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Cornelia Powell Headshot

While Everyone Is Looking

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I remember as a young associate editor at Vogue magazine in the early 1970s when fashion director Polly Mellen -- famous for starting international style trends -- told me she wore black to a friend's wedding the previous weekend. Once I caught my breath I responded: "I don't think it's a trend that'll catch on!" There was a time -- hard to believe now with the ubiquitous black bridesmaid dresses -- that wearing black to a wedding (as a guest or bridal attendant) was unheard of since black had long been considered the color of mourning in our culture.

I may have been wrong about the future popularity of wearing black to weddings and perhaps a bit old-fashioned in this anything goes modern world, but sometimes what's "appropriate" is also what's most "attractive." And maybe I'm stepping on toes here, but black is not a color that looks good on everybody, it doesn't photograph well (haven't you seen photographs of bridal attendants where it's mostly a black blob?) and it's just not a happy color! (Aren't weddings about celebration?)

Another wedding fashion trend not on my favorites list is the obsession for strapless gowns. (Although I believe when a "trend" lasts longer than most marriages, it becomes a "classic" whether we like it or not!) I understand the strapless appeal in our over-sized, over-casual, over-sexy world: without shoulders and sleeves, it can be an easy fit for all sizes, comfortable to move around in and yes, even glamorous -- décolletage is in!

However, in an effort to save us from ourselves, I've written articles and blog posts for many years with titles like "Consider Not Wearing a Strapless Dress, Unless..." explaining how when you move, your strapless gown doesn't necessarily move with you, nor does it camouflage anything and it exposes much more than you ever imagined. But it's not even the underarms, the explosion of breasts or having to stare at bare backs during the wedding service; it's that ugly "tug."

I've seen brides and bridesmaids -- who have great poise otherwise and look good in their strapless gown (from most angles) -- do that awkwardly unattractive underarm "yank and tug" like they're in the privacy of the ladies' room instead while everyone's actually looking on! I understand that the gown feels like it's falling off, but if brides don't want their wedding remembered for such "oops" moments, then maybe every strapless gown should come with a must-read "code of conduct" before wearing.

(Although there was no correlation in the strapless trend and the closing of my lovely bridal art-to-wear shop in Atlanta at the end of 1999, my designers did vow to strike if they had to make one more strapless gown. And that was almost 15 years ago!)

All that said, every generation has their share of "How could I have done that?" kind of trends. Maybe it'll be okay if we make choices as best we can and just hope there's no cell phone camera around at those awkward moments when we assume no one is looking. (And with the high divorce rate, you think it's true all that black worn at weddings does indeed deliver ominous wishes for the bride and groom?) Even more than ever, it's a brave new world!