Why are Wedding Dresses white?
Prior to the Nineteenth Century in Western culture, a red wedding gown was a popular colour - particularly with the early Celts, as it symbolised fertility. It was also seen as a romantic colour, representing love and passion. Blue was also popular, and continued to be so for a number of years, due to the association with the Virgin Mary. It was also an easier colour fabric to obtain, less costly and therefore a more practical choice. For those of modest means, a favourite dress would be worn. Or for those who could afford it, a new dress would be chosen in a favourite colour enabling the owner to wear it on special occasions after the ceremony.
Queen Victoria was one of the first to popularise the white gown at her wedding to Albert in 1820. After the ceremony, her white, satin dress trimmed with Honiton lace, became not only a global trend, but established white lace as an enduring choice. Her social position enabled her to afford this luxury, because white was a rare and expensive colour and bleaching techniques had yet to be mastered. At this time, the care and cleaning of a white gown was also a privilege of the wealthy, as fabrics were natural and not always washable...unless a team of servants were available.
Sentimental Victorians idolised the purity and innocence represented by brides. The wealthy adored the rarity and expense of white wedding gowns and used luxurious fabrics, trimmed or layered with fur, velvet and silk. Extravagant weddings were a public declaration of wealth and status in society.
A few years after Queen Victoria’s wedding, a popular women’s magazine Lady Book, declared that: “Custom has decided that white is the most fitting rule, whatever may be the material. It is the emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one”.
Modern techniques enable us to choose from a variety of shades.........ecru, eggshell, ivory, champagne or blush pink, to enhance all skin tones. But, a classic white wedding gown, is still the most popular choice for modern brides.