The history of the wedding dress

When did the white wedding dress tradition start?

The colour white was the colour of celebration and an emblem for joy or a sign for paying tribute to the god of fertility and marriage in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt.

The tradition of a white wedding is commonly credited to Queen Victoria’s choice of wearing an all-white bridal ensemble at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Her veil was made out of Honiton lace as a sign of support for the Honiton industry. In the years to come she often wore their lace and insisted her daughters also order Honiton lace for their wedding dresses. Incorporating Honiton lace into the wedding dress was seen as “something borrowed” and a new wedding tradition was born for the next generation of brides.


The tradition of “Wearing also “something old” and “something blue” were devices to baffle “ The Evil Eye” as well wearing “something old” and “something new” were signs to redirect the bride to a new life. Often the “something borrowed” was an undergarment of a woman that had been blessed with children. While the “six pence in her shoe” was a sign for wishing her good luck.

The manifestation and popularization of choosing the colour white for your wedding dress was helped by the fact that American women still followed cues and trends from English and French fashion and being as well a British Queen it certainly set a royal trend spawned across the globe which is lasting to this day.

Until then, because of the limitations of laundering techniques, many brides wore red, blue or yellow wedding dresses in Western Europe. The colour that was never chosen for a wedding dress was green, because it was considered unlucky.

Therefore, wearing a white dress was considered expensive and only wealthy women could afford the luxury of a specially made wedding gown . Only the rich bride could afford a dress simply for leisure reasons that could be ruined by any type of work. Most commoners chose to wear their best dress – their ”Sunday dress” or borrowed a dress from other female members for that special day.

In 1920 big changes manifested how women were choosing their wedding dresses. The reason was to social changes that altered the status of women around the world. In 1920 women were given the right to vote and they celebrated the new won freedom by cutting their hair into bobs, wearing their dresses shorter and looser and abandoning any fashion that was seen as restrictive such as the corsets, high necklines, long sleeves and hemlines. Coco Chanel was instrumental in introducing knee length wedding gowns.

The time since 1930s were difficult and dark times where white elaborated wedding dresses were replaced with simple and unadorned wedding gowns, which often were not white. When American divorcee Wallis Simpson married Edward VII in 1937, she created a fashion moment in history, because she wore a simple floor-length gown with matching jacket in a soft blue, that was dubbed the “Wallis Blue”, because it was matching her eye colour. She paired her outfit with a pink and blue-feathered hat. Though she was not considered the most popular woman, she was to become a worldwide fashion icon starting with her wedding outfit, which became to be the most copied dress in fashion and wedding history.

When Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in 1981 she wore the next most influential wedding dress . The bridal gown was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel. Her wedding dress would become one of the most famous dresses of all times and was considered one of the most closely guarded secrets in fashion history.

The latest most influential wedding dress was worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (née Middleton) at her wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, in 2011. Her wedding dress was designed by Sarah Burton- creative director of the fashion house Alexander McQueen. The wedding dress combined tradition and modernity and created the biggest media attention to this day. The dress was very well received and as a result many replicas of the garment were produced and sold around the world.

Today bridal fashion is a blend of new and old customs, traditions and fashion influences, but mostly it is what the bride wants it to be. Though there are influences from the fashion world, the biggest influences are coming from the celebrity fashion. There are no exact guidelines of right or wrong-it is all about what you want to include or leave out on your wedding. Today the modern bride chooses her dress to the theme, location and budget of her wedding. Anything goes and anything is possible- today a wedding and wedding dress is ruled less by custom than making it to the best dress of your life.

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