As I looked through my wedding album during a moment of nostalgia recently, I had the realisation that it had finally happened: I've now been married long enough (six years) for my ivory column wedding dress to feel of a slightly different time. You see the big dress is back. And by big, I mean big — the size of a small car big. So big you need help getting it on and off, big.
As recently as a year ago, the meringue was the stuff of gauche wedding reality TV. A reliable source of entertainment, the big dress said a lot of things, none of which involved the word 'fashion.'
And then the perennially chic Giovanna rocked up to Capri in custom Alexander McQueen mille-feuille with a train that seemingly ran on for miles. It was fluffy and fabulous and extra-large.
It was also a social media hit, reposted by thousands including Anna dello Russo and Natalie Massenet (her bridesmaids, women who also happen to be extremely influential arbiters of taste.)
Giovanna's was the high fashion embodiment of the classic fairytale dream: the jaw-dropper dress, the stunning Italian backdrop, and the Scandinavian prince. All we needed was Elsa singing in the background (let it go).
The following month in Paris, the big dress was a running theme on the catwalk during couture, with dramatic, full skirts appearing at Valentino, Chanel, Christian Dior, and most memorably Giambattista Valli.
And several weeks later: Ciara, practically filling up an entire walled garden — in a castle, no less! — with her expansive, lace Roberto Cavalli couture. The gown's architect, Peter Dundas, summed the moment up on Instagram: 'Congratulations my dear friend Ciara and Russell Wilson. Looking like a fairytale princess bride in #CavalliCouture.'
The princess bride is hardly limited to the rich and mega-famous. This week the fashionable London chef about town, Anna Barnett, married at Lake Garda while wearing voluminous layers of lace. As we like to say in the office at ELLE, in our best Mariah Carey impersonation, 'it's a moment.'
In the age of subversive, casual fashion, the big, extravagant wedding dress comes as a shock to the system. It couldn't be more at odds with the mood prevailing in the ready-to-wear world, or the way we dress in everyday life.
In the 90s, when grunge and minimalism ruled the first time around, the looks seeped into the wedding world as well. When Carolyn Bessette married John F. Kennedy Jr in 1996, dressed in an understated bias-cut dress made by her friend Narciso Rodriguez, it epitomised the decade and inspired thousands of copies.
To be honest, if I were to get married now, I can't say the meringue would be my bridal look. But as we wrap up a second wave of 90s nostalgia, with reality growing increasingly complicated and serious by the day, I can see the undeniable appeal in giving in to the pull of fantasy. And what could be more fantastical than the textbook fairytale dress?
So while our day-to-day dress codes are the most casual they've ever been, the wedding dress, for better or worse, seems to be very much going the way of the big leagues. Pun intended.