Blowing Up Convention
“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. But now, God knows, anything goes.” - Cole Porter
“Weddings are not necessarily about the cliché or the dress any more, they’re about the story,” explains designer and art director Adriann Helton. Instead of worrying about finding a dress which could take up as much as a third of the wedding’s budget, she thinks the process has changed. “Nowadays, weddings are curated for the memories being created, and the experience being shared with those present – not only on the day but also those who may only experience it through social media.”
Sure, the traditional white gowns still exist, and probably always will, but instead of spending hundreds or thousands on a dress which will hang in a closet for decades, traditional brides today are renting their gowns. Men have been renting tuxes forever, so why can’t women get in on the action? There are plenty of companies which will alter a $20,000 gown to fit, then. When you’re done, you send it back and it gets altered for the next bride. Besides, with the current trends in micro homes and more women opting not to have children, there’s no place to store the thing and no new generation on which to pass it along; the narratives of the traditional wedding are changing.
Today, the narrative can be anything you want it to be. Helton, who trained in fashion design, now, specializes in what she calls “communicating film ideas into everyday wearable content.” Recently she oversaw the design of the American Horror Story Collection for AC-DC Apparel to sell at mall couture shops like Hot Topic. Her team designed dresses to look like actual prom dresses. “We were asked to elevate it because they wanted them for homecoming dresses.” And it worked. Young ladies around the country were wearing these gowns to proms and holiday parties. “This is a pervasive part of fashion culture now.” Helton should know. After a brief stint doing film work, she found her way back to fashion in 2005, but her time doing character development through costume design has been informing her work through out.
All of this leads to the fact that when she says “traditional,” is no longer really traditional, you believe her. Even the ever present floor length white gown is, according to Helton, undergoing a “modernization trend, being paired with a rebellious leather jacket covering.” This is an age where we define ourselves by what we watch, read, play, or listen to and there’s no reason this shouldn’t become ever more encompassing.
As Helton points out, “fandom is a huge part of this.” It’s not just a color scheme anymore - people are theming everything in their lives. And again, narrative is the key word here. We’re telling stories about ourselves in the way we choose to present ourselves to the outside world. Pop culture is overtaking high culture as the preferred method of interactive communication amongst the populace. Not only can your love of a certain intellectual property lead you to find your perfect partner, it can inform your wedding as well. It’s not unusual for a groom and his ushers to wear superhero t-shirts under their tuxedos or to have an entire bridal party dressed as Star Fleet officers. “Tardis Blue,” the specific color of the police call box found in the BBC show Doctor Who, is not only a specific request, but it’s become a regularly available option. Even simply peppering your wedding vows with references to your favorite film, TV show of book series makes it part of your story.
That part also says we all have the ability to live the fantasy. You can take bits and pieces, elements you like from a variety of sources and bring them together in your unique style. You don’t have to dress like Tina Turner in Mad Max to be inspired by her. Take, for example, the Penny Dreadful collection Helton recently designed. “Not everyone wants to walk around in a literal Victorian evening gown,” she says. “So how can you make it an everyday wearable garment that still calls back to the property’s origins?” What she did was make a knee length dress with lace details and added a print of a map of Victorian London, the illustrated streets giving way to Frankenstein stitches to incorporate a character from the show “and voila!”
As Helton says, “weddings are no longer about expectations.” Instead, they are about two people expressing their love for each other in a way which expresses their own personalities and freedoms. They are about celebrating who the couple is, not who society expects them to be – be it through fashion or dialogue or an Iron Throne cake topper. And, lest we forget, they are about the fabulous pictures which will commemorate the day.