, Salem, MA


June 9, 2014

Column: June rites — two gowns, the future to go

Welcome to June, official month of cheerful announcements, elaborate ceremonies and the writing of hundreds of checks to distant relations, many of whom you would not recognize even if you were facing each other in an elevator. Welcome, in other words, to the season of graduations and weddings.

These two culturally significant rites of passage have a great many things in common. Both call for special outfits, referred to as “gowns.”

In the case of commencement, the gown is a simple, comfy, uniform garment that can be rented for a reasonable amount of money, based on the assumption it will be worn only once.

And the same goes, of course, for a wedding gown.

Hahahahaha. Yeah, right.

Wedding gowns have become such a national obsession they now star in their own television program. Can you imagine a show called “Say ‘Yes’ to the Graduation Gown”? How about the more accurately titled “Say ‘Yes’ to the Drab Set of Dreary Garments You Will Wear to Work for The Next Eight Years to Pay for the Bead Work on Your Neckline Alone”?

I don’t think so.

Wedding dresses have gone from being merely a racket to more like racketeering.

Why else would somebody pay, for an outfit one woman will wear for six hours, what the government would spend, more or less, on a small nuclear weapon? Shouldn’t that seem absurd? But it doesn’t. We’ve normalized wedding expenditures to the point where spending thousands of dollars on tulle seems a wiser investment than buying blue chip stock, even though only six textile manufacturers know what tulle actually is.

And while the bride is wearing the equivalent of a down payment on a condo, what is the groom wearing? The groom is wearing a rented tux.

Now, there will probably be other times in his life that he’d be able to wear formal attire — but nobody expects him to buy one for his wedding. His outfit is on loan. She, who is never supposed to wear her wedding dress again under any circumstances, naturally pays full price.

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