My crop top wedding dress will not be timeless… and that's totally okay

February 8 | Guest post by Courtney Weakley
My crop top wedding dress will not be timeless... and that's totally okay
Is this fab dress timeless? Who cares if it's amazing now? Etta – Joni Wedding Dress by Anya Dionne

During my current brief stint in the apocalyptic landscape that is the contemporary wedding industry, an insidious pressure has latched itself onto my consciousness. This pressure comes as no surprise, really, when you consider the commodities-based approach to women's bodies that tells us we are more valuable and powerful people if our packaging is attractive. Consider the average woman, most likely under persistent and unrelenting pressure to present her best self in an over-commercialized wedding industry. The result is a population of women who believe their wedding day should be the day they reach their Pinnacle of Beauty. This, by any definition, is the most impractical crock of shit I have ever heard.

Peruse the variety of mainstream wedding websites. Regardless of the nature of the product on offer, likely the words you read more often than any others are "timeless" and "classic." Conversely, you'll find vilified the dreaded D word: "dated," or even more nauseating, the T words: "tasteless" and "tacky." Why do these words terrify us so much? As if bad taste is a death sentence. As if it is somehow the ugly, hulking gatekeeper that stands between ourselves and an idyllic married life. But on many months of tortured reflection, here is the terrifying secret I've come to discover…

Bad taste is almost entirely subjective

My aunt might find plastic cutlery at a picnic reception the ultimate transgression against divine wedding law. My father might think a yellow wedding dress is simply in bad taste. Even you, dear reader, may reflect on your own knee-jerk reactions to these wedding realities. But I have an even scarier wedding secret to share with you, one that the wedding industry would not confess to even if they were tied down and tortured…

Bad taste changes with fashion, and is, as a concept, entirely unreliable

When I decided I wanted a crop top wedding dress and took to the internet for inspiration, I discovered a vocal protest in the venomous voices of internet commenters: "TACKY!" they screamed. "CHEAP!" "YOU'LL REGRET IT!" (No, really. Have a look at the comments section of this Buzzfeed post). One of the more atrocious ones read:

"If I ever try to wear a crop top to my wedding, I believe that I do not really love the man I'm marrying, because I didn't want to be as elegant and beautiful as I could have been."

I hold no grudge against those who are repulsed by the sight of a bare sliver of midriff. To expect everyone to be attracted to the same things is utterly ridiculous. But I take issue with this progression of subjective to objective. There are many things I don't like that others might, and these opposing opinions do not devalue each other (barring genuine moral objections). The fact that I prefer wine does not mean you can't enjoy beer. Another commenter offered this advice:

"Don't waste your money preserving your gown after the wedding. Your daughter won't want to wear it."

This comment is indicative of the unhealthy idolatry that pervades our wedding attitudes. The day of your wedding is not impervious to the qualities of time. It is a day like any other, with a historical context that cannot be separated from contemporary culture. It is a day that will look different in retrospect.

My mother wastes no time considering if her wedding dress would still be fashionable today, because she was happy THEN.

My mother was married in the early nineties, when visions of Princess Diana inspired the burning desire in women everywhere for puffy sleeves and silk. My mother, however, wore a sexy, skintight minidress with a detachable mullet skirt that she could take off for dancing. She looked fierce, confident, and beautiful. She looked beautiful because she FELT beautiful. I'm sure there were those who told her it was an ugly and unsophisticated idea, but she had little time for those opinions. Yes, the skirt was of the appliquéd, shimmering, and voluminous variety that these days has fallen sharply out of fashion. But does she care? Absolutely not.

She and my father have been married for more than twenty years now, and they have built a rich, full life together that has taken much hard work and has begotten much celebration and happiness. They look back on their photographs and celebrate the fact that my mother's favorite flowers were blooming in the church garden that day. My mother wastes no time considering if her wedding dress would still be fashionable today, because she was happy THEN.

