It's not a secret that strapless bridal dresses are about as ubiquitous as that scene in movies where the officiant asks people in attendance at a wedding to speak up or forever hold their peace and someone speaks up, with comical results. But why? Strapless gowns are nearly universally unflattering, they're tough to keep on, and they look more like a bridal uniform for a woman marching into marriagebattle with her plastic cakemate groom than a unique expression of a woman's style. It seems that finally brides are starting to notice, and small numbers of them are staging a revolt. But will recent resistance be enough to end the iron-fisted rule of the strapless bridal gown?
Slate's Katherine Goldstein noticed what she calls "the tyranny of the strapless gown" when she began dress hunting for her own wedding. She's not a person with terribly unique proportions, and never had difficulty shopping for clothes in the past, but knew that strapless gowns weren't her thing. And finding a bridal dress that wasn't strapless was much more difficult than she expected.
Stymied, she searched for answers — why are 75% of gowns strapless when white strapless gowns look weird on about 95% of people?
Some designers theorized that it's a demand issue — brides interested in following tradition find themselves hemmed into having a floor length gown, but they still want to feel beautiful on their Big Day, and so they opt for strapless, skin-exposing numbers in an effort to avoid dowdiness. But I find that difficult to believe. Sexy Bride Disease is a real thing that affects real people, but women aren't that oblivious about what looks good on them. Strapless dresses, as Goldstein points out, can lead to armpit overhang, to uniboob, to "stick arms," to ham hock arms, to making otherwise perfectly beautiful women who look stunning in nearly every other clothing style look doughy.
Goldstein uncovered another, more insidious theory in her truth quest: Designers prefer to make bridal gowns strapless because they're easier. Sleeves are tricky, and dresses without them are much more quick and painless to alter. Less time, less thought, more ability to crank out more dresses, that they will charge women an arm, a leg, and a collarbone for because they're wedding dresses.
So, let me get this straight: designers already charge a metric fuckton for wedding dresses, way more than they charge for regular, non-wedding dresses that happen to come in white, and they're cutting corners by making them in the style that's the least challenging for them to fit to brides? And that style just happens to be almost universally unflattering? Oh, hell no. This ends here, strapless gowns.
I'm allegedly planning a wedding (I say "allegedly" because I've been engaged for several months now and every time acquaintances ask me if we've set a date yet, I make the sort of face someone might make if they'd been ask to clean up several piles of fresh, still-warm cat vomit) that will probably take place toward the end of next year. I'm completely dreading the entire process. It's not that I don't want to be married or have friends and family gather in a festive setting, but I don't want to shop, to shell out, to spend way too much time thinking about clothes and hair and makeup. I'm not very princessy, I don't like being photographed (unless I am three glasses of pinot grigio in and inside a photo booth), and I hate spending money on things I think aren't necessary. And I, like Katherine Goldstein, do not want a strapless dress.
So I'm not even going to bother with bridal salons — the idea of paying four figures for a dress that's totally not my style that I'll wear once makes me break out in hives. I'm going to take my practical ass to a regular old store that sell regular old dresses and buy a cap sleeved number in cream so that my paleness against a white gown doesn't make me look like I'm dying of consumption in the Moulin Rouge. And if anyone who attends my nuptials has a problem with that, then I'm afraid they are no longer welcome at the cake table.
Future brides, take note: you don't have to blindly follow the cruel way of the strapless gown. You have a choice. You can acknowledge that you're one of the 99% who does not look awesome in a strapless wedding gown. You can say "no" to the dress.