Believe it or not, wearing a white wedding dress didn’t come into popular style until 1840, when Queen Victoria wore a white gown to marry Prince Albert. Prior to this, early groundbreaker Mary Queen Of Scots wore a white wedding dress in 1559 to marry her husband Francis Dauphin of France. Back then, white equaled wealth, innocence and dowry. You would think times have changed, but sadly, as of 2019 only 5% of brides choose to get married in colored gowns. I was one of them when I eloped in 2018, in a casual black wrap dress.
In her day, Queen Victoria made waves when she chose to wear a white wedding dress trimmed with handmade Honiton lace from the small village of Beer, only to support the declining lace trade and give the industry a boon. She was quite different, as nearly every bride in her era wore red dresses. White, she reasoned was the best way to show off the lace makers’ artistry. Before Victoria & Mary, most brides did not wear white at all. They wore practical colors like red, grey, blue, yellow, black and brown. Victoria’s wedding grew in popularity, and caused a trend of women everywhere wanting to copy her style and wear a white wedding dress on their big day. Just a few years later, a popular lady’s monthly called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.” This idea seems pretty sexist and gross in our current times. However, the white wedding dress didn’t initially catch on because it symbolized love. It caught on because it looked like money.
After Victoria and Albert’s wedding, the color began to take on a symbol of wealth and social status. Because of the limitations in laundering techiniques at the time, having a white dress especially showed off that the bride and her wealthy family could afford a dress that could easily be ruined at any time. Buying a white dress was extremely impractical, especially when considering the one day wedding events like dancing and drinking. In 1911, a newly engaged woman wrote into Washington’s Tacoma Times newspaper seeking a recommendation for a “plain wedding dress.” The columnist recommended buying a frock in white wool, which could easily be dyed for another occasion. But, she also asked, “Why not be married in your traveling suit?” It took until after World War II for the middle-class to begin copying the look of the wealthy. After the war, with rations gone, it became a novel idea to buy a dress just to celebrate in for a day. Hollywood soon began marching brides in white dresses across the big screen, which helped to make this look a part of tradition.
The bridal industry in America swiftly took advantage of this trend, pushing the white wedding day as a part of the American dream of happiness. Soon, all women were dreaming of their “special day” white dress. Wearing color was no longer an acceptable option. Most had no real reasoning as to why they would wear a white bridal gown, other than that it was popular tradition, and that everyone else did it. The wedding industry soon grew into a monster, brainwashing women with magazines and advertising that without the perfect white dress, their wedding day would be incomplete. It became very odd if a women didn’t follow the new norm. Today, the bridal complex continues. Though we are in an era where women continue to be liberated and break new barriers, they still seem to desire wearing a white wedding dress-even though it started as a symbol of virginity and wealth. Many women have no idea why they are wearing white, other than they think that it is simply “what a bride should look like”. The wedding industry would prefer things stay that way. The Knot revealed that in 2018 the average American woman spent around $1,700 on her wedding dress.
After my recent piece about wearing black on my wedding day, I often hear from women who say they wish they had the guts to do the same. They tell me that they don’t even look good in white, but are too scared to wear a solid color because of what people would think. I implore women planning their wedding to wear whatever their heart desires. Be it an all black dress, a patterned dress, a bathrobe, a pants suit, jeans or a tuxedo. Your wedding day does not have to include looking like a cookie cutter bride. If you actually want to wear white, that’s fine too, but don’t do it just because of pressure to adhere to an outdated tradition. Your wedding is about you & your commitment to the person you chose to spend your life with. Wear an outfit that represents your unique and individual personality. If other people don’t like your outfit choice, fuck em. You probably shouldn’t have invited them anyway.