Welcome to Pearl and Birch's inaugural blog post. One does not find themselves wading into the wedding arena without pondering the history of the garment we have lovingly committed to tending to. So, while we spend our days frolicking through organza and chatting with eager, smiling brides we thought we would create a space in which we not only explored the bridal world but immersed ourselves in the
industry of weddings beginning at the epicenter of all things: the wedding dress.
At a glance you might observe that in Western culture many traditions don't hold the value they once did. The wedding dress has endured centuries of evolution becoming more diverse and increasingly unique in its application. What does hold true is in spite of a continuing metamorphosis wedding gowns continue to remain symbolically significant. The white wedding dress is a tradition that has continued to be embraced by even the most contemporary of brides.
Ironically, the white wedding dress is a particularly new phenomena. Throughout the course of history marriages were typically not arrangements of the heart but more the design of social and political motivation. Families were usually the architects of these unions creating arrangements to bolster economic status, solidify business agreements and unite geographical interests. Brides were expected to wear garments and fabrics that displayed their wealth and it was common for those with means to wear silk, fur and velvet in a variety of colors and current styles. Those who came from lower social classes would don their best Sunday dress. It was not uncommon for a bride to wear green, red or even black to her nuptials. In fact, the French considered white a color of mourning and blue to be associated with piety and the Virgin Mary making it the popular color in the Middle Ages.
As with most culture shifting paradigms it took a trailblazer of royal proportions to
introduce white as a hue of choice. It was the marriage of Queen Victoria in 1840 that propelled white to the forefront of bridal fashion. Her wedding portrait depicting a pale gown of satin and lace in a women's magazine would reach the West and lay the foundation for modern bridal design. Royalty was the celebrity equivalent of its time and it would take a union between Hollywood and nobility to reintroduce the style into the mainstream over 100 years later.
The white wedding gown did not become a garment of choice until after the Industrial Revolution and did not evolve into the dress of tradition until after the Second World War. During this time only the women who already possessed a variety of impractical one-off garments in their trousseau would choose to be married in such extravagance. It was reported that Queen Elizabeth II saved her ration cards in order to produce her white, pearl encrusted dress for her wedding in 1947. Princess Grace's marriage in 1956 marked a resurrection of this bridal style. For the next 25 years we saw a variety of styles bolstered by an exciting lawlessness in women's fashion that featured iconoclasts like Bianca Jagger sporting pant suits, crocheted mini dresses and fur coats. In spite of their free spirited, unconventional designs most brides still opted for the palest shades. Princess Diana's 1981 wedding to Prince Charles catapulted the Victorian-style version we celebrate today to the forefront of modern bridal style.
Since that fairytale day that ended on the balcony of Buckingham Palace 36 years ago the bridal industry has committed to its own vows marrying runway fashion to aisle style and generating a multi million dollar market. From couture to bohemian, ready to wear lines offered up at department stores stand tall beside exclusive boutiques and private, independent labels hailing from all over the globe. Separates, illusion lace backs, ethereal floral velvet appliques and horsehair trimmed bodices flung across the pages of bridal magazines offer everything to everyone. The revolution of design may be in full swing but the shade remains the same.
Over the last 10 years we have been tempted by Vera Wang's scarlet-hued ball gowns. We have had a secret affair with the pale purples by designer Hayley Page. We have scrolled furiously through Gatsby-style beaded champagne sheaths and obsessed over embroidered lace in forest green and dusty rose. Yet, still we find ourselves wading through a sea of ecru, ivory, diamond and cream searching for a daydream or discovering a lingering nostalgia we never knew existed.
There is something about a wedding dress. It can transform the every day into the magical. It can conjure feelings of self confidence and delicate vanity in even the most non-conventional bride. It evokes a sense of purity and honesty. Every marriage is a spectacular serendipity. Every union is unique. Every love celebration is a story telling of the hope and aspirations that have been poured into that relationship. A wedding is a promise to another. A wedding dress is a promise to ourselves. No matter what color you choose.
Next Week: PBWC will be exploring the industry of wedding gowns and the changing landscape of the online market, private local designers and consignment boutiques that are making wedding gowns more accessible, unique and affordable.