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A wedding dress or bridal gown is the dress worn by the bride during a wedding ceremony. The color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants. Weddings are often religious events. Therefore, the influence of religion is significant. The "white wedding" in Europe and the United States, which has become mainstream worldwide, is deeply related to Christianity values. The white dress has become as much a symbol of a Christian wedding as wedding bands and diamond engagement rings, if not more.[unreliable source?]
In Western cultures and Anglo-Saxon cultural spheres, the wedding dress is most commonly white, a fashion made popular by Queen Victoria when she married in 1840. White is a color of purity in the Christian faith and is meant to represent the bride's, pure heart.[better source needed] Of those dresses, brides often wear veils, and often wear long white gloves with sleeveless or strapless dresses.
In Eastern cultures, brides often choose red to symbolize auspiciousness.
Weddings performed during and immediately following the Middle Ages were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light and befitted their social status, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see them wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. Brides dressed in the height of current fashion, with the richest materials their families' money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount and the price of material a wedding dress contained was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests.
History of color
The first documented instance of a princess who wore a white wedding dress for a royal wedding ceremony is that of Philippa of England, who wore a tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with squirrel and ermine in 1406, when she married Eric of Pomerania. Also, white wedding gown was worn by Anne of Brittany when she married Louis XII in 1499. Mary, Queen of Scots, wore a white wedding dress in 1559 when she married her first husband, Francis, the Dauphin of France, because it was her favorite color, although white was then the color of mourning for French queens. This was not a widespread trend, however: prior to the Victorian era, a bride was married in any color, black being especially popular in Scandinavia.
White became a popular option in 1840, after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when Victoria wore a white gown trimmed with Honiton lace. Illustrations of the wedding were widely published, and many brides opted for white in accordance with the Queen's choice. Wearing white was quickly adopted by wealthy, fashionable brides. Less than a decade later, Godey's Lady's Book states that white wedding gowns were an ancient custom reflecting a bride's virginity, writing:
"Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one"
Also, addressed this in an article on the "Etiquette of Trousseau" in their August 1849 issue of the same magazine covers this topic. "Custom, from time immemorial, has decided on white as [a wedding gown’s] proper hue, emblematic of the freshness and purity of girlhood," they wrote.
Originally, it was blue that was connected to purity, piety, faithfulness, and the Virgin Mary. However, many people at the time believed that white was meant to symbolize virginity, and the white wedding dress became the standard symbol for innocence and romance.
Even after white became the dominant color, for a period, wedding dresses were adapted to the styles of the day. In the early 1900s, clothing included a lot of decorations, such as lace or frills. This was also adopted in wedding dresses, where decorative frills and lace was common. For example, in the 1920s, they were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils. This tendency to follow current fashions continued until the late 1960s, when it became popular to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era.
Embraced by wealthier brides in the Victorian era, the trend of a white wedding gown eventually spread across all economic levels and was cemented as "tradition" in the 20th century. The white wedding style was given another significant boost in 1981, when three-quarter billion people—one out of six people around the globe—watched Charles, Prince of Wales marry Diana Spencer in her elaborate white taffeta dress with a 25-foot-long train. This wedding is generally considered the most influential white wedding of the 20th century. Since the middle of the 20th century, most Western wedding dresses are usually white, though "wedding white" includes "Off-white" such as ivory, beige and cream. However, white is not the universal color of wedding dresses. In Mexico, for example, red is a popular color.
