For many brides-to-be, the color white is synonymous with her special day. At bridal shows across the country, the consensus is the same – the white wedding dress evokes connotations of splendor, glamour and purity.
But why are wedding dresses white?
And when did this custom begin? Wearing white on your big day doesn’t necessary mean what you think it does…
Women have been wearing white on their wedding days for centuries, but it was never as common as it is today. Princess Philippa of England is the first recorded princess to have worn white during her wedding in 1406, with her attire comprising of a tunic and cloak in white silk but it wasn’t until Queen Victoria that the white dress would explode in popularity.
How Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress
The tradition of the white wedding dress actually began during the Victorian period, when Queen Victoria wore a white gown at her wedding to Prince Albert. This iconic wedding dress kick-started a fashion trend that would last for nearly two centuries.
Throughout much of history marriages have been more about political alliances and the transfer of wealth than love. The wedding itself was a way to demonstrate wealth, and the wedding dress was an important part of that display. The more elaborate the weave of the fabric and the rarer the color the better the demonstration of wealth. Before the invention of effective bleaching techniques, white was a challenging color to not only achieve, but also maintain since all washing was done by hand. Wealthy brides would wear white to demonstrate their wealth and status, not their purity.
Despite common belief, it is only recently that the white dress has become the status quo for conventional weddings. In fact, in many countries like China and India, red is the preferred choice for many brides, with the color symbolizing luck and good fortune.
Today, the white wedding dress is still the most popular color for brides-to-be, with a whole industry dedicated to manufacturing and selling these dresses for those who want something special on their big day. Some of the most iconic wedding dresses in history have been white, and the white wedding dress trend that was popularized by Queen Victoria continues to this day. Recent brides who have worn white on their wedding day have included Princess Diana during her wedding to Price Charles in the 1980s, and more recently Kate Middleton who married Prince William in 2011.
Did you know…?
+ During the Great Depression when money was scarce for a lot of people, brides would purchase a white wedding dress and then dye it a different color so that they could wear the dress again. This practice continued for many years, as thrifty brides were determined to get more bang from their buck after shelling out on a new dress.
+ In many Japanese weddings, white is also a popular choice for wedding dresses – but for different reasons. The color white is supposed to symbolize death in the country, and can often be found on wedding dresses as it signifies the bride becoming ‘dead’ to her family. The Japanese bride will then remove her white-colored kimono to reveal another color, which is usually red.
+ White wedding dresses used to be seen as a symbol of wealth and money. This is because they could not be reused or washed for another event, and so only the rich could justify spending so much money on a piece of clothing that was to be worn only once. Those who had less income would opt for another color instead, or combine white with other shades.