Her wedding day has always been one of the most important events in any woman’s life. Until the mid-1800s, each bride wore the best dress already in her wardrobe. Those who could afford to splurge bought or had sewn a new outfit for their wedding day. It was always purchased with utility in mind and the anticipation of repeated wear for the next several years. Any color was acceptable, but blue was a favorite choice. Then came the opulent marriage of Queen Victoria to her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840. Her elaborate, expensive white gown set the new standard for wedding dress colors.
Contrary to modern sentiment, white wedding dresses were not originally a sign of purity and childhood innocence. They reflected the social status of a woman who could afford to be married in a white dress that she would only wear once in her lifetime, as in the case of Queen Victoria. Within a decade, however, the attachment to virtue would be created, and what bride would not want to be thought of as virtuous?
During the years following, women have clung to the idealistic white wedding dress, aided by the invention of department stores and lower prices. During the Depression, white dresses were purchased and later dyed for further usability. Borrowing or renting white dresses also became acceptable during WW II. And then Grace Kelly married the Prince of Monaco in 1950 and the entire world watched a fairytale wedding come to life. Her white silk and lace gown dazzled everyone.
In America, cultural shifts embracing individuality have been brewing, especially during the transition decades in the second half of the century. In Europe, Princess Diana’s choice of an ivory wedding gown for what would be the most well-known dress in the world broke rigid tradition. Women began to consider other factors in choosing their own wedding dress colors.
Today’s modern bride has unlimited options. She can wear the classic white version and reflect the tradition of the wedding experience, or she can pick a gown color based on other criteria:
While white is still the favorite choice in wedding gowns for 80–90 percent of modern brides, it is far from the only option. Today’s bride is free to be married in the style and color that best suits her personality, taste and appearance. After all, she’ll be remembering this day the rest of her life.