Traditional and religious brides tend to choose white dresses, to keep with the norm. White wedding gowns are primarily preferred by Western Christian families. They are worn by the bride as a symbol of purity, innocence, and goodness. In Western culture, white is the color most often associated with innocence, or purity. In the Bible and in Temple Judaism, white animals such as lambs were sacrificed to expiate sins. The white lily is considered the flower of purity and innocence, and is often associated with the Virgin Mary. White is the color in Western culture most often associated with beginnings. Christ after the Resurrection is traditionally portrayed dressed in white. In Christianity, children are baptized and first take communion while wearing white. Baptisms are especially tied to white, since the person is making a religious commitment to be pure and clean before God. Religious rites and the clothing associated with them have always been important, and white is often a common color used to express high religious commitment and purity. In Christianity, the white wedding dress has a twofold significance. It is a symbol of the wife's purity in heart and life, as well as her reverence to God. It's also a picture of the righteousness of Christ described in Revelation 19:7–8:
'"For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself. She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear." For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people. (NLT)
Jesus clothes his bride, the church, in his own righteousness as a garment of "the finest of pure white linen." In Revelation 19:7-8, John of Patmos writes about the bride (i.e., the Christian Church) being presented to Jesus. He describes her as wearing "fine linen, bright and clean," which many have interpreted to mean wearing the color white. Similarly, the bridal veil has long been considered a reference to the Temple veil—a cloth that, in Biblical times, kept the Ark of the Covenant hidden from view. When Christ died, the veil was torn, signifying the forgiveness of sin and the people's reconnection with God. Similarly, the bridal veil is lifted during the wedding, signifying the couple's connection to one another.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the color white is used as a symbol of purity, innocence, and cleanliness, particularly in religious ceremonies such as baptism and temple ceremonies, including weddings. For weddings in the temple, white clothing is also worn by all participants during the ceremony, both men and women, to also symbolize unity and equality before God. The bride's should be "white, modest in design and fabric, and free of elaborate ornamentation."
In Christian theology, St. Paul's words concerning how marriage symbolizes the union of Christ and His Church underlie part of the tradition of veiling in the marriage ceremony. In Catholic traditions, the veil is seen as "a visible sign that the woman is under the authority of a man" and that she is submitting herself to her husband's Christ-like leadership and loving care. The removing of the veil can be seen as a symbol of the temple veil that was torn when Christ died, giving believers direct access to God, and in the same way, the bride and the groom, once married, now have full access to one another.
Western culture has long followed the tradition of wearing white on one's wedding day. It continues to be prevalent amongst contemporary brides and as Wedding Wire, a wedding company reports, about 85 percent of brides still choose to wear a white wedding dress because in its typical fashion, it has remained steady through the years. "Color Wheel Pro" describes white in association with light, goodness, innocence, purity and virginity. White is also often considered to be the color of perfection. As for other significant meanings for white on a wedding day, "colormeaning.com" says, "In color psychology, white is the color of new beginnings — wiping the slate clean. The color white is a blank canvas, just waiting to be written on." Nowadays, with the spread of Western culture, white wedding dresses are worn in many countries and regions around the world and have become the norm. In 2018, about 83% of brides in the United States wore white dresses on their big day, according to a survey by Brides Magazine. Note that, since the pure white dress is special only for the bride, who is the star of the wedding, guests and staff other than the bride are basically not allowed to wear the white dress.
Like any other dress, the style of a wedding dress depends on not just the fabric, but the overall shape and features. Some of the most popular contemporary dress silhouettes include: A-line, ballgown, empire, mermaid, tea-length, and trumpet. Popular contemporary necklines types include: asymmetric, bateau, halter, jewel, off-the-shoulder, portrait, scoop, sheer, square, strapless, sweetheart, and v-neck. The neckline refers to the shape of the material at the top of the dress as it falls on the neck and shoulders.
|A-line||Like the letter A in the alphabet, this shape has a straight hem that extends from the lower bust and waist.|
|Mermaid-line||A form-fitting dress with a hem that widens from around the knees to form the tail fin of a mermaid.|
|Princess-line-1||This type of dress has a form-fitting upper body and gathers from the waist to the hem. It is called this because it is a so-called "princess dress" type.|
|Princess-line-2||This type of dress does not have a transition at the waist, but has vertical darts in the body to fit the body line. The skirt part is flared. It is called this because Alexandra, the queen of King Edward VII of England, liked to wear it when she was a crown princess. This type is the original princess line, but nowadays the "princess dress" type is often referred to as the princess line.|
|Ball-gown||The upper body fits the body, and gathers from the waist to the hem, making this type even wider than the princess line. Originally, it was a "debutante dress" type used for balls.|
|Slender-line||A slender dress that follows the lines of the body. It has a narrow hem and a mature shape.|
|Bell-line||As the name "bell" implies, the waist is narrowed and the hips are fuller. It is sometimes called the bell and dome line.|
|Empire-line||This is a high-waisted type with a hem that falls in a straight line from the bottom of the bust and hardly widens, as worn by the goddesses of Greek mythology. It is called this because it was popular during the Napoleonic Empire.|
|Mini||Midi-length dresses were introduced around 1960, but when the mini-skirt was introduced in 1965, mini-length wedding dresses also appeared. However, it was only a novel style and has hardly become popular.|
Popular contemporary necklines types include: asymmetric, bateau, halter, jewel, off-the-shoulder, portrait, scoop, sheer, square, strapless, sweetheart, and v-neck. The neckline refers to the shape of the material at the top of the dress as it falls on the neck and shoulders.
