Where Do They Come From?
Your wedding dress is going to be one of the toughest decisions you make as you plan your wedding. I went famously went to seven wedding dress shops and tried on a whopping twenty-eight dresses before falling for The One!
Along with your christenings and funerals, your wedding is the one time you will be seen at a special public occasion. Historically, these kinds of public events have required special outfits.
Colour, style and ceremonial importance of the wedding dress varies from culture to culture.
The Middle Ages
Marriage in the Middle Ages was more to do with sealing the relationship between two families, towns or even countries. It was expected that the bride would dress in suitably as befit her position.
Brides were dressed in fine fabrics and amazing jewellery (given as part of their dowry) to display her family’s wealth and importance. Brides usually wore bright colours, velvets and furs, to display wealth.
The purpose of the wedding dress was to say, ‘I’m richer than you.’ The bride rarely chose her gown but was given it, sometimes in her family colours.
Over the Centuries
Brides continued to wear fine dresses made from expensive fabrics that followed the height of fashion. Brides from ordinary families wore their Sunday best.
The amount of material a wedding dress contained also was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests.
Mary, Queen of Scots, wore a white wedding dress when she married in 1559 because white was her favourite colour.
However, it wasn’t until the trend setting Queen Victoria married her cousin Albert in 1840 that white dresses became popular.
Before Queen Victoria’s wedding, most weddings took place at night. Queen Victoria’s wedding took place during the day with no expense spared.
At the time of Victoria’s wedding, the mechanical lace machine had been invented. Victoria specifically wanted to promote the hand-made lace industry so she chose a lot of ornate lace to be used on her dress.
The silk satin gown was embellished with orange blossoms and along with the bridal veil made of as a Honiton lace, she wore diamond earrings and a diamond necklace.
The new queen chose white to flout tradition and to show that she was submissive to her husband. While Queen Victoria was a queen, Albert was merely a duke and below her in social rank. The white dress was a way of showing the world that in their marriage, Albert had the higher rank.
And so the tradition of white wedding dresses took off!
Wedding dress design has always followed the fashion at the time. Dresses in the ‘20’s were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils.
Wedding dresses followed fashion up until the 1940’s that dresses tended to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era, which is a tradition that has continued until the present day.
We have Queen Victoria to thank for the white dress, but brides in modem times are more frequently reverting to the Middle Ages tradition of using bright colours on their dresses.
If you plan to follow Queen Victoria, or to sent your own trend, you will look stunning in your wedding dress.