Wedding dresses – the history bit

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Virginal white, or a shade thereof, is associated in our minds as the traditional colour of wedding dresses but actually for most of the last 2000 years, brides have worn all kinds of colours on their wedding day. Be inspired by what brides of the past wore on their big day

Royal trend setters

Queen Victoria is credited with popularising the white wedding dress ‐‐ even though her dress wasn’t actually white at all. Her gown for her wedding on February 10th 1840, was composed of a bodice and skirt of plain cream silk satin with a spectacular lace veil and skirt flounce. Cream was already becoming a popular choice for a wedding dress, but there’s no doubt that Victoria’s endorsement of the colour helped establish it. She certainly set a royal trend ‐‐ subsequent British queens have all worn cream dresses at their weddings. (They have also incorporated Victoria’s antique Honiton lace into their dresses ‐‐ something borrowed!) Although each royal wedding dress has spawned a host of imitations, probably the most influential dress since Queen Victoria’s was the one worn by Lady Diana Spencer, whose 1981 wedding to Prince Charles set the style for the next 15 years. Her fairy‐tale ball gown with its huge ruched sleeves and long train created a new concept of the sheer extravagance and spectacle of a wedding dress.

The Wallis Simpson

A bride who married a former King ‐‐ Mrs Wallis Simpson ‐‐ wore a very different outfit at her 1937 wedding to the former Edward VIII. Her simple floor length dress with matching jacket was specially designed for her in a colour created to match her eyes, dubbed ‘Wallis Blue’. Complementing this she wore a pink and blue feathered hat. Contemporary reports suggest this outfit was much admired and copied ‐‐ legend has it that it was the single most copied dress in fashion, and certainly wedding, history.

High street influences

The bridal fashions of each decade of the 20th century continue to influence and inspire modern brides. In the 21st century, high street fashions have had an effect on wedding wear ‐‐ the asymmetrical look and diamante fad are recent examples. Even 80s dresses, which were seen as the antithesis of all things contemporary, with their fussy ruffles and flounces, could be set for a comeback.

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