- Asymmetrical by its very definition means there is no symmetry or no balance. So this neckline appears different on either side of the centre front.
- Also known as the "Boatneck". This is a wide, high neckline that follows the curve of the collarbone and ends in points on the shoulder seams.
- Necklines have a high panel on the front, which is then tied around the neck for support and, optionally, may be tied behind the neck or include a clasp, exposing the back and shoulders.
- A plain, slightly rounded neckline without a collar. Also known as the T-shirt neckline, the jewel neckline is round and sits at the base of the throat.
- This neckline sits below the shoulders, with sleeve-like straps that cover part of the upper arm. Shows off your collarbone and shoulders.
- Characterised by a wide, soft scoop from shoulder to shoulder.
- Also known as a "ballerina neckline", this U-shaped style is often cut low, and occasionally the scoop will continue on the back of the dress.
- A neckline that is created by "sheer" or translucent fabric, such as lace or netting, rather than an opaque material or strap.
- Spaghetti strap
- This neckline is nearly strapless, except for the presence of thin, delicate straps; a bit like strings of spaghetti.
- The neckline is cut straight across the top in between the straps, creating a "square"-like shape to the top of the dress.
- A neckline that can be any shape, but is discerned by its lack of straps (neither over the shoulder, nor around the neck).
- A neckline with a plunge in the front in the shape of the top of a heart.
- A neckline characterized by a plunge in the front shaped like the letter "V".
In the early 21st century, about 75% of wedding dresses on the market are sleeveless and strapless. The specialist of WeddingWire, an online marketplace for engaged couples, says strapless "is the standard for wedding dresses and that won’t change anytime soon." One reason for this is that they are much easier to alter to ensure a correct and comfortable fit. Designers prefer to make bridal gowns strapless because they are easier. Sleeves are tricky, and dresses without them are much more quick and painless to alter. Other brides prefer more modest styles with sleeves, higher necklines, and covered backs. Most of today's wedding dresses have either lace-up backs or zipper backs. Wedding dresses can also be long or short, depending on the type of wedding. Many Western ceremonial dresses are derived from Christian ritual costumes. Modesty has long been a virtue for women, according to Christianity. So it was required to reduce skin exposure. In response to this trend, brides often wore veils, and also long white gloves with sleeveless or strapless dresses. Long gloves allowed women to hide the skin on their arms if they had a no sleeve on their top which enabled them to cover up and maintain their modesty.
- Characterized by a hemline that hits at the ankle.
- Characterized by a hemline that hits the floor.
- Characterized by a hemline that hits the center of the thigh.
- Characterized by a skirt length that falls between the knee and ankle.
- Characterized by a skirt length or attached and/or detachable train that can be several feet long.
If gloves are worn, they are kept on during the ceremony. If bridesmaids are wearing matching gloves, they also keep their gloves on during the ceremony. Gloves should not be carried as they should be considered an integral part of the costume. Gloves should be worn rather than carried. The length of bridal gloves depends on the length of the sleeves of the dress. The shorter the sleeve, the longer the glove. Opera-length gloves are, therefore, properly worn with sleeveless or short-sleeved dresses or strapless, sleeveless, or short-sleeved wedding gowns. White is the most traditional color for opera gloves and is suitable for almost any occasion where opera gloves are worn. Black opera gloves should not be worn with white or light-colored gowns, only with dark-colored clothing. Colored gloves, least popular, should be worn to match the dress’ color. Contrasting colors should be avoided.
