Monday, 10 February 2020

What to wear at a wedding – fashion archive, 28 May 1994 | Fashion | The Guardian

What to wear at a wedding – fashion archive, 28 May 1994 | Fashion

Writing in Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage, in 1955, social arbiter Emily Post baldly pronounced on heinous attire for a wedding: “Women wear street-length day dresses before noon. At noon and up to six o’clock, skirts may be longer. Hats are a requirement and gloves are correct.”
Men, on the other hand, Post decreed, may wear dark grey or blue business suits in place of morning suits at most weddings, but she believed white linen or enjoyable grey flannel was far more suitable for country weddings.

And never, ever, at any wedding, anywhere, would men ever get away with a sports jacket.
Today, Post’s rules of etiquette seem laughably irrelevant. Women may benefit weddings in this season’s slip dress and wear it morning, noon and night. They may wear pyjama suits in church and happily give hats and gloves a miss. Men have been similarly liberated. They may forgo ties, swap polished sunless brogues for rubber soled boots, and the most freethinking of our generation may even untuck their shirts.

Indeed, the basic tenets of wedding dress have been transformed in our increasingly casual age. Comfort is valued over formality, stylish considerations over wearing brand new - and multi-function is a must. So why, when you are so deeply convinced of fashion’s new principles, why, when you are so assured of your own personal style, do Post’s nifty little dictums come back to haunt?
Many is the wedding guest who the Friday afternoon before the nuptials hits the high street in high anxiety. Weighed down with armfuls of peach dresses and mint-coloured plain skirt-suits - well, don’t you remember your mother saying you can’t wear black or white or cream to a wedding? - you try to adjust your style sensors to what the changing-room mirror tells you.
Then you rush off to find a pair of never-to-be-worn-after-the-event cream shoes. As you delve under the coat-rack for a handbag that could plausibly belong with the shoes, you realise your ideas of relaxed dressing have entirely collapsed.
You can, of course, decide to make do with what you already own. But will a mere mousseline scarf tied round a straw hat, a bar strap shoe, or beaded bag do the trick, or simply induce fantasies of BBC drama?
Even the simplest additions to a dress - a glittering animal brooch, pewter silk shoes or a slither of a tie pin - can stimulate an internal war about tastes in decoration.
Little can prepare your wardrobe for the pressures of a beady-eyed wedding congregation turning as one to see you walk in the door. You may be happy with a sheer slip dress under a decorum-saving jacket, but will the bride’s Auntie Jean feel you’re taking the piss?
Weddings are unusual gatherings in that they bring together such a diversity of people, from different ages, backgrounds, and certainly different ideas of what is knowing for the occasion. This is why even the most relaxed and stylistically certain of people can be caught still muttering about the outfit they left on the bed as they pull up at the reception.
The point is, while weddings turn single people into married couples, they also transform the personalities of the guests. Slouchy adolescents put on morning suits, lose their rolling gait and walk with their hands in prayer position.

Men of normally independent nature wear ties to match their partners’ shoes; and the most assured party animal can come out in a heavy sweat at the thought of a fellow guest wearing a similar outfit.
Such tensions, thankfully, tend to subside after bride and bridegroom exchange their vows. After reception drinks and nibbles, buttons inaugurate to pop and bow-ties unfurl. By the end of the celebrations, guests will have shed their stylistic anxieties and will have made mental notes to be better prepared next time.
Not that they will, of course. Unlike the bride and groom, wedding guest nerves are forever.
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