Most little girls will play dress up, evoking their favorite princesses and dreaming of weddings. But, what color do they dream in? Modern western cultures prize the white gown, but history has shown us that the beautiful white wedding dress is a relatively new concept.
At Longmeadow, we have seen some beautiful dresses here in our Colorado wedding venue, so we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the fascinating history of the wedding dress.
More than just its color, the wedding dress was used to show the wealth and social standing of the family. The wealthiest of brides could be seen in a variety of colors and fabrics. Furs, velvet, and silk were the favorite fabrics to drape wealthy brides. Some brides would have their gowns sewn with gold or silver—no better way to show wealth—or had even sewn their jewels and dowries into their gowns.
Here is Princess Charlotte’s 1816 wedding dress
For the brides who couldn’t afford silver or gold, their “Sunday best” was what most brides wore. White was not a practical color for most ladies whose dresses needed to last through a variety of seasons and uses. Most refashioned their wedding dresses to be used again. White was not the desired color for brides until the Queen wed in white.
Research attributes the popularity of the white wedding dress to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s wedding in 1840. Though not the first to wear white for the nuptials, Queen Victoria was probably the most famous. She took the opportunity to showcase her favorite hand-made Honiton lace when machine-made lace was becoming more popular. The rest of her gown was chosen to highlight the beautiful lace and can be seen as patriotic since it was entirely British-made.
So enamored with their love, Victoria and Albert posed for many photographs and paintings in their nuptial garments. This helped to influence the popularity of Queen Victoria and her white wedding gown. Paintings, photographs, and accompanying etchings were widely circulated.
The popularity of the white wedding dress was played up even more in the media of the day. Even though white is currently thought of as the color of virtue, traditionally blue was the color seen to represent purity and faithfulness because that is the color the Virgin Mary is depicted in. But, written about ten years after Queen Victoria’s wedding, The Godey’s Lady’s Book proclaimed white as the best color, citing: “Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.”
White became the popular color for wedding dresses though the styles changed with current fashions.
There was a brief absence of white in wedding dresses due to the cost during The Great Depression. The luxury of white and the styles of the Victorian era returned with another royal, Princess Grace.
The full-skirts, beautiful lace, and shoulder-baring styles of the Victorian era continue today in the ball gowns fit for today’s luxury.
For further reading: