Monday, April 30, 2012

Disco Shirts and Dream Dresses

Yesterday after Mass I got sucked into watching a TLC rerun of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  (It was the one year anniversary of that historic event.)  One of the most entertaining things about seeing the "wedding of the century" again was enjoying the fashion show--particularly the haberdashery!  One of the fashion critics on the program made the comment that most of the hats were utterly ridiculous, and I couldn't agree more.  While Kate Middleton's mother wore a very becoming wide-brimmed hat that matched her tasteful suit, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie sported outlandish headgear that made them look like a couple of cartoon characters out of a Dr. Seuss book or something.  So silly!

But I just had to force myself to look past the over-the-top hat styles, because Kate Middleton's wedding gown couldn't have been more of a fashion triumph!  I thought it was just incredibly beautiful!  I love the long lace sleeves she chose to wear, so reminiscent of those on Grace Kelly's iconic dress from her 1956 Monaco wedding.

Sometimes when I see a glowing bride like Kate Middleton (or my beautiful daughter-in-law) on her big day, it makes me wish I'd put more thought and effort into transforming myself into a princess for my own shining moment.  I was a very young bride in 1980--22--and at that point, I could count the number of weddings I'd attended on one hand.  There was no such thing as the Internet (so no to go to for ideas, no on-line shopping), and our small town had exactly one shop specifically dedicated to bridal wear.  I hadn't given a whole lot of thought to what my "dream dress" would look like; I only knew that the two or three I tried on at the local bridal shop (both extremely poofy, made out of snow white satin, and covered with pearls that may have been glued on rather than sewn, as a few of them fell off in the fitting room!) looked dreadful on me.

My wrinkle-resistant, washable Qiana dress.
Then one day, my husband's older sister and I were strolling through the mall, and we noticed a sign at one of the women's clothing stores that said, "Clearance--We are closing out our bridal section, and all bridal wear must go!"  Before this, we didn't even know that store had a bridal section!  On a whim, we went in, and I fell in love with the very first dress I tried on: an empire-waisted, long-sleeved gown in "antique white," a color which looked so much better against my skin than pure white.  It wasn't made of heavy satin, but rather a soft, silky fabric called Qiana, which had a lovely drape to it and was all the rage at the time.  The gown was half off, only $90, and there was a matching veil with a lacy Juliet cap in the same creamy color for $50.  On the spot, I put both items on layaway and didn't look back.

As my wedding day drew near, my mother offered to sew some sequins and seed pearls on the bodice of my dress to jazz it up, just as her mother had done for her; I thought about it, but decided that I liked it the way it was and wanted to keep it simple.  Years down the road, I sometimes wondered if I'd made a mistake about that.  A little extra shimmer and bling could never hurt a wedding gown; why had I insisted on such simplicity?  And why hadn't I had my hair done at a salon, instead having my sister-in-law--who was only 12 at the time!--get out the curling iron at the last minute and do my hair for me?  And why did I skip wearing mascara, worried that I would cry and look like a raccoon in pictures?  (Actually, I did cry reciting my vows, so that was probably a good call.)

My husband pooh-poohs my second guessing, telling me that he about had a heart attack when I walked down the aisle as it was.  (What a sweet-talker.)

I remember my mother-in-law, who was very knowledgeable about fashions and fabrics, told me that the Qiana fabric out of which my wedding dress was made would date it, so that it wouldn't be as timeless as if it had been made from silk or some other natural fabric.  I sometimes wondered if I'd made a big mistake when I chose it.  But you know what?  I've had it hanging in the back of my closet for over 30 years, and every time I take it out to look at it again, I realize that I love it as much as I did when I tried it on at that store in the mall and my sister-in-law assured me, "It's perfect--you should get it!"

And you know what else?  I've decided that I'm okay with the fact that the synthetic Qiana fabric dates it.  Do you know what that means?  It means I own a vintage wedding dress.  And you know how much I like anything vintage!

Anyhoo, I went on-line yesterday to do some research about wedding dresses from the 70's and 80's, and first I searched for and found the web definition for the knit fabric known as Qiana: "a silky nylon fiber first developed by DuPont in 1968; initially intended for high-end fashions, it became a popular material in the 70's for men's shirts..."  That's right, the fabric out of which my wedding dress was made was also used to make those shiny, long-collared shirts that were worn with tacky-looking polyester double-knit leisure suits by John Travolta wannabes when they hit the discos in the 70's!  Yowsah!  How embarrassing.

My favorite thing: the three-dimensional venise lace appliques.
As the "disco fever" started to die down, though, designers actually began to use Qiana for evening wear and wedding gowns.  In 1979, the year before I got married, designers Bill Schad and Miss Hilda created lines of empire-waisted Qiana gowns with three-dimensional venise lace embellishments.  The stretch knit made them comfortable (I can attest to that--mine was a dream to wear), and the dresses were lined throughout the bodice and skirt for modesty (I didn't even need to wear a slip underneath).  I'm thinking that my off-white Qiana gown might have been a designer knock-off, because just like the images I found on-line, it too has an empire waist and venise lace appliques on the sleeves and bodice.  In fact, it was those lace embellishments--along with the graceful drape of the silky knit fabric--that made me fall in love with my wedding dress in the first place.

I was no Kate Middleton on my wedding day, but I love my dated, bargain basement wedding dress all the same.  In fact, if I could go back and do it all over again, even knowing what I know now I wouldn't change a thing.  I'd still pick that Qiana dress...and I'd still have my sister-in-law work her magic on my hair with a curling iron.


  1. I think you looked beautiful on your wedding day!!

  2. I know this is an old post but I found this as I was doing a Google search for Qiana wedding gowns. I too wore a Qiana fabric wedding gown in 1978. I loved it and it was so comfortable. I was looking for bishop sleeves on my search for my gown. It was the first one I tried on. I tried on others but the Qiana one held my heart. My gown has an empire-waist and the lace embellishments with lots of little pearls on the bodice. I will soon be getting my gown out for the upcoming wedding or my son and his fiance. We are planing on displaying the brides mother's, grandmothers and my dresses at the reception. I can't wait! And I love the fact that it won't need a lot if any ironing :)

    1. Hi, Cheryl,

      What a neat idea to hang all the dresses at the reception! I love that!

      Quiana really was comfortable to wear. And when I did research for this post, I found out that designers loved using it--for a short stretch, anyway. When I tried my dress on, it "held my heart," too. It made me feel pretty--and (as you brought up) as a bonus, it required no ironing at all. It was wonderful.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I happened across your blog as I was researching Quiana fabric. I went shopping for my wedding dress in 1983 with my husband to be because my mother wouldn't go. She didn't like him and said the marriage wouldn't last. 35 years later we are still happier than ever. At the time my wedding dress was also marked clearance (110.00) and all we could afford within our budget. Was it the dress I had envisioned? No. But the man and the marriage were more than I could have ever been blessed with. I'm now going to have the dress made into a quilt. If any of you read these posts, thank you. So glad to have known I wasn't alone. Viki