After my disastrous attempt at finding a wedding dress in a chain-store, I have made an appointment in a small boutique just around the corner from where I live. I think this is going to be much more enjoyable than the last visit, mainly because I will be accompanied by two friends as well as my Mum and daughter, and they are going to ply us with canapes and champagne. Now, that’s more like it. I have walked past this shop on an almost daily basis for the two years I have lived here with my husband–to-be. Sometimes I allowed myself to look in the window as I walked past, but usually I averted my eyes. You don’t get to thirty-something without having experienced some bitter disappointments, and cynicism is now a deeply ingrained habit for me. I will not allow myself to hope, dream or even think about something until I am 100% sure that it is really happening. But now, today, it really is happening. I am going to choose The Dress. The dress I will wear to marry the man I love.
Fairly soon after we announced to our children and our parents (in that order) that we were getting married, we changed our status to ‘engaged’ on Facebook. Of course, I am not dependent upon social media for my identity (honest), and didn’t NEED to change my status to be officially engaged – but bizarrely, it did feel more real to me once I had become ‘engaged’ on Facebook and enjoyed the predictable flood of congratulations from people I haven’t seen since school.
What was less predictable for me was the ensuing barrage of diet advertisements which now flash in the corners of my eye as I log on. I had become used to the ‘Adele lost 2 stone’ advert, but now I am distracted by the ‘White Dress Diet’, not to mention the ‘Wedding Diet’, alongside a competition to win personalised m and ms for wedding favours! Yes, Facebook certainly knows I am engaged and assumes this means I will be on a diet, as does the entire internet. Even a search for wedding trainers (see my shoe dilemma) came up with someone who would make me run around a field and do press-ups in order to be worthy of my Big Day.
Being beautiful seems to be a vital part of being a bride (as if anybody would marry a woman for any other reason!) and being thin appears to be a vital part of being beautiful. I was annoyed by this implication, especially the thin part, until I went to try on a wedding dress. The bridal diet obsession then became clear. It is not possible to look beautiful in a wedding dress unless you are a) very tall and statuesque or b) a stick insect. If you don’t believe me, find the thickest, widest and longest swathe of material you can (a pair of curtains would do) and drape it around yourself. Press it flat against your bosom and pin it at the back, preferably tightly enough to make some flesh bulge out around the sides. Now add some frills for added bulk. Now imagine this whole ensemble in WHITE.
The wedding dress is the opposite of the little black dress. It is, in fact, a big white dress. The BWD does not, like the LBD, make you feel as if you have lost a stone. It makes you instantly wish you could lose 2 stone. I now believe that the diet industry is paying the wedding dress industry to continue to make these unflattering dresses. The number 1 reason for dieting has got to be an impending wedding (just check any Weightwatchers magazine for proof of this one).
Apparently, we have Queen Victoria to thank for the white wedding dress, which became the norm after she wore one to marry Prince Albert in 1840. Before then, women just wore their best dress – in any colour.
It has now become such a strong tradition that few wedding dresses deviate from white, or off-white, and it is hard to imagine ‘feeling like a bride’ in anything else.
Yet there is no escaping it, the BWD does not suit the thirty-something bride. I took my ten-year-old daughter, Chief Bridesmaid, to Debenhams as she had begged to be allowed to help me choose The Dress. She sat on a chair and enthused as I walked out in the first dress. She enthused about the second dress, and the third. An hour later, her enthusiasm was beginning to evaporate. I was back to the first dress which she and the sales assistant agreed was the best.
‘I look like an enormous white square,’ I said sadly as I regarded the vast expanse of lace, tied at the waist with a piece of thin ribbon, making me almost as wide as I was tall.
‘Well I think you should get that one because actually you just look RIDICULOUS in all the others!’ snapped Chief Bridesmaid, patience finally gone. I had to laugh – and seriously consider the possibility of getting married in my best jeans.