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Wang, Vera - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Vera Wang

bridal york fashion wang’s

Vera Wang Bridal House, Ltd.


American designer Vera Wang has become perhaps the best known name in bridal fashion. Since the early 1990s, her sleek, sexy, yet tasteful concoctions have been chosen by brides-to-be to showcase and enhance their beauty on their wedding day.

Personal Life

Wang was born in the late 1940s (sources variously cite 1948, ‘49, and ’50 as her birthyear) in Manhattan, the daughter of Cheng Ching Wang, chair of a pharmaceutical company. Wang’s mother, also of Chinese heritage, once worked as a translator at the United Nations and was the daughter of one of China’s last feudal warlords. During World War II, Wang’s parents both fled China, but were not yet married; her mother followed her future husband to the United States, an act that Wang has described as daring and rebellious for its time.

Wang grew up in relatively affluent surroundings. She took ballet lessons at New York City’s School of American Ballet, and also skated competitively for many years. At the age of 17, she appeared on the cover of Paris Match, the French equivalent of People, in a story about her French skating partner, Patrick Pera. Despite the skating talent, Wang dreamed of going to art school, but her parents considered this a very impractical education. Instead she enrolled at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, where she earned a degree in art history that included a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She later took graduate courses at Columbia University.

Wang met her future husband, Arthur Becker, in 1980 at a tennis game in Forest Hills, New York. They were married nine years later, and Wang resisted pressure to do so during much of that courtship. Her mother wondered why she focused on her career and not on beginning a family. Perhaps fitting for a designer of bridal gowns (a business she launched after she married), Wang was conscious of the commitment marriage entailed. “I was very aware of the responsibility, not just to try it out and see if it fit or not,” Wang told Alex Witchel in the New York Times. She was 40 when she wed, and she and Becker hoped to have children right away, but encountered difficulties conceiving. They then began fertility treatments, an arduous, time-consuming process that led to Wang’s decision to quit her job at Ralph Lauren. She eventually adopted two daughters, Cecilia and Josephine, and lives in a palatial 22-room apartment on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Becker is the head of a golf-equipment manufacturing company. They also enjoy a house in Southampton and a country house in upstate New York that is actually a converted 200-year-old Dutch-style barn.

Career Details

After graduating from Sarah Lawrence, Wang was hired at Vogue magazine. It was a prestigious career debut, and marked Wang as a talented and creative newcomer to fashion. She was made editor in 1972, one of the youngest in the magazine’s history, and primarily served as “sittings” editor, or the one in charge of the editorial fashion spreads that are the essence of the magazine. Still, the emphasis remained on editorial, not design, and Wang was eager to move on after 16 years of experience.

In 1987, she quit Vogue to become creative director for American designer Ralph Lauren. She also held the title of design director for accessories. Wang loved working on the other side—the first time she saw one of their handbags worn by someone on the street in New York, she was extremely excited, but her colleagues told her that she would get used to seeing her work nonchalantly walking past. “They were wrong,” she told the New York Times. Wang stayed at Ralph Lauren for two years, and learned a great deal about the design end of the fashion industry. She has described Lauren, the man, as her mentor.

When she planned her 1989 wedding to Becker, Wang delved into the world of bridal fashion, and was dismayed at what she found. She realized that there was a large segment of young American women who wanted a more stylish version of the lace-and-tulle numbers that were standard fare in the bridal salons. With financing from her father, Wang launched the bridal line bearing her name in 1990 with a showroom located at the famed Carlyle Hotel on Madison Avenue. They were a hit from the start, but the high costs of design and the overhead weighed the balance sheet down, and—as she’d expected—Wang’s business did not show a profit for its first few years.

There were other difficulties during her first decade, Wang told the New York Times. “After working for Ralph [Lauren], the same fabric houses I dealt with didn’t know me once I was trying to start a business from thin air,” she recalled. Still, Wang’s vision translated into success where it mattered most—on the bride-to-be. Her company has two divisions: the ready-to-wear bridal, with dresses ranging in price from $2,500 to $5,000, and then a couture bridal line called Vera Wang Made to Order, with custom gowns at $10,000 and up.

Social and Economic Impact

By the mid-1990s Vera Wang was a recognized “designer” name to many American women for her stylish yet classic bridal creations. Capitalizing on the success of this Wang launched a couture line of evening wear in 1994 to be sold in upscale department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. These designs have been worn by Academy Award attendees such as actresses Sharon Stone and Holly Hunter, effectively providing high-profile publicity for all of Wang’s designs. Wang also created competition outfits for figure skater Nancy Kerrigan for several years, including the gold costume worn during Kerrigan’s much-watched appearance at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Yet it is Wang’s bridal gowns that have made the most impact on the market. Few designers like to create such gowns, since they’re generally expected to be one color, somewhat frothy, and have fairly traditionalrequirements that leave little room for creativity. Wang has filled a niche that helps stylish young women look sophisticated—yet still princess-like—on their wedding day. She has even introduced touches of color here and there. Wang’s star has risen, wrote Witchel of the New York Times, because of her daring in “challenging the status quo, introducing fashion (black velvet trim) and—gasp—sex to this creaky trade of institutional virginity.”

Vera Wang gowns have been worn by some of the most famous brides of the 1990s, such as pop singer Mariah Carey for her extravagant nuptials to Sony Music executive Tommy Mottola. This particular dress boasted a 27-foot train. “Women are real works of art,” Wang told the New York Times, “and I try to remember that that’s what makes it worthwhile, that it’s not just about making money and seeing how big the distribution can be . . . I wanted to be exclusive by taste, not money. Small and caring. I look at every dress in the store. I had a whole glove line made up that didn’t exist. And I was thinking wouldn’t it be nice to take off your shoes, have a Diet Coke and not be bride No. 5,076 for the month of June.”

Chronology: Vera Wang

1949: Born.

1972: Hired at Vogue.

1987: Becomes design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren.

1989: Marries Arthur Becker.

1990: Launches bridal line.

1994: Gains additional renown for designing competition outfits for Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan.

Wang has received awards from Asian-American civic groups and is active in the Asia Society in New York City. The Girl Scout Council of Greater New York honored her in 1994, and she was elected that same year to the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

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about 8 years ago

Is Vera Wang associated with Carol

Kent, the author of "When I Lay My

Issac Down"?

Thank you !