Left: MJ and Willi Smith in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 (no month 1987).
Right: Willi Smith’s concept sketch for MJ’s wedding dress as reproduced in Back Issue #23.

When Mary Jane Watson traded nuptials with her knight in web-lined armor, she did it wearing a wedding gown created by renowned fashion designer Willi Smith. Smith, who was born on February 29, 1949, was one of the most successful African- American fashion designers of all time. Before the Spider-Wedding, Smith had already made a name for himself as the founder (along with Laurie Mallet) of WilliWear, a multi-million-dollar clothing business, and as the designer of the suits for Edwin Schlossberg and his groomsmen for Schlossberg’s wedding to Caroline Kennedy and for the clothing in Spike Lee’s film School Daze.

Smith’s role in creating Mary Jane’s form-fitting white lace, satin, and tulle gown came about through the efforts of Marvel’s PR director, Pam Rutt, and it was Smith’s final project before he passed away at the age of 39 from AIDS-related medical complications on April 17, 1987.

Smith’s death came just weeks before a special wedding ceremony that was held at home base at the New York Mets’ Shea Stadium on Friday, June 5, 1987 … Smith’s wedding gown was also used in both The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 and the Spider-Man Sunday comic strip where Peter and Mary Jane tied the knot. Smith was even featured in several panels of the Annual and was seen designing the gown for the bride.

- Back Issue #23 (Nov 2007).

I blogged about Willi Smith a couple of years ago but I wasn’t sure at that point how his death lined up with the timing of the wedding. Truly a tragic loss.

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