The flurry of photos appearing from the newly opened 'Wedding Dress' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (along with several to attend in the next two months) has me meditating on the history and beauty of bridal gowns. While much of the publicity for the exhibition has focused on those worn by celebrities like Kate Moss and Gwen Stefani (both in Galliano), it is the very idea of a wedding dress—and all that it symbolizes—that makes it such an intriguing subject for study. The idea of encapsulating all of one's dreams, love and personality in a garment is an appealing yet almost impossible task. Though wedding attire is now far more diverse than the traditional white gown of the last century, it always comes with carefully encoded messages about the wearer's values and desires. With wedding season gearing up, I thought I would share my favourite bridal editorial—with her signature soft-focus technique, Lilian Bassman perfectly captures the dreamlike fantasy surrounding marriage. Elegant apparitions, her brides are otherworldly and innocent creatures — one is even the then-twenty-year-old Natalie Wood.
All photos by Lillian Bassman for Harper's Bazaar, April 1958.
For the small wedding (but not cutting corners on sentiment), a short dress in thin silk the color of the palest pink rose imaginable hides a scoop-necked bodice under a back-buttoned, sleeved bolero of matching, flower-scrolled Chantilly lace. From Saks Fifth Avenue.
White is for bridesmaids, too, and the prettier, this season, for white organdie that's tucked from it's apron-wrapped bodice to the last inch of its short, flaring skirt. By Will Steinman.
Attending the Bride in Aproned Lace. Not always a bridesmaid's dress (it has a full season of parties on its schedule, too)—a sheath of aquamarine blue cotton lace has a full-skirt of pale organza.
Portrait of this spring's bridal dress, full-length and in the new tradition for floating, airy fabric. Again, white silk organdie and fake-pearl-strewn lace, swaying out from a tiny waist to a tucked, ante-bellum width of skirt. By Priscilla of Boston.
As unexpected and very pretty departure from the traditional bridesmaid's dress: a gardenful of sunny flowers printed on cotton and seen through a misty overlay of white organdie. The bare-shouldered décolletage ties on each side; organdie films the bodice, then blows apron-free at the skirt—a delicious way to decorate a garden wedding or brighten an indoor one. By Mr. Mort.
Miss Natalie Wood (recently a bride and currently star of Warner Brothers' Marjorie Morningstar) contributes her pearl-and-ebony beauty to a long dress of white silk Shantung, itself beautified by a bodice of Alençon lace. By Portrait, in Shantung by AP Silk.