer’s positive feminist stance. At Chanel, the late Karl Lagerfeld never seemed to be drawn by wedding bells, although the company has dressed many bridal clients. At Valentino high fashion, there was nothing marriage-specific about Pierpaolo Piccioli’s dramatically graceful gowns. Among the upper echelons, only Giambattista Valli is a rare supporter of youthful gowns.
The territory is therefore clear for Elie Saab, who also had a personal reason to bring bridal into his collection: his son Elie Saab Junior will wed in Lebanon on the weekend of 18 July. Only one Saab gown ended the show (although he has been known to have numerous bridal dresses as a finale).
Yet from the start, there were garments with the back drape that gives such grandeur and allure. Much bridal wear is based on a great exit line, as various religions have a tradition of the bride and groom married while facing inward, perhaps with a group of close family, but otherwise with their backs to most of the guests.
In fact, the Elie Saab collection reached out a long way for inspiration – to the Far East, where the designer said he “let my mind dive into it”, citing “imperial volume”, while still using his signature touches to stay true to the house. That seemed to mean small waists, clasped with gilded belts or with the same effect using golden discs on the head like mini crowns.
Cultural appropriation is increasingly frowned on as fashion inspiration, yet Saab was certainly respectful to this dream world of the Far East which allowed him to produce some great exit lines. The silken fabrics flowing over the runway at the back were at their best when there were no split skirts displaying legs and a high-thigh look at the front.
The overall effect, especially when the regal reds and purples lightened to a soft pink or grey-blue, was of dedication to decoration – for grand gowns, evening gowns or wedding belles.