BEYOND THE BRIDAL GOWN - HISTORY OF VERA WANG
“Known for balancing modern designs with traditional elegance, Vera Wang is arguably the most prominent designer of bridal wear in America.” (Biography.com)
Recently married? About to be? If you’ve involved in a wedding, be it your own or as a member of the bridal party, the name Vera Wang should be second nature right about now. Possibly the most True Fashionista name on the bridal circuit for luxurious, fashion-forward bridal gowns, Vera Wang has been the IT bridal industry designer since exploding upon the scene 30 years ago upon discovering that no suitable gowns existed for her own upcoming wedding. Frustrated with the diminutive selection of existing bridal wear, she sketched her own design and commissioned a dressmaker to produce it at a cost of $10,000. Pleased with the results and buoyed by this accomplishment (as well as financial backing by her father), Wang opened her bridal boutique in the upscale Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York City the next year. The wedding industry has never looked back.
It could be said that Wang’s life experiences were all leading up to this moment.
Born June 27, 1949 in New York City as the daughter of affluent Chinese immigrants, Vera Ellen Wang grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, attending the elite Chapin School and School of American Ballet before studying at Sarah Lawrence College to earn an art history degree. She was a talented figure skater, and competed professionally throughout her teens, earning top five honors in the 1968 and 1969 junior pairs National Championships with her partner James Stuart. Upon graduation, she traded the skates for a position at Vogue Magazine. Within a year of her hire, she was promoted to senior fashion editor, and held the title for the next 15 years.
Wang left Vogue in 1987 for a position as accessories design director at Ralph Lauren. Two years and 18 accessory lines later, Business of Fashion shares, while planning her wedding Wang decided to foray into dress design with her image of a modern woman in mind. In 1990, she opened her own boutique on Madison Avenue, carrying both eveningwear and bridal gowns, which would then expand to include True Fashionista jewelry, eyewear, shows and homeware in the years to come. Her 1994 hand-beaded costume for Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan first gained her the international spotlight. Her skating costume designs have continued, most recently for 2018 Winter Olympics star Nathan Chen.
Wang was awarded the Council of Fashion Designer of America Womenswear designer of the year award in 2005. A year later, she received the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her name now synonymous with wedding gowns, she has been widely referenced in popular culture over the years, including (no surprise) the "Sex and the City" series/movie, various TV shows like "Gossip Girl", "The West Wing", "How to Get Away with Murder". Her ready-to-wear line, Simply Vera, can be found in Kohl’s, and in 2012, Wang collaborated with Men’s Wearhouse to develop a line of tuxedos.
This past October, in celebration of her namesake brand’s 30th anniversary, Wang spoke at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Atelier with Alma Cho series. In a letter celebrating that honor, the designer’s longtime friend Anna Wintour wrote: “No one at Vogue was funnier. Or louder. Or more neurotic. Or more endearing.” Her 60th bridal collection for spring 2020 has been called by Vogue’s Emily Farra, “one of her most intricate and challenging yet, consisting of gowns that require so much handwork and detailing that Wang said they’ll be a trip to reproduce.”
Arguably the most prominent designer of bridal wear in the US, Wang’s gowns range from $299 up to $15,000 and up. Brides looking for a fashion-forward look to their wedding need go no further. Wang lives in New York with her husband and two daughters. Expect much more True Fashionista couture to come.