Dress for Success, Marriage Edition

One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show, “Say Yes to the Dress.” Or, at least it was until I had the happy experience of shopping for a wedding dress with my daughter. Our hunt for a gown was much more modest, but just as fun. Although I still enjoy the show, I know that reality is quite different. In the TV show, brides shop for ridiculously extravagant gowns, many of which are beautiful, and it is enjoyable to admire the styles and details and so on. It is interesting how almost all brides do find a dress that is just right for them and likewise how a gorgeous dress is not right for everyone. What a young lady may have in mind might be entirely wrong for her once she has it on. And that is what makes it fun: finding the right combination of bride and gown.

At the same time, I have a pet peeve with it all too. That is, many brides – perhaps most – are looking for a “sexy” dress. They want to show off their bodies, not by wearing flattering styles but by flaunting their “assets” by exposing inordinate amounts of cleavage or having sheer corsets or other revealing elements. To me, this is just the opposite of what a bridal gown should be. Of course, every bride wants to look beautiful for her husband, but beautiful and sexy are not synonymous. And while I’m at it, sexy and revealing are not synonymous either.

Undoubtedly, this is a reflection of the status quo, where brides and grooms frequently are already well-acquainted, shall we say, and the mysteries of the nuptial union are more or less behind them. This is nothing new, in and of itself. I have found several relatives in my genealogy research whose first child arrived shortly after the wedding… and they are all from good Catholic stock, by the way! The difference is the societal norm, the understanding that sexual intercourse properly belongs within marriage. Clearly, this is no longer the expectation for many people who shamelessly have numerous partners before settling on a more permanent arrangement. (I am not suggesting that we assume anything about a particular couple, but the change in society’s understanding of marriage affects trends across the board.)

Perhaps more troubling is that many of these fashion trends have crossed into prom dresses as well. I am not advocating the high-necked, long-sleeved chiffon nightmare I wore way back when, but neither should high school seniors look like Oscar trendsetters. It is an accident waiting to happen; just add alcohol.

How we dress tells the world how we see ourselves. We know this when we think about business attire and the notion of always dressing for our next job. We want to look more capable than the competition and a large part of how we present ourselves is in how we dress. On special occasions, such as a prom or a wedding, a young woman naturally draws more attention and she should take care what message she is sending. She should project her inner beauty by emphasizing the virtues that make her unique. Her gown should reflect her gentleness, sweetness, and intellect, which is more suitable to her new role as wife and (probably) mother.

Tomorrow, I will continue by looking at another aspect of modesty: Going easy on the bling.  It’s not all about the bride….

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