- Tiara：A crown-shaped hair accessory. Became common due to the influence of weddings of royalty and nobility.
- Veil：They were made of thin cloth and varied from those that covered the entire face to those that were tied into a bundle of hair and hung down. It was meant to protect the bride from demons and evil spirits. Not only does the bridal veil show the modesty and purity of the bride and her reverence for God, it reminds us of the Temple veil which was torn in two when Christ died on the cross. Through marriage, the couple now has full access to one another. (1 Corinthians 7:4)
- Pannier：An underskirt made of a taut material to make the skirt fuller.
- Train：It is the hem of a skirt that is pulled backward for a long time, and the longer it is, the more prestigious it is.
- Gloves：Bridal gloves came to be in history when they represented a sign of status and power. Out of respect, they were worn at all traditional and religious ceremonies, particularly by royalty and dignitaries. Wearing of wedding gloves was actually "required" by wedding etiquette until 1960. Even today, unless it is an informal summer wedding, long gloves are a signature accessory for brides. The longer the glove, the higher the formality. The longest of them are called "Opera gloves" (a type of Evening glove).
- Foundation：A corrective undergarment worn to adjust the body shape and make the dress line look beautiful. Corsets or Corselet are included in this category. Match the color of your shapewear to the color of your dress, not the color of your skin.
- Stockings：Unless you're getting married on a beach or in a hot and humid environment, hosiery is a must on your wedding day. Since they need to go with the bridal gown, wedding stockings are almost always white or any shade of it, cream, off-white ivory, you get the idea. There is a Western wedding tradition for a bride to wear a garter to her wedding, to be removed towards the end of the reception by the groom.
- Shoes：Pumps are orthodox, but sandals and mules are also used. There is a wide variety of styles, from those with no decoration to those decorated with beads, lace, or ribbons.
- Bouquet：A bouquet of flowers, including a cascade bouquet that resembles flowing water, a crescent-shaped crescent bouquet, a round bouquet bound in a circle, and a wreath-shaped wreath bouquet.
- Wedding ring：Gold has been used since the 2nd century, and diamonds since the 15th century. The origin of this symbol is in ancient Rome, where it is said to symbolize the cycle of life and eternity.
Many wedding dresses in China, India (wedding sari), Pakistan (heavily embroidered shalwar qameez or lehngas) are red; the traditional colour representing good luck and auspiciousness. Vietnam wedding dresses (in the traditional form of áo tấc the ancient Ao dai) were blue, dark blue.
Nowadays, many women choose other colours besides red. In modern mainland Chinese weddings, the bride may opt for Western dresses of any colour, and don a traditional costume for the wedding tea ceremony.
In modern Taiwanese weddings, the bride generally picks red (following Chinese tradition) or white (more Western) silk for the wedding gown material, but most will wear the red traditional garment for their formal wedding banquets. Traditionally, the father of the bride is responsible for the wedding banquet hosted on the bride's side and the alcohol (specifically called "xi-jiu," confusingly the same as what the wedding banquet itself is called) consumed during both banquets. While the wedding itself is often based on the couple's choices, the wedding banquets are a symbolic gesture of "thanks" and appreciation, to those that have raised the bride and groom (such as grandparents and uncles) and those who will continue to be there to help the bride and groom in the future. Thus out of respect for the elders, wedding banquets are usually done formally and traditionally.
Red wedding saris are the traditional garment choice for brides in Indian culture. Sari fabric is also traditionally silk. Over time, colour options and fabric choices for Indian brides have expanded. Today fabrics like crepe, Georgette, charmeuse, and satin are used, and colors have been expanded to include gold, pink, orange, maroon, brown, and yellow as well. Indian brides in Western countries often wear the sari at the wedding ceremony and change into traditional Indian wear afterwards (lehnga, choli, etc.).
