Haute Couture. True luxury for the ultra discerning bride with a particular vision, and a designer who usually takes on no more than eight clients a year. Depending on complexity and fabric, couture bridal gowns start at around $US55 000.
The difference between couture and custom is that a custom dress is a process of modifying a runway or off-the-rack dress; sleeves might be added, buttons swapped, neck and hemlines altered. Haute Couture is created – a custom design, executed with the finest materials by the finest hands, specifically sourced and cut for the bride.
The most expensive, handmade wedding dress of all time? The Diamond Wedding gown, for $US12m. Designed and created by jeweler Martin Katz and couturiere Renee Strauss, it is adorned with 150-carat diamonds. This sensational bridal statement was unveiled at the Luxury Brands Lifestyle Bridal show in February of 2006 and showcased at the prestigious Fashion & Diamonds show in Dubai. The veil is studded rhinestone and the resale value of this gown expected to much higher than the quoted price for its making.
I’m not sure anybody has bought it yet.
The most expensive gown known to worn by a blushing bride? An Alexander McQueen label by designer Sarah Burton for Serena Williams, priced at $US3.5 million.
That’s a whole lotta art, design, commerce and love right there. Particularly a love for commerce over romance it would seem. With millennials having reached marriageable age, reports that the worldwide bridal wear market is predicted to exceed more than $US73 billion by 2024 should indicate an awful lot of ‘thank you’ cards.
Style queen Amal Cooney’s Oscar de la Renta piece is almost conservative in comparison at $US380 000. Notably, it was the last wedding dress the legendary designer created before he passed away aged 82 in 2014.
Sarah Burton again makes her Alexander McQueen artistry felt with her $US434 000 French Chantilly lace featured Duchess of Cambridge bridal gown.
Does it make the wedding dress seem a cultural or commercial image with these kinds of price tags?
The history, or should we say herstory, of the origins of the wedding dress is not as forthright as a17-year-old Queen Victoria’s unorthodox nuptial choice. Despite general belief, Queen Vic was not the first royal to be married in white.
She is, however, accredited for her choice of Honiton lace for her bridal gown. It proved an incredible enhancement for the Devon lacemakers, and has become customary across about forty countries. From Norway to Argentina for the last 180 years, royals were previously married in heavy brocaded gowns, embroidered in white and silver. Red fabric was a particularly popular colour choice of Western Europe.
For most of history, Western brides didn’t wear white, and in Ancient Rome where marriages were celebrated with an enormous banquet, with nuts thrown rather than rice, the bride wore long veils of deep yellow, over a complicated six-part braid. She was indeed a torch, with the beautiful symbolism of bringing light and warmth to her new husband’s home.
In Ancient Greece Athenian brides were resplendent in violet or magenta.
Three thousand years ago, during the Zhou Dynasty, over a visible white undergarment, Chinese couples wore red trimmed, black robes and may be the first instance of the expectation of a particular colour being worn by the bride.
Throughout Africa, tribal wedding dress can still be found. Ndebele brides of South Africa with their distinctive elongated necks with rings wear a Nyoga, a beaded train that reaches the ground from her shoulders, trailing her like a sensuous and sinuous snake.
How iconic is the bridal gown? Getting betrothed in a bikini seems the modern Aussie way. According to its French creator, Louis Réard, a bikini can only be considered genuine if “it can be pulled through a wedding ring.”
That’s pretty iconic. And laconic.
Forget that twelve-million dollar gown. A beautiful bronzed bikini bride is simply priceless.