The Real Meaning of a Bespoke, Couture, Designer Made Wedding Dress

There are many terms bandied about in the wedding industry designed to both ease the pain and add to the excitement as we part with our cash. ‘Bespoke’, ‘Couture made’ and ‘Designer dress’ are three of the most common.

Most of us probably have a fairly good idea as to what they mean, but taking a look at what they do not mean will help us to arrive at a more accurate definition.

There are not many bridal shops that do not use the term ‘designer’ somewhere in the description of the dress they are presenting to us. All things we use in this life have a designer. Even a paper coffee cup had to be designed by someone. Try convincing the average buyer that the paper cup is a ‘designer’ cup worth ten times more than an ordinary paper cup and you might have some problems.

Yet effectively that is exactly what is happening in the case of many of the ‘designer’ labels we see in our high streets as well as the designer wedding dresses we first spoke about. Mass-produced dresses made (and often designed) in the Far East are being presented to us in this way. I don’t know about you, but this to me, seems to weaken the whole ‘designer dress’ ethos. Why pay more if it’s nothing but a mass-produced clone?

So what makes for a true ‘designer dress’?

Firstly, there has to be an exclusive element to the design. Admittedly high prices are in themselves a way of making a dress more exclusive, but there has to be more to it than that.

What about the dresses that grace the Hollywood red carpets and the latest catwalk shows? What makes them a designer dress?

The answer to that is individuality. Most of these dresses have been drawn by a designer and then made by a small, elite team of seamstresses, who are working the movie star or model’s actual measurements.

This is often a ‘bespoke’ dress in the true meaning of the word i.e. a ‘one off’ garment made for the individual.

The word ‘couture’ has in recent years come to mean a garment that is made to an accepted high standard by a skilled designer and sewing team. Originally the term could only be used in certain regions of France. Even today the term ‘Haute Couture’ can only be used when referring to ten current fashion houses based in Paris and three other correspondent fashion houses.

Is it possible to buy true bespoke, couture made designer wedding dresses in the UK? Yes of course, but you have to look for them. Many designers have to a certain extent ‘sold out’ to the enormous wedding dress factories based in China, and who can blame them?

In the wedding trade it is quite usual for a wedding dress ‘designer’ to walk in to a Chinese design room, choose from a range of fabrics, bodice patterns, embroidery styles, sizes required and then effectively leave them to …

The Real Problem With The Media’s Beauty Standards

Finally, it looks like significant change is happening in the corporate media. No longer are only ultra-thin women meeting its previously very rigid beauty standard – or what it’s really been – an acceptability standard for women.

Women with actual fat on their body (gasp!) are now increasingly represented in mainstream television and even glossy magazines. Not only are they appearing, they are being presented as examples of great beauty.

Sports Illustrated featured on its cover the gorgeous model Ashley Graham in 2016, which made international news because she is by traditional media standards about 70 pounds overweight.

Graham is now going to be a judge on the panel for the show “America’s Next Top Model” with Tyra Banks.

The popular HBO show “Girls” made headlines over the past few years because it revealed actual cellulite on one of the stars of the show. Glamour magazine followed suit by displaying on its cover the four stars, one of them boldly fat, her cellulite purposefully exposed.

Cable TV, YouTube, and other forms of alternative media distribution set the precedent a decade and more earlier. They have allowed us to see real bodies represented on video on a regular basis.

Now, the corporate media itself is changing. Actresses on TV commercials, female weather forecasters, even pop stars… It’s happening. Women who are larger than scarecrow thin are no longer banned from representation as being normal, and even beautiful, people.

What a victory – or so it seems. After all, for decades, feminists, concerned parents, and “plus-size” activists have been objecting to the media’s presentations of ultra-thin women as the measure of female beauty, and the required body type to even qualify to be a star.

They argued that this standard puts almost every woman alive, even lean women, in the “too fat” category, and that it leads many girls and women to develop and anorexia, bulimia, and the kind of dieting that ultimately leads to binging.

Corporations like Dove have listened. The mainstream media are adjusting to these demands. The basic tenets of public discussion on “body image” and the representation of women have shifted. It’s progress, for sure.

But something’s missing here. Something about as big as an elephant in a room.

It’s something that has everything to do with why so many women and girls have “body image” issues in the first place, and why so many develop eating dysfunctions.

That something isn’t simply about an inflexible or unrealistic or even physically unhealthy beauty standard.

It’s also about how women’s beauty is treated. It’s about how women’s bodies, however diverse in size and color and age, are depicted.

To put it in feminist terminology: the problem is sexual objectification.

The Sports Illustrated cover featuring the beautiful Ashley Graham might have sent the message to women who are larger than scarecrow thin that they, too, can be sexually desirable at the weight they are.

But is this a message about respectful desire? Or something else?

Do the photos of the three …