For a cultural historian, works of fiction are arguably among the best records of the past. What better place to find descriptions of daily life, from employment to entertainment, food to fashion?
In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton's 1921 tale of late-19th-century New York Society and its machinations, gowns of velvet, fur, brocade, muslin, tulle, and especially bridal satin play important supporting roles. The last of these, in particular, forms an object to be protected from would-be interlopers: in the case of the bride herself, from a rival to her groom's affections, and in the case of her wedding dress, from (of course) eager copyists.
May Welland's procession into Grace Church to marry Newland Archer is, as custom dictates, to be protected from common eyes by a canvas-draped awning. The narrow passage, however, proves an obstacle to the bride's broad-minded and physically large grandmother, Catherine, whose wheelchair will not fit between its posts:
The idea of doing away with this awning, and revealing the bride to the mob of dressmakers and newspaper reporters who stood outside fighting to get near the joints of the canvas, exceeded even old Catherine's courage, though for a moment she had weighed the possibility. "Why, they might take a photograph of my child and put it in the papers!" Mrs. Welland exclaimed when her mother's last plan was hinted to her; and from this unthinkable indecency the clan recoiled with a collective shudder.
How quaint, even for Wharton's day.
Of course, not every current socialite or celebrity bride wishes to be an easy target for freelance photographers -- especially when they've learned to sell the pictures themselves, or at least arrange for flattering views and venues. (Melania Trump in Dior by Galliano on the cover of Vogue, perhaps?)
Still, modern copyists don't have to join the scrum of paparazzi in order to get an early look at the latest styles. That's what the internet is for.