Why do brides wear a white gown?

History of the white wedding gown

by Oaklands Collection-Kenya


Posted on January 21, 2018 at 8:00 AM


  


Would you wear for your wedding a bridal gown of blue, maroon or green color?
and what do you think of a wedding where the bride is not wearing the traditional white gown?

We know that in Africa and Kenya, the dressing for traditional cultural weddings clothing have mostly been known for bold colors.In Asia and China, red is a common color for the bride gown signifying good luck and happiness.
 So actually it was not until after mid 1800s when white became the norm, a standard if you may for gowns.Before this it was rare, even unusual for the bride to be in a white gown.

The reasons for this were several, First, weddings performed during and immediately following the Middle Ages were often more than just a union between two people.They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries.
Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes.
Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light and befitted their social status, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony.
18th century gown
Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see them wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. Brides dressed in the height of current fashion, with the richest materials their families' money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount and the price of material a wedding dress contained was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests.

Secondly, For most of history, brides rarely purchased a dress specifically for their wedding day. The bride would typically wear her finest dress to the ceremony, even if it was a dark color. In fact, many brides wore black during this time.

Only a few colors were avoided, such as green, which was then considered unlucky. Blue was a popular choice as it represented piety and purity ,  plus the dark colors easily hid stains and imperfections and could be worn again.

So the poor could not afford white satin and linens because they would be too difficult to clean and maintain them as a regular dress. On the other hand, the wealthy who could afford it, would find white too plain for their opulence, two conflicting reasons.

Queen Victoria
In 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and wore a relatively plain white satin gown adorned with orange blossom wreath headdress with lace veil and eighteen foot train, carried over her arm.Even Victoria's 12 bridesmaids wore white.

Queen Victoria

The official wedding photo was published around the world and the white wedding gown became the rage with high-society brides.

At the time, red was still the color of choice for most brides, so the fact that a member of the Royal family wore white instead was, to put it bluntly, a pretty big deal.But Queen Victoria was known to do things her way. She even recycled her dress and wore it multiple times after her ceremony.

Queen Victoria2

Victoria's wedding changed the tradition of wearing the current fashions for gowns, and for the rest of the century, white continued to gain popularity. By the 1880's most women wore soft whites and ivories and the white wedding gown came to symbolize purity and innocence. Later attribution suggested white symbolized virginity.

However, for many working class brides still, marrying in a lavish white gown you would never wear again because of its style and color, was an extravagance they could neither afford nor justify. Without modern conveniences, cleaning a pure white dress that elaborate was next to impossible, so many continued to wed in gowns of soft blues, greens soft ivories. Bonnets and veils were worn according to the style of the day. It wasn't until the end of the 1860's, that veils were worn over the face.

The Industrial Revolution brought about change. The arrival of the department store meant a much greater accessibility of fabrics and designs for women who could now realize their dream of being married in a 'new' wedding dress. Prices came down and the white dress was no longer the preserve of the very wealthy. By 1890, it was accepted that a wedding gown be white.

Wedding gowns were further embellished with lace and pearls. This continued to the outbreak of WW1 when styles became simpler and reflected the changing role of women in society.

When the Depression hit, brides made do with their 'best' dress for the wedding. Many brides dyed their white wedding dress after the wedding, keeping only the collar and cuffs white, a common practice at that time.

Grace Kelly 
Grace Kelly Wedding Party

In 1956, watched by over 30 million television viewers, Grace Kelly's marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco was hailed the wedding of the century.
Her wedding gown was a white high-necked, long-sleeved gown with fitted torso and billowing skirt made of twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk net, . She wore a Juliet cap decorated with seed pearls, orange blossoms, and a veil of 90 yards of tulle. Like Queen Victoria's wedding before her,
Princess Grace's wedding set the trend for the next decade and big white wedding dresses were in.

These vintage inspired wedding dresses of the fifties and sixties gave way to more relaxed gowns in the less formal weddings of the seventies. Outdoor settings replaced churches, garlands of daisies replaced veils, and the couples wrote their own vows.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana
In 1982, Lady Diana Spencer's wedding to Prince Charles was another grand fairy-tale wedding complete with a grand white Victorian-styled dress. It was puff-sleeved with a fitted bodice and full-skirted of ivory taffeta. Like many fashions of the 1980's there was little understatement with it. It was grand. The nineties and beyond saw a return to sleeker, less complicated styles.
Kate Middleton
by Oaklands Collection

Reference
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_dress_of_Queen_Victoria
http://all-that-is-interesting.com/history-of-wedding-gowns
http://www.instyle.com/weddings/history-white-wedding-dress
http://ultimatehistoryproject.com/before-the-whiteout-wedding-dresses-and-grooms-outfits.html

http://www.perfect-wedding-day.com/bridal-wedding-gown-history.html http://time.com/3698249/white-weddings/

COMING NEXT - Types of Gowns and How to choose your Ideal

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