When I was a teenager, the only shoes I ever wore were my dad's old army boots. My head was half-shaved. I wore only black. Would I wear this now? No. But do I look back on that time with shame and embarrassment? Absolutely not, because those clothes made me happy. I was a shy and awkward teenager, and dressing the way I did allowed me some power and confidence. If I had dressed then to impress my twenty-two year old self, my life would be very different. As humans with fallible hearts, we dress to express our identities. The clothes we wear give us strength in that they allow us to present our ideal selves.

On my wedding day, I hope to look like nothing more or less than myself, whatever that may be at this time in my life.

There are many who care very little about clothes or style, but even that rejection is an expression of their character. But as humans, our hearts cannot avoid change. Our identities will evolve as we walk through this life, and the way we attempt to express them will evolve also.

On my wedding day, I hope to look like nothing more or less than myself, whatever that may be at this time in my life. My fiancé's expectations are largely the same. I will bear my scandalous sliver of midriff proudly, and I fully expect to look back on my photos and find one day that my dress is not fashionable or stylish. That our brown paper programs and flower crowns have become unbearably passé.

But you know what? I'm completely happy about that.

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  1. This is awesome and so true! I got a lot of side eyes and doubts about my red and leopard print wedding gown, but you know what? It made ME happy, it made my husband happy, and that's what mattered.
    I always think it's hilarious when I hear about the "their daughter is never going to want to wear that dress." So? Who cares? Does this viewpoint mean all brides should select their dress based on the mythical future tastes of their mythical future daughters who may or may not ever come into existence? Ridiculous.

    3 agree
    • I find the whole "but heirlooms!" thing so presumptuous. Maybe I'll never have a daughter. Maybe she'll never get married. Maybe she'll be butch or nonbinary or simply not share the same taste as me. Maybe she'll elope. Or, hell, maybe she'll be the ultra traditional church wedding and country club reception type of bride that I definitely am not, and my dress will be too informal for what she needs.

      3 agree
      • It would have been impossible for me to wear my mother's dress. It was a black cocktail dress under a blue blazer that she yanked out of her closet right before heading to the courthouse in 1987. It's long gone! My hypothetical daughter may or may not share my love of history and leopard print so … my dress probably wouldn't work for her! I don't understand the goal of a wedding being timeless or classic or any of that. Although, ours might be pretty close to that goal since it was a costume party and costumes don't necessarily scream "I'm from 2015!"

      • Maybe mother and daughter will be radically different sizes. My mother weighs under 100 lbs (48 kilos, give or take) and I weigh over 230 lbs (105 kilos, give or take). I'm also a good 9 inches taller than she is. I am not sure I could fit her dress over my legs, head or any other body part, aside from all the other completely valid objections.

        My sister is much smaller than I am, but she's still taller than Mom by several inches, and with a very, very different body shape, one that is not conducive to Mom's dress fitting at all. I always thought the idea of a daughter wearing her mother's dress to be ludicrous because there's so many, many women who are wildly different sizes than their mothers. Nearly every woman I know, to begin with.

        2 agree
        • I think that tradition (such as it is) was from a time when people were more likely to have home sewing skills, and wedding dresses were more likely to be simple and easy to alter. So if you were pretty close in size, your grandma could whip up some quick alterations and it would be good enough. Since that was a time when "good enough" was the rule of thumb for weddings and not BUT ITS MY SPECIAL DAY.

          Also I think the idea of timelessness and heirloom quality is mostly a marketing thing, anyway, and not actually something anyone ever expects to do. "But don't you want your daughter to wear it someday?" is something you tell a bride who is wishy-washy on maybe spending a little more in the bridal shop.

          • Also, clothes were designed to withstand a lot of alterations. When fashion moved gradually from crinolines to bustles, most women just altered their dresses to keep up with the gradual backwards creep of the fabric. Only the rich would buy a new dress every year for every minor fashion shift – everyone else would just stick some more bows on and call it a day.

