Translating the Melbourne dress code

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Summer brings out a flurry of one-piece simple cut dresses onto the streets of Melbourne. Cut perfectly, sitting somewhere between the knee and the thigh and if it is not black, the colours are muted. These little dresses are designed to show the natural curves of women perfectly. So I wondered: How does this office fashion translate into bridal wear?

When talking to a fashion designer about this question, she simply smiled knowingly and confirmed my suspicion – that question still remains to be answered. The sleek city girl knows her style, knows her dress code and dress up to the challenge of her day. That same girl walks into a bridal studio and doubt sets in after the very first fitting.

They should try on every single dress they can think about – another tip from the designer. Let your imagination take flight and play a little. Forget for a moment about your personal style and try on dresses you never thought to be seen in. Bring friends along and make a day out of finding a wedding dress.

This encouragement comes after years behind the dressmaker’s table and after seeing hundreds of brides walking into her shop with a set determination to simply take their own style and create a white wedding dress from it to match. Never works, the designer says throwing her hands in the air. Your office is not the setting for your wedding, so why dress like you are still at work?

But brides do come with strong opinions about how they simply cannot step out in total different styles to what they usually wear. The term they love to use is: I need to stay true to myself – and again the designer arms fly into the air. The sketches they bring me are nothing else than their office wear with a fuller skirt, but at least we have a departure point. The designer now keeps her hands flying all over as she explains a typical new consultation.

We try out her ideas and soon I see the ‘lip’. The lip means she does not like what she sees, so I start to work with her body and add or subtract elements she thought were important. We tuck a sleeve, fill out a skirt and drop the shoulder line and voila, the lip pulls into a perfect smile. That is the job of designers and I love it she says with her hands coming to a restful place on her cutting table.

As soon as we have the shape of the dress, the whole thing starts again when it is time to find a fabric. Many women think that white satin is the only suitable cloth for a wedding dress – I say, leave satin for your bed coverings. Work with the movement of your dress and find the material that will enhance it. Play with soft flowy stuff on top of more rigid materials or add an unexpected element of colour.

The designer is clearly off into design mode again as she pulls roll after roll of amazing materials from her shelve. White on white patterns, finely woven silver stars on soft white rolls. Champaign coloured shiny stuff gets combined with muted golden lace. The possibilities seem endless and suddenly I feel for the bride.

I can clearly understand the dilemma of having such a massive decision to make. I can also see that the options she has to face can certainly create more questions than answers. I can see a future bride in tears clutching her familiar office dress like it is the only reference point she will ever have. Bless the heart of the designer, she clearly has her job cut out for her.


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