January 13, 2015

History behind the white dress

Audrey Hepburn
by Taryn Gurr

I’ve often wondered where the white wedding dress tradition began and why it has stood the test of time.

The first white wedding dress was worn by Queen Victoria when she married Prince Albert in 1840.  Before this, brides usually wore their best dresses which were practical colours such as black, grey or even brown.  Some wore red or silver.  This was done out of necessity and practicality as washing and dying techniques were limited in the 19th century which meant keeping white, white was near impossible.   It would also allow the bride to wear the dress again.  It was unheard of for a woman to wear a dress once.  Even Queen Victoria had her dress refashioned so that she could where them again.




As the news of Victoria’s dress spread through Europe, it seems she started a trend for the wealthy.  By the end of the 1800’s a white wedding dress was the choice of elite brides in both Europe and the USA.  Middle class brides only started following the trend after World War I, due to increased prosperity.

During the Great Depression and World War II brides revertednt to wearing their best outfits (which were usually dark) as spending money on a dress they would only wear once was seen as frivolous and was more often than not financially implausible.

The white wedding dress became popular again in the second half of the 20th century as it was worn by fashion icons such as Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.   The trend was brought to the fore as the “white wedding” became the wedding of choice in most Hollywood movies post World War II.




One funny poem written in the 1800s that describes a bride’s fate depending on the colour of dress she got married in reveals the silliness of traditions regarding colour.

“Married in White, you have chosen right

Married in Grey, you will go far away,

Married in Black, you will wish yourself back,

Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,

Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,

Married in Blue, you will always be true,

Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,

Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,

Married in Brown, you will live in the town,

Married in Pink, your spirit will sink.”

Source: http://www.laurenjamesbridal.com/reports/10-shocking-outrageous-myths




Your dress can be any colour you like although while white is still trending it is not the only colour girls are wearing anymore.  Ivory remains a firm favourite with a lot of brides.  Pale pink has been the choice of both Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Biel.

White is the perfect colour if you are having a traditional ”white wedding”  you may want to add a pop of colour with a different coloured pair of shoes or having one or two of the layers of the tulle in your skirt a different colour.