Being a strapping young lass

So, I’ve been reading a lot of Caitlin Moran lately.

Two schools of thought are running parallel in my mind right now. Is it wise to read feminism so close to the wedding? And Crikey O’Reilly, this woman talks about fashion the same way I do.

What I loved was that Moran explains what we’re really trying to say when we look at our bursting closets moaning, ‘I’ve got nothing to weeeeeeaaar’.

A clue: it’s never a literal description of what our PAX wardrobe contains is it ladies?

Moran says what we’re trying to say is that we have nothing appropriate to drape on our outsidey parts to express how we’re feeling on the inside.

Clothes convey messages. And on these days of ‘I’ve got nothing to weeeeeaaaar’ – we’re  just getting twisted up that nothing in our wearable repertoire reflects the way we feel.

I might really want to wear a layered outfit that needs jeggings to pull it off. But the jeggings are in the wash. Hence it feels wrong to put actual jeans on. Amirite?

It’s not about fashion, it’s about how we use that fashion to project emotion.

And I can’t believe I admitted to owning a pair of jeggings.

Anyway, she went on to discuss the late-1990s\early 2000s phrase ‘yummy mummy’ and the ‘MILF’. (Mum, it’s an acronym for ‘a Mum I’d Love to take out for a Frappe sometime’)

It seems as though wedding dresses, the epitome of pure, white, virginal untouchedness, was also on the verge of going through it’s first real Jenna Jameson phase.

Suddenly, Lady Di’s puff-sleeved masterpiece that once had us swooning was no longer in contention as it was too big and cumbersome. Dorky and awkward. Dorkward.

That’s not to say I don’t look back on those photos of Diana and not gasp and applaud, but the 1980s massiveness of the sleeves, skirt, train doesn’t compute in 2012.

What happened?

I reckon it started with Melrose Place. Where grungy met sexy and rebirthed The Halter-Neck. Fashion responded accordingly, as did wedding gown designers.  It wasn’t before long that the slip dress made its cameo as outerwear and was too on it’s way down the aisle.

Getting married had never been more sexually charged.

And look at us now.

Model brides in magazines don’t smile; they either look incredibly melancholy, or look like they’re about to complete scene 12 for ‘Debbie Does The Wedding Party’.

Both the Madonna and The Whore are at play here. Jelly wrestling, perhaps.

The good news is there is a way of looking ‘sexy’ and ‘wholesome’ on the Big Day.

The bad news? It flatters very few body types.

It’s called a strapless wedding gown.

The Seamstress seems to die a little death whenever we talk about them at her massive dining room table – aka The Table That Is Always Full Of Awesome American Wedding Mags And Material Swatches.

Before you get all huffy with me, I’ve said it before, if you had (or going to have) a strapless dress for your wedding and you looked amazing and feel gorgeous in it – congratulations! You are part of that very, very small percentage that does suit the style. Well done.

This is one of the reasons I decided to head down the one-off wedding dress track. I couldn’t go through the retail rigmarole of flicking through the racks and racks of essentially the same dress. And I’m really good at saving money.

It’s estimated that 75 per cent of wedding dresses in retails shops, this very minute, are strapless.

I am 164 centimetres tall, slightly shorter than the average, I have a generous hip (thanks to a family gene that I think only one of my girl cousins has dodged, well done Laura), a generous bust and, as Father Time marches on, a noticeable middle spread is just daring me to stop my exercise classes.

So, keeping that in mind, this is what a strapless dress does for me…

  • It highlights my shoulders, which are not toned, no matter how many tricep extensions I do.
  • I become obsessed with pulling up the top, like it’s going to fall down, even if it’s not.
  • Strapless tops always feel like they’re hanging on to my boobs for dear life, even with gravity-defying understuffs.
  • In the effort to hold on to my norks without falling down, the strapless top squashes them up, which can either make me either look like my best assets sit naturally around my neck, or squashes them down, so they become a sort of uniboob and head south, no matter how adequately supported they may be.

So really, the only person that strapless works best on is Peaches and Cream Barbie and Katy Perry.

Common reasons why someone wants to wear a strapless gown –

You want to look different to your normal duds. But at 75 per cent of the wedding dress market? Are you really being that different?

It’s cheaper. Because the style is such a massive chunk of the market, you’re bound to find one to suit your budget. This is totally fair enough. In this case, I would recommend going to a bride expo or two. You can usually try on dresses there and they’re usually at a super discount if you pay upfront (plus a little negotiating!). But I urge you not to simply buy the dress as it’s cheap – you may pay for it in other ways. Remember, my friend Kait tried on that el cheapo wedding dress that was $179. It looked just fine, but it was outrageously uncomfortable (and flammable) for someone who wants to look beautiful. Hire a gown instead.

You want to look like a princess. Hate to burst the bubble here, but most royalty wear sleeves. 

You actually like it. I tip me lid to you madam, well done.

OK, back to the point on sexiness.

I disagree when brides say that sleeves are less sexy. Do you want to be sexy? On your wedding day? Sexy? Really?

We sexualise new mothers, older mothers, young women and our girls – Christ Almighty, that’s pretty much every female, in every stage of her life, on the planet.

Remember why you’re doing this.

This is the one time in your life where you have absolute permission to not bow to the sexiness schtick. This is the one time of your life you need to be fully grounded and paying attention.

And, like Hugh Grant said in Four Weddings and a Funeral, ‘You know, there’s nothing more off-putting in a wedding than a priest with an enormous erection.’

If you can’t stand your shoulders being on display or just don’t bloody well feel fabbo in a strapless dress, do as you would do on a normal day of picking out your clothes, don’t wear it.

You won’t wow anyone if you have that back-of-the-mind hankering feeling the dress is going to fall down mid-aisle or that thought of ‘Good gracious, they’re all looking at my non-toned arms’. The terror will be written all over your face and your groom might take that look personally.

A great gown should make you feel comfortable and confident, just like that one particular outfit you have at home that you would have no qualms in pulling out from the dirty wash basket and wear again… am I the only one that does that? :/

Don’t just wear something because it’s fashionable. Buck the trend. If you’re comfortable, you’ll be happy. And who doesn’t want that on their Big Day?

Stumped for awesome, covered-up ideas that look amazing?

This little gallery will get you inspired. Click each image for notes.