Three Little-Known Facts about the History of Wedding Dresses

by K M

Three Little-Known Facts about the History of Wedding Dress

In this comprehensive article, we’ll present to you the history of wedding dresses. Once your post-proposal bliss is replaced with intentional pre-nuptial planning, few choices weigh as heavily on your mind as what to wear on the highly anticipated day. As you pull scores of bridal magazines off the shelves, dog-ear the pages of the dresses you like and get ready to make that first trip out to try them on, it may serve you well to take a little breather.

A breather like… reading a history of wedding dresses, so you can see just how yours fits into the historical grand scheme. Wedding dress fashion, oddly enough, has remained almost entirely separate from women’s clothing trends as a whole.

Read on, it’s OK — this article still focuses on wedding dresses, so you can consider it part of your planning process — sort of.

White was Not Always the Color of Choice

It wasn’t until the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840 that white became a color of choice. In fact, before her marriage, the deeper and richer the color of a woman’s wedding dress, the higher her stance in society.

Only the poorest individuals wore mute shades, such as gray, which they’d dress up with unique decorations such as “love knots,” which were typically made of ribbon loosely tied to the dress, symbolizing the bond between husband and wife. Corsages and even flower-trimmed hats were also options to spruce things up a bit.

Vegetable-based colors like brown and beige symbolized a bucolic lifestyle – one often looked down upon because of a lack of exposure to city life and culture.

Even bright colors, like yellow, had their heyday among the wealthy; although green wasn’t a favorite. In any case, it was always considered fashionable to accent dresses with sapphires and rubies, and velvet and fur trimmings.

When Queen Victoria chose white silk, complete with Honiton lace, and a veil and long train to boot, it immediately became the mainstay. From that point on, while women could still choose to wed in different colors, white became the color of choice, as much because of the queen’s influence as the color white symbolizing a woman’s purity and innocence.

Wedding Dresses Did Not Stay in a Pure Victorian Style

The Industrial Revolution, the introduction of the sewing machine, and department stores gave women the option to alter their wedding dresses to fit the times. These changes allowed more women than ever the option to marry in a new dress of her choosing, tailored to fit the fashion of the decade.

This period, from the 1890s through the 1920s, saw many changes in wedding dress fashions, initially branching out into extremes from their Victorian counterparts, and then quickly regressing to the simplistic with the onset of the Great Depression. Hemlines of wedding dresses began to creep upward, with a long train in the back, and cloche veils.

By the 1940s, the economy had begun to recover, and as a result, women reverted to the long-skirted style often seen today. These dresses feature eggshell, ecru, and ivory shades. While these traditional styles dominate today’s offerings, you do have the option to choose less common styles, depending on your personal preference—it just may require a little looking.

Read more here: Victorian Wedding Dresses

Women Used to Recycle Their Bridal Gowns

Until the mid-20th century, brides could often expect to wear their gowns again. In the 1800s, newly married women would sport their dresses on “bride visits,” where they’d go to the homes of close family and friends in the weeks following the wedding.

To tone down the formality of their dress during these visits, women removed flowers and trains. Wealthy brides would have dressmakers re-trim the bodice of their gowns for other evening occasions. Even Queen Victoria wore the skirt of her dress some 50 years later.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, women often wore their dresses on multiple occasions, as World War I and the Great Depression necessitated the rationing of clothing. In many cases, less wealthy women couldn’t even buy wedding dresses at that time and had to wear their Sunday best for the occasion.

Since everyday wear in our society has become more casual, re-wearing a wedding dress would be a bit too formal for the modern bride. Today’s take on the trend is selling bridal gowns after their first use, with many brides opting to pay less for a secondhand gown.

Wedding dresses have changed drastically through the decades, and while one queen, in particular, may have had a lot to do with the style for much of history, another queen (you) gets to call the shots for your big day; dress and all.

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