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The Veil Reveals
By Cornelia Powell

Priscilla
 Wannamaker

The veil as a costume accessory has a varied and prominent history in women’s attire. “A veil, to a Muslim woman, has an everyday use. To a Western woman it is out of the ordinary and thus becomes significant.”1

What has come to be known as a bridal veil in the European-American heritage has its own unique story, borrowing from cultures of both East and West. From the Far East, we inherit the sense of being veiled as capturing a meditative, privileged space for a private reverie. The Western lineage that produced the custom for wearing bridal veils was inherited from the prestige of court dress and the allure of high fashion, traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans and even beyond. Through this Western lineage, the fabrics became even more gossamer until the netty tulles and laces were the fabrics of choice by brides for their ceremonial veils.

LaCourIn whatever ways the bridal traditions and styles change and have come down to our very democratic way of dressing today, I love the look of a woman wearing a veil for her wedding, finishing off the ceremonial costume. The veil can be a beautiful antique lace piece or a newly made design—a puff of tulle or a sweep of illusion—whatever is appropriate and complements a bride’s gown, as well as how it supports the transformation at hand.

As I worked with brides in my former shop in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, many questioned the “fuss and bother” about wedding costumes, especially the “tradition” of a bride wearing a veil. I would share with them rather philosophically something like this: Unlike most women in the past, you don’t dress like this everyday. Wedding ceremonies are like playing “dress up” with an intention! You are wearing a costume of ritual, meant to take you physically, mentally, spiritually to another place of you—to shake you out of your norm—to tap into the soul of change. I imagine the veil as representing the mystery of womanhood. Wrapped in a gossamer cloud, the veil reveals the woman.

LaCourBarbara Tober, former longtime editor-in-chief of Bride’s magazine, wrote in her book, The Bride, about the train of the gown being “an extension of the presence of the bride, leaving an aura of grandeur in her wake.”2 I loved this image. I embellished the quote at times when brides were questioning wearing a veil: One of my favorite bits of wedding folklore is how the bride moved amongst her friends and family with her veil trailing behind, leaving blessings in her wake!

I would watch as the attentive bride listened to my stories, her look softened as her heart opened, revealing her inner beauty. The transformation has begun. The ritual of the bridal veil marks the symbolic revealing as a woman sheds a layer of the past, moving closer to becoming. End of Article

1.Carol McD. Wallace, All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding, (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 6.
2. Barbara Tober, The Bride: A Celebration , (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1984), 92.

© 2003 Cornelia Powell, all rights reserved.

[This is an excerpt from Cornelia's book-in-progress, Weddings of Grace: The Bride You Want to Be, The Woman You Become—the inspiration for this online magazine.]


As Featured on Weddings of Grace