Homemade Wedding Dress

Our obsession with white wedding dresses is purely a concoction from the last 150 years. Why white? Well it represents “purity” but it was also a sign of wealth for those at the start of that 150 years. Having a white dress, that you only wore once, well that was the height of luxury. So with a growing middle class and more disposable income, in addition to cheaper labor, factory weaving and mass production, white dresses became more and more popular. Yet in my family, white dresses has only been a tradition for around 100 years. With my Great-Grandmother’s donning their white gowns in the 1920s and 1930s, but before that wedding photos show women in “sunday’s bests” posed with their husbands in nice suits. Many wore dark colors. Why dark? Dark blues last a lot longer than lighter clothing.

Anyway, we’ll set aside family wedding lore and get us to the 21st century. My grandmother’s wore store-bought dresses, as did my mother. Even though the grandmother’s were avid seamstresses. No doubt, their dresses were beautiful. Juanita wore a 1949 classic dress that had a train and a slim a-line cut with plenty of lace, while Candice went early 1960s in a bell skirt and soft satin.  My mom had a simple 1990s dress that was simple and suited their Western-themed shindig.

For myself, a child and grandchild of crafters and history nerds, I went a new but old direction. No doubt for centuries my relatives made their own clothing or had someone make them clothes, probably a relative, maybe a seamstress. So when it came to my own dress, I started with shopping in stores, and online, and with Etsy. I ended at making my own dress.

Being me, I couldn’t make a normal dress. Because of being stubborn and also being entranced with a certain design from the 18th century. The Chemise a la Reine, which was worn in the late 1700s is the amalgamation of changing culture, feminism and moving away from the strictness of fine dress. It was the beginning of a brief 30 years or so where women wore clothing that was more comfortable and more reasonable for the lives that women were leading. The Chemise a la Reine was controversial in its time for being too simple, too much like underwear. The painting below of Marie Antoinette was scandalous in its day.

So for me, the chance to create and wear something so beautiful, but
representative of how far women have come and the excitement of having something of a “princess” dress was the perfect blend.

Naturally, I made a  few modern changes. I added less poofs, I made a multi-colored under skirt and my hair represented a more modern take. It all also blended well with the Alphonse Mucha fall theme that touched many aspects of our day.

Part II tomorrow.

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