Can I please draw your attention to wedding fashion, and ask of all interested parties: what the dang is going on?
It’s possibly the wrong question. I mean for the most part, what’s going on in the bridal industry is business as usual. Every year it reliably flogs us gowns and veils, usually in varieties of white, sometimes in stiff expensive fabric and sometimes in soft expensive fabric, often with webbed Lycra panels and concealed plastic ribbing to hold the bride and her faculties together. You could argue there’s nothing new under the sun in bridalwear; the only things which change, season to season, are the gimmicks.
For example, the year I got married, the gimmick was vintage lace. This year it was the understated boat neck, thanks to Meghan Markle. I’m sure she would have preferred the whole ball of wax – ribbons, hoop petticoat, shepherd’s crook – but with Oprah in a hat, Amal in a veil and Vicky Beckham in a snotty mood in the pews, dressing plainly was the only way to get noticed.
* Are you middle-class, fit and far too busy to change clothes? Leah McFall has the place for you
* What Meghan Markle’s wedding dress says about her
* Leah McFall: Only fashion could make the Scandinavians ridiculous
The dresses aren’t the problem; it’s the people dreaming up the ad campaigns. What are they thinking, exactly?
If your Instagram is anything like mine right now, you’re being flooded with artful, moody fashion photography featuring the latest bridal collections. I’m not sure what these shoots are trying to achieve, but they appear to be a 21st century homage to the Victorian hysteric.
Many feature young women – none old enough to remember the iPod – swamped in washed silk or tulle and leaning heavily against doorframes, their cold fingers losing grip on a deathly clutch of flowers. For variety, they might also be collapsed onto furniture while staring into space, with no flowers in shot.
You’d imagine these women are otherwise vigorous, ruddy and full of life, unless there’s been some kind of gas leak at Vogue. But put them in a new season wedding dress – even a woke one, with pockets – and they lose the advantages previously afforded to them by their vertebrae, pelvis and knees. They sink.
And boy, do they look glum as well as lifeless! One model raises her eyes heavenward, through a veil as thick as a cheesecloth, as if to imply: “I would rather squeeze a dog’s anal glands than get married today.” Compared to these girls, Miss Havisham is a monument to optimism. I mean, at least she had hope at their age.
This oxygen-starved aesthetic – let’s call it hypoxia chic, because it’s nothing a nasal cannula couldn’t fix – isn’t necessarily confined to bridal fashion, although a wedding dress does draw attention to it.
You don’t have to look hard to find every variety of splayed, awkwardly mannered pose on billboards and in magazines, selling everything from clothes to shoes, or those chi-chi leather coin purses attached to belts.
(I can’t think of a good reason to wear a coin purse so openly on my belt, unless it held antibiotics I needed to take three times a day. One, you’re begging to be mugged. Two, when was the last time you needed 20 cents that badly?)
Models have always been remote to us, but at least in the 60s they held your gaze with something like challenge. The challenge was: “Finish the bloody roll, David. I’ve got Mick Jagger waiting in the car.”
In the 80s and 90s, supermodels had attitude. Today, they have eyebrows.
It’s not the models, it’s their message. I watched a fairly awful documentary about Vogue‘s centenary issue, in which Kate Moss breezed into a mansion in a Rolling Stones jacket, posed for a few bursts of digital photography and then breezed out, probably for a three-day celebrity bender in the Cotswolds.
What surprised me was that she didn’t just stand there and take direction. She flickered with constant movement. Silly movements, certainly (little pouts, shimmies, the odd hair flick, and the constant rearrangement of her ribs, kidneys and diaphragm). But her restless energy was what they wanted to bottle and when she left, she took all the oxygen with her.
Today’s passive style of modelling seems to ask nothing of the model, or the woman buying the clothes. It’s almost Darwinian. (A popular style is to stand slightly off-centre, motionless with your arms uselessly at your sides, looking slack-jawed with mild surprise. The vibe is early Homo sapiens; perhaps the wheel is just dawning on you.)
What’s maddening about this message of stony immobility is that it comes just as intelligent power-play is returning to women’s clothes.
It’s the latest thing to “Dress Like an Architect” in flat shoes, sexless pants and stiff shirts that enlarge your surface area, like a cocky bird. Perfect for a woman in control of her destiny, body and coin purse. So why the dead arms and blank face?