06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
He waits nervously at the altar. Suddenly she appears and starts marching down the aisle in: a white bathing suit and pineapple headdress? A snow-bunny getup with fur hat and booties? A minidress, plastic space helmet and...Deely Bobbers? It's enough to send any self-respecting bridegroom back to Soup-for-One and singles bars.
Far-out wedding fashions are not entirely new; back in the rebellious 1960s, peasant smocks and bare feet were de rigueur among the flower-child set. Although Americans seem to have long since finished with the fun, European and Japanese designers have turned traditional low-key end-of-the-fashion-show bridal dresses into Ziegfeld extravaganzas.
"You have to have some imagination—you musn't be boring," says no less a couturier than Dior's Marc Bohan, who created a traditional dress with Swiss lace for Princess Caroline's 1978 marriage to Philippe Junot. This year Bohan has come up with a Bar-dot-inspired baby-doll mini. He's not alone. Yves Saint Laurent has designed wedding gowns in gold lame and in jet black, Japan's Issey Miyake concocted one out of ostrich feathers, and Emanuel Ungaro decked out his fashion-show bride in silk bloomers.
At some collections, the dress itself has often been less important than the model's entrance. Kenzo sent a bride out on a white horse led by grooms in marching-band uniforms, and supermodel Pat Cleveland once materialized for Italian designer Cinzia Ruggeri in total darkness, trailing a 72-foot veil lit by hundreds of tiny, twinkling Christmas tree lights.
Do such costumes, which can cost up to $50,000, ever get bought and worn? Yes, insists designer Claude Montana—though they are seen more often at galas and openings than at weddings. Still, as far as he and his colleagues are concerned, that's not the point. "These gowns," winks Montana, "are just an alibi for the end of my collection."