Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns by Cynthia Amnéus

11 Jan

Since time began, little girls have fantasised about the perfect white wedding. An affair filled with joy and romance, there would be a few requirements in order for the fantasy to become a reality: a handsome groom, a delectable cake, and, by far the most important of them all, an immaculate gown.

Now, with the rise of popularity in reality shows such as Don’t Tell the Bride or Four Weddings, weddings are a hotter topic than ever and girls become fascinated by all of the finer details of their special occasion. Be it Vera Wang, Chanel or custom made, the wedding dress is usually the first detail that friends of the bride are gasping to hear about. For this reason, I was intrigued by Cynthia Amnéus’ book Wedded Perfection. In this critical textbook, Cynthia looks back at wedding gowns over time and explores their relationship to the women and societies that they came from, expressing further ideas about how the entire constitution of marriage has evolved.

Featuring photographs of over fifty gowns from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent collection of gowns and contextualised by essays from Katherine Jellison and Sarah Long Butler, Wedded Perfection tells the tale of gowns from Christian Dior to Yohji Yamamoto. Discussing concepts such as ‘the Evolution and Aesthetic of the Wedding Gown in Western Culture’, it outlines exactly what the rituals were in previous wedding ceremonies and how and why they influenced the physicality of gowns. I found these explanations particularly useful as an English Literature student for they related not only to the act of a wedding in particular but also spoke volumes about the role of women in society. Those interested in feminism or in comparing roles of both genders throughout time would be fascinated by this book.

 My favourite section detailed the importance of the appearance of marriage and traditional family values throughout the war. “Given concern that wartime conditions imperilled American domesticity, the white wedding gown seemed to preserve the traditions of marriage and family life so that they could survive during the war and flourish after the war” – page 83. This section, like the rest of the book, contemplates taking things at face value in two manners. Firstly, photographs and clear visuals are used to give the reader an aesthetic to focus on. Secondly, the notion of appearance is perceived in symbolic manner and the notion of reputation is considered in relation to marriage. For this reason, the book is fantastic. You have the best of both worlds when reading – the engaging, deeply philosophical pieces, and the divine optical bliss of the photographed gowns themselves.

A thoroughly enjoyable book, I would highly recommend it to all students of creative subjects. It raises timeless issues of gender equality, society and the ever changing roles of women, and does so in a way that still enables all girls to picture themselves lavishly clad in an elaborate vintage frock. Perfection!

A la Mode Appraisal: 9/10

Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns is published by Giles and available for £30.00.


One Response to “Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns by Cynthia Amnéus”


  1. “There is something about a wedding-gown prettier than any other gown in the world” – Douglas William Jerrold « Mixed Gems - April 4, 2011

    […] If you’re interested in wedding dresses, you may like to take a look at a book called Wedded Perfection on my book review blog, A la Mode Appraisal. It explores the history of wedding dresses and their […]

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