History of the White Wedding Gown

A little history lesson today Junians!

Photo circa 1890's via Bridalcolumbuscom.

Photo circa 1890’s via Bridalcolumbuscom.

While doing some research for my engagement shoot post I came across a book that talks about all things wedding, and how they came to be! All Dressed in White by Carol McD. Wallace is a great book, and I haven’t even fully read it yet! I will do my best to finish it soon and give more details for those of you who are also wedding obsessed!

Going off of my later post Bright Colors in Receptions and on Runways I decided to give you a little history on wedding gowns.

In the 19th century many women married in darker, less formal dresses than we see today. Most of which were in blacks and blues, and were the brides best formal gown. Most gowns made were in darker hues to ensure that the mistakes of sewing and the dirt wouldn’t show. Who would want their all white dress to get dirty before the ceremony when they’re walking on those unpaved roads!

As Carol discusses in her book, a lot of people take what they see in movies as the “usual” for what women wore “back in the day.” Some of these conclusions are ill-informed though. For example Carol brings up the movie “Little Women” (Which I personally watch every month… Okay maybe every week), and how Meg’s wedding gown was white. You must consider how well off her family was. Although they’re family had succumbed to a minor depression during the time of the war, they still had a family servant (Hannah), a large house, gardens, etc. Therefore she’s not the best example to look at for the 19th century marriage attire.

Many people believe that the white wedding gown signifies the brides “purity” or “virgin” status and that this is the reason why women started to wear white on the wedding day. When in fact, like most other fashion’s, it started by wealthy women wearing something and others following suit.

Queen Victoria was the wealthy woman for this trend. Although other queens and royalty wore white before her, everything took off after her marriage. Along with other people of a lower status, white wasn’t the only color that royalty wore for weddings though. It also included blues, yellows, and other colors as well.

Queen Victoria. Photo credited to Wikimedia Commons.

In 1840 when Queen Victoria was married she decided to withdraw from some traditional wear of a queen that her predecessors had worn, such as the tiara and large purple velvet mantle (aka the big fluffy purple cape!). Because of these decisions the public felt closer to her as a person rather than someone out of reach.

As wealth began to spread across America and the middle class grew near the 1900’s, the wedding industry began to expand because people were more able to spend money on white fabric’s and more able to clean them.

Now we are heading back to those wedding dresses in color, but maybe just a smidge brighter than black and blue!

All information was taken from Carol McD. Wallace’s book All Dressed in White.


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