        • You know what, I absurdly never even thought of that! If my mother had a wedding gown to pass down it would probably need alterations. She's only a couple inches taller but she's a pear shape whereas I'm a total hourglass.
          My hips and bust definitely wouldn't fit into anything of hers!

        • This is totally me and my sisters, my mother was a rake when she was married in the late 70's and we sisters have developed more into her mothers body shape: hourglass with lots of junk in the trunk! Also we have inherited our fathers ribs, so we dont even fit into off-the rack dresses due to many unique proportions. So wearing our mothers dress was/ is totally out of the question and to be honest, im not really sure if anyone still does that tradition anymore. Certainly not in New Zealand.

        • Also to the whole, it would looking dated thing. Or needing to fit in with current fashion, i think all women, wedding day or not, should dress in what THEY feel comfortable in and what THEY like, and of course to the next extent in a cut or silhouette that suits their body shape, So then it wont matter because they will look fierce and fabulous.

  2. I find the daughter argument a little creepy. I wouldn't want to wear my mother's clothes as an adult – they're hers, she chose them because they suit her body and her personality. I am my own, whole, unique person. I don't share her body shape, her personality, and I certainly don't share her 80s body and personality! She got married in a blue suede suit and pink silk shirt. She looked fabulous. Me, I want a dress. If sci fi has taught me anything about future fashions, my hypothetical daughter will want a skintight silver catsuit and LED tiara. I would find it deeply weird if she wanted to wear my dress, because I'd feel like I hadn't raised her to be as independent as my mother raised me.

    4 agree
  3. I think the idea of wearing your mom's dress came from a time when fashion changed much slower. Love crop tops!!!

    1 agrees
    • Also from a time when weddings were a lot simpler than they are now, AND a time when consumer goods were a lot more expensive. People wore a dress that was in the family because the important thing was to have something, anything that would work.

      2 agree
  4. One thing I find interesting about the whole "classic" and "timeless" idea — aside from the whole tackiness discussion — is that… I'm getting married in the spring of 2017. That is an incontrovertible fact. I'm not trying to trick anyone into thinking I got married in 1952 or 1989 or 2003. And no matter how much I agonize about choosing "timeless" designs for everything, I've seen wedding pictures before. I know that fashions change. The classiest dress in the world, in 2017, is going to look "so twenty-teens, ughhhh" in 10 years. I don't really understand why it's bad to choose things that have a very "right now" feeling to them, since a wedding is the very definition of right now. Our wedding is one ritual and accompanying party on one day that is an event that happened at a specific moment in time. That's the whole point!

    Also I can't wait for the day that my (hypothetical) daughter looks at our wedding photos and remarks about how weird and old-timey everything was "back then". Looking at my parents' 70s wedding photos as a kid was THE BEST.

    4 agree
    • ZOMG yes! Vintage wedding photos are the best! My MIL looks like a knock-off Princess Leia in her late 70's winter wedding, it makes me super happy!

      1 agrees
      • Ha! My mom's was somewhere at the nexus of boho, romantic victorian, and disco. It was proto gunne sax with bell sleeves and (not making this up) pleated chiffon. And a juliet veil. Never in a million million years. Sorry, mom.

    • My prediction: the 2010s "dated" bridal look will be sleeves, lace, and hair down. I clearly remember when Will and Kate got married in 2011 thinking, "YASSS my time has come!!!" because of course that wedding would influence just like Diana's. Indeed, I'm doing all of these trends at my wedding this spring — and I couldn't be more excited because I love all three.

      I was looking back at wedding photos of my friends from only ten years ago, and they look "dated" in their own charming 2000s way. It was the era of strapless satin and ballgowns with pickups and curly, prom-like updos.

      Fashion fluctuates so fast there's no such thing as "timeless". Even t-shirts and jeans and sneakers change cut and silhouette every few seasons.

      3 agree
  5. holy shit @ the idea that looking beautiful (any kind of beautiful) proves your love for someone, in any context. or "making an effort" on your appearance. there's so much to unpack there.

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