Traditionally, a Kurdish first-time bride would wear a red dress for her wedding to symbolize the Postcoital bleeding she will experience when she loses her virginity while a Kurdish bride who used to be married before would wear pink. Today, many Kurds associate red wedding dresses with impoverished Kurdish rural society and it is no longer commonly worn.
A Japanese wedding usually involves a traditional pure white kimono for the formal ceremony, symbolizing purity and maidenhood. The bride may change into a red kimono for the events after the ceremony for good luck.
In the Philippines, variations of the Baro't saya adapted to the white wedding tradition are considered to be wedding attire for women, along with the Barong Tagalog for men. Various tribes and Muslim Filipinos don other forms of traditional dress during their respective ceremonies.
Native American culture
The indigenous peoples of the Americas have varying traditions related to weddings and thus wedding dresses. A Hopi bride traditionally had her garments woven by the groom and any men in the village who wished to participate. The garments consisted of a large belt, two all-white wedding robes, a white wedding robe with red stripes at top and bottom, white buckskin leggings and moccasins, a string for tying the hair, and a reed mat in which to wrap the outfit. This outfit also served as a shroud, since these garments would be necessary for the trip through the underworld.
A Pueblo bride wore a cotton garment tied above the right shoulder, secured with a belt around the waist.
In the traditions of the Delaware, a bride wore a knee-length skirt of deerskin and a band of wampum beads around her forehead. Except for fine beads or shell necklaces, the body was bare from the waist up. If it was a winter wedding, she wore deerskin leggings and moccasins and a robe of turkey feathers. Her face was painted with white, red and yellow clay.
The tribes of Northern California (which include the Klamath, the Modoc and the Yurok) had a traditional bridal dress woven in symbolic colors: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north. Turquoise and silver jewelry were worn by both the bride and the groom in addition to a silver concho belt. Jewelry was considered a shield against evils including hunger, poverty and bad luck.
Historical European wedding dresses
Detail from The Marriage by Nicolo da Bologna, 1350s.
Helena Fourment, second wife of Peter Paul Rubens, painted by Rubens in her wedding dress, 1630.
Wedding dresses from different areas of the world
Wishram (North American Indian) bride around 1911
Traditional Kazakh wedding dress
Hutsul wedding dress
Traditional Armenian wedding dress
West Asian/North African dresses
East Asian dresses
Chinese couple wearing traditional wedding hanfu
South Asian dresses
Southeast Asian dresses
Khmer (Cambodian) couple dressed in traditional wedding outfits
Modern Western-style dresses
Taiwanese couple dressed Western-style for keepsake photos in the park, 1989
- Christian clothing
- Godey's Lady's Book
- Religious clothing
- Victorian fashion
- Wedding dress of Camilla Parker Bowles
- Wedding dress of Grace Kelly
- Wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier
- Wedding dress of Kate Middleton
- Wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer
- Wedding dress of Meghan Markle
- Wedding dress of Princess Alexandra of Denmark
- Wedding dress of Princess Anne
- Wedding dress of Princess Elizabeth
- Wedding dress of Princess Margaret
- Wedding dress of Princess Mary of Teck
- Wedding dress of Queen Victoria
- Wedding dress of Sarah Ferguson
- Wedding dress of Sophie Rhys-Jones
- Wedding dress of Victoria, Princess Royal
- Wedding dress of Wallis Warfield
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Princess Philippa of England is the first recorded princess to have worn white during her wedding in 1406, with her attire consisting of a tunic and cloak in white silk, but it wasn’t until Queen Mary that the white dress would explode in popularity
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Mary’s choice of a white wedding dress was an unusual one, particularly as white was more traditionally worn by royal ladies when they were in dieul blanc mourning but in this as in other things the strong willed Mary may well have been an innovator, keen to not just impress her own taste on her wedding day (after all, she hadn’t been allowed the privilege of choosing her groom) but also emphasise her virginity and show off her famously pale redheaded beauty, which would have been accentuated by a pure white dress.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wedding dress.|
- Fashion Plates of Wedding Dresses from 1820-1929 from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries
- Wedding Dresses at Chicago History Museum Digital Collections
- Wedding dress, 1900, in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database
- Wedding dress, 1951, in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database