The History and Meaning Behind White Wedding Dresses

Learn about why brides wear white on their special day! From Queen Victoria's influence to modern fashion trends - find out why wearing white has become such an iconic tradition.

The History and Meaning Behind White Wedding Dresses

The truth is that not all wedding dresses have to be white. While many wedding traditions have come to us through centuries of legends and beliefs, the white wedding dress is a fairly recent tradition, popularized by the wedding of Queen Victoria in 1840. While a white dress may seem synonymous with weddings, that's not the case. Many brides from outside Western culture not only wear different shades for the ceremony: in China and India, for example, red is the most auspicious shade, but the white dress is also a (relatively) more recent evolution in Western tradition itself.

If you're just starting to look for your wedding day outfit, it may be useful to know all the history behind this popular tradition, but it's not mandatory. Why do brides wear white? Keep reading to find out. Throughout most of history, marriages had more to do with family, business and political alliances than with true love, which meant that lavish wedding celebrations were usually reserved for the nobility, who provide us with a clearer window into times past and probably influenced the rest of society. Although there are some cases in which the rulers of Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece wore pleated white sheets for celebrations, for centuries it was common for brides to simply wear their best dress for the occasion.

The first recorded white wedding dress in history was worn by Philippa of England, who married Eric of Pomerania (Erik av Pommern) in 1406 and became queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. But the concept didn't really catch on until Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. Definitely not, and that applies both to white garments and to dresses in general. What you wear on your wedding day is a completely personal decision.

A bride's sexual behavior before and after the wedding day is a private matter, and the idea that the color of her wedding day attire should connote “purity” in this area is old-fashioned, old-fashioned, and, quite frankly, none other than the bride's business. While the media has popularized white suits at courtroom weddings, they're definitely not the only option. If you feel more like a bride in a dress, even a floor-length one, consider that this route is completely appropriate. The style and color of her dress were copied on all continents, as women aspired to look like the young and attractive queen, just as the public emulates today's celebrities. Wearing a white wedding dress became a sign of wealth and status rather than virginity.

Only wealthy brides could wear a white silk dress, as they married in clean, elegant places away from the mud and grime of life in the mid-19th century. The bright white wedding dress wouldn't become popular in Europe and North America until the 1930s, and it wouldn't really take root in the public consciousness until World War II. While Victoria is largely credited with making the white wedding dress fashionable, it didn't become a full-fledged Western tradition until after World War II. So why do so many brides today wear white? They do so largely thanks to a trend that began with Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. While floor-length white dresses are the most common choice for Western weddings, they are by no means the only option.

Most wedding dresses of those years were made of acetate, except for those used at “parachute weddings”. Although she wore luxurious red, gold and ermine tunics for her coronation in 1837, Victoria's wedding was a different matter. While every bride has her own opinions on the matter, and white bridesmaid or bridal party dresses are becoming increasingly popular, it's best to be cautious about it and avoid tone. It was also associated with Vesta, the virgin goddess of home, home and family, who were served by temple priestesses dressed in distinctive white clothes. Weddings are based on celebrating love and brides deserve to celebrate their union in attire that aligns with who they are.

As traditions fade and new ones form, the idea of wearing white becomes a simple matter of preference. Nowadays, white wedding dresses are a mix of fashion and tradition, with styles that mimic and are heavily influenced by what appears on red carpets and runway shows. But as fashion became more daring, casual and gender-fluid in the rampant 60s and 70s, a white dress represented a nod to older times and customs. Although the first records of brides dressed in white go back to the annals of history, it only became standard fashion in the last 80 years.

Greta Sorgente
Greta Sorgente

Lifelong analyst. Total bacon enthusiast. Passionate bacon trailblazer. Avid problem solver. Typical music junkie. Wannabe music evangelist.

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