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Classic and Modern Dresses: The Classic Gown

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 1999

For many women, the classic bridal gown is the ultimate fantasy creation, evoking romantic images of fairy-tale heroines and real-life royal brides. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, in a white satin gown festooned with orange blossoms and precious Honiton lace, she started a tradition of splendid white dresses that has continued for more than a century. Jacqueline Bouvier married John Kennedy in 1953 in an off-the-shoulder, full taffeta gown and flowing lace veil anchored by a Juliet cap. In 1956, Grace Kelly wore a slender-waisted, bell-shaped gown made of 450 yards of silk, taffeta, and lace for her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

The classic silhouette remains a full ball-gown skirt topped by a fitted bodice, with a scoop neck and sleeves. Princess and A-line gowns are also considered classic shapes for wedding gowns. And certain fabrics are expected with these traditional styles, such as layers of Alencon lace, swirling folds of ivory satin or taffeta, and soft, billowy froths of tulle.

Classic Gown, Modern Fabric
The silhouette of this ball-gown skirt is pure bridal fantasy; the strapless top, matelasse fabric, cascading bouquet of orchids, and the absence of accessories make a minimal statement that is clearly contemporary.

Classic Skirts, Modern Tops
The silhouette of this satin A-line gown couldn't be more classic; but with a sleeveless bodice and detachable fur collar, the ensemble takes a walk on the wild side.

Classic Train, Modern Dress
The fitted bodice and straight skirt of this sleek off-the-shoulder gown get a romantic touch for the trip down the aisle with a sweeping detachable train.

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