The bridal scene of 2015, partly as a result of all this, now involves "bridal boot camps" that promise to tone, in particular, bridal backs and arms. It involves the reality-TV juggernaut Say Yes to the Dress, which assumes first that a wedding dress is something a woman "has been dreaming of since she was a little girl," and second that the fulfillment of that dream should cost a bride—or her family, or her fiancé—several thousands of dollars. It involves sites like Pinterest, and social networks like Faceboook and Instagram, which put a new premium on weddings—their clothes, their decorations, their overall productions—as vehicles of meaning and creativity and self-expression.
Which is also to say that the bridal scene of 2015 sucks brides into a paradox. On the one hand, what you wear on your wedding day—the collection of garments that may well form the most expensive outfit of your life—is sold as a sartorial symbol of Who You Are, with all the freight that comes with it. On the other hand, though, bridal clothing is, by its nature, constrained—by expectation, by convention, by tradition. The various hegemonies of length (trains!) and cut (strapless!) and color (white! or maybe cream, if you're feeling daring!) have meant that even the most avant-garde approaches to wedding dress-ing have tended to be, in their way, conservative.
You could read Vera Wang's transparent wedding dress—which functions as wearable art much more than sellable merchandise—as an extreme answer to those often rather cruel tensions: What better way to criticize the constraints of the wedding industrial complex than by creating a dress that is, effectively, invisible?
You could also read it, of course, as an overt rejection of the sexual mores at play in the traditional wedding dress. Wedding dresses have always been, on some level, about sex: the white as a sign (and a reassurance) of the bride's virginity; the expanse of fabric as a tacit promise that, while sex will be had, it will be had in the proper way. Women are getting married at older ages than they used to. Which means, among so much else, that they're less inclined to opt for princess-driven designs—and also that they're less inclined to designs that emphasize the virginal. “For my generation," the soon-to-be bride Natasha Da Silva told The New York Times in 2008, "looking like a virgin when you marry is completely unappealing, boring even. Who cares about that part anymore?”
The transparent, lingerie-evocative gown takes the tradition of the sex-symbolizing wedding attire, but flips it: It implies that the sex will be had on the bride's terms as much as the groom's. It's reveling in a woman's sexuality, rather than stifling it.
Which is not to say that the wedding season of 2016 will feature visible bridal bras. Runway styles are, of course, not the same thing as ready-to-wear, and Vera Wang's insouciant takes on the wedding dress are as much a proof of concept as they are a straight-faced entry into bridal fashion. But if wedding clothes are always, on some level, a reflection of the times, then the move toward more revealing dresses that Wang's designs represent—dresses that flaunt a bride's sexuality, rather than concealing it—is itself a revelation. Sex is part of marriage, the dresses insist. Sex is part of life, they add. They refuse to be ashamed of, or be shy about, any of that.