Some romantic comedies end with a wedding, but few have so many failed attempts in the lead up. The 1999 film Runaway Bride stars Julia Roberts as the titular commitment-phobe who left three fiancés at the altar. Opposite her, Richard Gere stars as a columnist desperate to work her out.

Runaway Bride Richard Gere

The two acted with each other some years previously; they played escort and business man in Pretty Woman in 1990. Moreover, Roberts may have been the perfect actress for the role in this film, as she left fiancé Kiefer Sutherland three days before their 1991 wedding. In the film, Ike forces Maggie to face her identity crisis by highlighting her cooking method of eggs. (As it appears, her favourite type of eggs is always her fiancé’s favourite.) Ultimately they fall for one another. Maggie finally finds her perfect man, and her perfect dress!

Now, we rarely get a chance to look at so many dresses at once! However, we are going to focus on the one that finally made her stick with it.

The Plot

Maggie Carpenter is many times a bride, never a wife! She always runs away from the altar before she ties the knot. When Ike, a columnist in New York, hears about this story, he writes an article which gets slammed by Maggie for misinformation. He is fired and decides to travel to Maryland to visit the infamous bride.

Upon meeting him, she is horrified to discover that he is the man who wrote the piece about her. However, her family like him so eventually she decides to give him the true story, for a price. She is engaged, again, to an American football coach called Bob. Eventually, at the wedding rehearsal, Maggie kisses Ike and they admit their feelings for each other. Another wedding is called off.

While everything seems happily ever after, Maggie flees the altar at her wedding to Ike. Ike moves back to New York and Maggie tries to discover who she is, without a man. Finally, she turns up at Ike’s door and proposes to him. They marry in a ceremony on a hillside, a very different affair to the large weddings she previously had. Meanwhile, all their friends and family rejoice that the runaway bride is now happily married.

The Dress

Eventually, Maggie and Ike actually tie the knot in the final scene! Their ceremony is an intimate one, out in the open. There is an atmosphere of carefree happiness between the newlyweds, with no large and fancy occasion.

The camera pans across autumnal leaves on the ground and we see Maggie slowly approaching to say her vows. Ike is dapper in a three piece suit and she is wearing a beautiful white wedding dress.

Her classic satin off-the-shoulder ball gown features a scallop-edged sweetheart neckline that is elegantly low-cut. The bodice clings to her figure and features intricate lace detailing. The romantic A-line gown has a long court train which sweeps across the leafy ground. The back of the dress features a line of elegant, covered buttons down the centre. We can imagine it would not have been very easy to run away in!

She carries a small bouquet which appears to feature wild, autumnal blooms and plenty of foliage. It is tied together with long silk ribbon which almost touches the floor.

Iconic wedding dresses in the film runaway bride

Maggie’s hair tumbles down her back in bouncy loose curls, reminiscent of Roberts’ role in Pretty Woman. The hairstyle emphasises her carefree, happy nature now that she’s found the perfect man.

The couple are then seen romantically frolicking in a rolling field on horseback after their vows. Then, they gallop off side-by-side for the ultimate romantic, fairy tale ending.

The Designer

The film’s costume designer was Albert Wolsky, who also designed the costumes for Grease and You’ve Got Mail. However, while he designed the other four wedding dresses, the final one came from the rack at Saks Fifth Avenue.

This dress was from designer Amsale Aberra. She was born in Ethiopia and moved to America for college. She started to design and make her own clothes as she didn’t have enough money to buy them. Amsale then started to consider a career in fashion design and went back to university. She earned a degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Frustrated by the apparent lack of classic, timeless wedding gowns, she designed her own. She launched her own label in 1986 and started to design custom wedding dresses from her garment-district loft. Shortly after opening, bridal retailer Kleinfield chanced on an advertisement she posted in Modern Bride, and bought her entire collection!

Amsale Bridal continued to go from strength to strength, and a flagship store opened on Madison Avenue in 2001. With the motto “Forever Modern”, the label’s gowns are known for their classic elegance and understated adornment, like handcrafted beading or a blue sash at the waist.

Amsale Aberra was twice featured on Ebony magazine’s “Power 150” list of the 150 most influential African Americans.

The Other Four

Okay, we couldn’t just leave without at least mentioning the other dresses. There are four other weddings dresses that make at least a brief cameo. As we mentioned before, Wolsky designed the other dresses. He said there was not enough time to find other designers and thus made them himself.

The first dress required three copies because of all the stunts the character was due to make. Julia Roberts decided to add daisies to her hair when wearing this crocheted hippie dress. At the wedding to Dead Head Gill Chavez, she bounces on a trampoline before getting cold feet, vaulting over a fence and escaping on the back of a motorbike.

Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts

The second wedding, to Brian who later becomes a priest, is big and traditional. The train was very long, to accommodate the pageboy who was dragged back up the aisle. It was hand embroidered and perfect for a big church wedding. There was a lot of lace.

Maggie’s third wedding is to entomologist George Swilling. She comes up the aisle on horseback wearing an off-the-shoulder cloud-like gown and veil secured by a wreath of flowers. It is made of tulle fabric, and four copies were made. As the veil flies behind her as she flees on the horse, Wolsky had to cut it to size.

Runaway Bride

The final failed wedding dress was set for two different weddings. Firstly, to Bob the sports coach, then secondly to Ike. As Wolsky described, “It’s as close as you can get to a Vera Wang without it being a Vera Wang.” There were plenty of stunts needed for this dress, too, as Maggie escapes her groom by climbing out a window and jumping on a FedEx van, so there was a spare.

Which is your favourite dress? Which would you wear?

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