In a State of Undress

While Victorian values have left white wedding dresses with associations of purity, some modern brides choose designs which celebrate their physicality instead. When Gwen Stefani married Gavin Rossdale on 14 September 2002, she wore a John Galliano couture dress which gave just such an impression.

Wedding dress designed by John Galliano, worn by Gwen Stefani, 2002

Wedding dress designed by John Galliano, worn by Gwen Stefani, 2002

At the time, Gwen stated that ‘when I got engaged, I said I wanted [my dress] to be over the top, but not traditional – I wanted it to be everything.’ The resulting dress may be made up of lengths of traditional white silk, but during its creation the lower section of the skirt and veil were dramatically spray painted with pink. This decoration lends the design both a romantic, ethereal feel and a playful idiosyncrasy.

The skirt of Gwen Stefani's wedding dress is designed to look as though the fabric has been passionately pulled at

The skirt of Gwen Stefani’s wedding dress is designed to look as though someone has passionately pulled at the fabric

While at a distance the dress appears to take a classic form, with a corseted bodice and wide, layered skirt, upon closer inspection the design is dishevelled and seductive. As though someone has attempted to remove it in a frenzy, both the trained skirt and bodice appear to have been snatched at passionately. The dress is cut asymmetrically, and, as a literal take on ‘traditional with a twist’, the drapery and pockets sit on the front of the skirt, as though they have been yanked from their expected position on a woman’s hips.

The dress has unusual pockets sewn into the front layers of the skirt

The dress has unusual pockets sewn into the front layers of the skirt

At the back, the bodice appears partly unfastened, the fabric pulled away to reveal a laced corset.  Meanwhile, the metal fastenings which run down the bodice’s front have been applied on an angle, seemingly askew, as though someone has begun to pull the panelling down. The dress’s slightly see through straps slope on the shoulders, the fabric continuing down to drape carelessly across the bust.

The corset fastenings on the back of the dress's bodice are left exposed

The corset fastenings on the back of the dress’s bodice are left exposed

Clearly, this dress is imbued with a sense of anticipation, sexuality – and confidence. After centuries of restraint, this dress stands as a triumph of independence, with its wearer clearly announcing and reveling in her own attractiveness and physical connection to her groom. A modern bride, already living with and deeply in love with her soon-to-be husband, may select a dress which is reflective of her own relationship. In her Galliano gown, Gwen celebrated romance in one of its many modern forms.

The dress train and veil fall in a romantic tangle behind

The dress train and veil fall in a romantic tangle behind

While there currently appears to be a trend for brides to wear two dresses for their big day, Gwen in fact wore this Galliano gown twice. She first wore it for her wedding at St Paul’s Church in London’s Covent Garden and again, two weeks later, when the couple renewed their vows in a ceremony in Los Angeles. This repeated wear implies the great connection she felt to the piece, as well as it creating a connection between the two separate ceremonies. After these two occasions, Gwen offered the dress as a loan to our collection, as she considered it ‘a work of art [which] needed to be seen.’

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