Get it? Because I’m female, I must talk about wedding dresses at one point in my life.
Although this post is not about why Dresses Are Bad, why women Don’t Wear Pants to these auspicious day(s) of their life, and any other standard gripes one could conceive, it will, however, mention Katy Perry.
So, perhaps you can run now. Or not. It’s your call.
Wikipedia is actually a great source of information regarding this subject. (It’s not readily available in a concise, culturally examined format – unless, like me, you’re a registered anthropologist/anthropology student with access to articles about American culture that, ironically, most Americans will never see or read.) Being thoroughly indoctrinated into the Western tradition of “the white wedding,” most of us know that, along with the wedding, the bride’s dress is white. Generally, only hers is white (unless you’re a Middleton).
However, why is this?
Today, most people will give you a straight-shooting, Christian answer: purity. The woman, being a virgin because women do not have sex for pleasure nor outside of marriage, wears white to symbolize her purity and all the hours of hard work she put into saving herself for the groom. In the West, white is symbolic of peace, harmony, virginity, purity, innocence, the divine (but only the Christian divine!), and the current disproportionately empowered race. (Wait, what? Tara, don’t talk about politics – it’s a wedding; have manners.)
Men traditionally wear black because symbolically, they’re dying.
The confusingly somber male color choice aside, I think I’ve driven the point home regarding white wedding dresses: they’re rather prevalent. I have also done this without answering my own rhetorical question: why are they white?
The answer, in brief, is because some famous chick wore one in the Victorian era. (No big deal, right?) It really had little to do with one’s womanly bits – according to what I’ve found, actually, blue was the color of purity back in the day. (I do not link to this because it was Wikipedia, and worse, it was unannotated Wikipedia, and we all know how that goes.)
Now, for me, this dress fascination all began with a predictably inane Yahoo’s Shine article regarding Vera Wang’s new collection of black wedding dresses. Also predictably, the comments ranged from “it’s no big deal” to “it’s the apocalypse.” (I’ll let you find those little gems for yourselves.)
You see, in many parts of the world – as in, perhaps half of it – white is actually the color of mourning, while black is…not! How novel! How humans can draw completely different conclusions from the exact same color is beyond my analytical abilities and the scope of this article, but what isn’t beyond me is an interesting side effect: cultural appropriation.
Usually, we speak about cultural appropriation – the act of taking the aspect of another culture and using it without consent – in terms of Westerners taking anything from medicinal herbs to clothing to entire cultures and either misrepresenting them horribly, attempting to make money from them, or both. (Usually both and then some.) However, the tables have turned! What does this mean for modern Chinese brides? Doesn’t the connotation of white make them steer clear of the Western death dress?
Well, no. It’s considered a bit exotic and outside the norm, actually – if not fairly standard. Go figure.
As we all know, this is no one-way street. Awhile back, Katy Perry was accused of getting a nath, or traditional nose ring that connects the nose to the ear, for her wedding to Russell Brand. This article even discusses whether or not she got the supposed jewelry piece on the wrong side of one’s face – which traditionally connoted being a prostitute, not a blushing bride-to-be. (This, if true, would be a wonderful example of taking culture outside its original context and messing up horribly. However, other articles have debunked the nath claim for the theory that she simply wore a really weird pair of sunglasses that night.)
So, with the obvious intermingling of cultures and piercing of uncultured noses and culture culture culture, it’s interesting to see in what whacky ways we’ll declare ourselves to one another next! (Burlap chic? Interpretive dance? I don’t know, but calling it whacky once it’s an actual cultural institution will surely be insulting. How dated this shall look decades from now.)
I leave you with access to Vera Wang’s bridal gown gallery – here – because she doesn’t seem to mind breaking tradition, and thankfully, tons of Western women don’t mind with her! The gallery contains green dresses, peach dresses, black dresses, white dresses with black sashes, white dresses with other colored sashes, perhaps a gray dress, an above-the-knee (ooh-lala!) dress, and even a few aesthetically questionable dresses.
However, Ms. Wang is not afraid to go there, and that, I sincerely appreciate.
(Even though I will most likely not get married.)
(Seriously, I’ve never spent so much energy on this concept before in my entire life. I’m going to go back to playing video games now.)