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Why Is the Traditional Wedding Dress Color White? Find Out Its History

29 March 2023

A bride stands in a park, wearing a traditional white wedding dress with a long, lacy veil and holding a bouquet of white flowers

A wedding dress is a type of clothing worn during a wedding ceremony. Brides wear them as part of their wedding attire. It should be unique and beautiful, and it should flatter the bride’s body shape. A white wedding dress is usually chosen because it is classic and timeless. Brides often choose white as the color for their wedding dresses because it is elegant, simple, romantic, and reflects purity.

A Brief History of the Wedding Dress

The idea of white being a traditional wedding color may be traced back over 2000 years during the Roman Empire. White was widely-used for wedding dresses because it represents purity, chastity, and a woman’s new status as a married Roman matron, and it is also connected to the virgin goddess Vesta. White marriage attire fell out of fashion following the fall of the Roman empire.

From the middle ages to the early 19th century, wedding dresses symbolized wealth. In medieval times, marriages were arranged by parents. They were about business back then and people got married because it was their way to pay taxes, and how to get their hands on land and properties. Upper class brides wear bright colors in fur, velvet and silk while lower class brides wear more modest clothing.

    Three Indian women wearing Indian wedding dresses that are not traditionally color white

During the Renaissance period, upper class women wore many layers over their primary dress. Lower class women copied this fashion and wore cheap versions of these dresses. Sixteenth century women wore tight corsets and covered themselves in layers of fabric. Their dresses were made of red colored fabrics such as satin, cotton, or silk. The necklines were high and the sleeves were long. Women also wore pearls to signify chastity. 

Some bridal couples just wore their best dresses or bought a new gown that they could wear again. There was nothing practical about wearing white if there was no running tap water – or if washing clothes by hand was the norm.

The First Woman to Wear a White Wedding Gown Again

The modern-day trend for white bridal outfits was sparked by a royal wedding. During her marriage to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria wanted to be dressed in something different from the traditional coronation robes. She went ahead and wore a fashionable white dress, that she designed herself. White spun silk and satin together with Honiton lace accents were used to make the dress, and rather than a crown or tiara, a wreath of orange blossoms and myrtle adorned her head.

According to CNN, she tried to revive the lace industry by wearing only British materials for her wedding dress. By choosing lace over other fabrics, she gave attention to an industry that wasn’t doing well. She picked the color white to highlight the lace used. She also said that white reflects her purity, innocence, and good sense. Pictures of her wedding were published in magazines and this new white wedding dress style caught on, and became very popular. Her dress was copied around the world, as women wanted to look like her, especially those who were wealthy.

A close-up of Queen Victoria's marble statue outside Belfast City Hall in Ireland, the first bride in history to wear a white wedding dress

Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book, a leading 19th century women’s publication, stated this in an article:

“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”

During the Victorian era, white wedding dresses were only widely worn by rich women who had money and property. Rich people wear these white dresses because they look more elegant, and they typically get married in clean places like churches or cathedrals. Unlike working class women, they see white dresses as impractical to wear because they can only be worn once, and they can easily be ruined in festivities like weddings because of the drinking and the dancing.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that people of all economic levels started wearing white dresses at weddings and called it a “tradition”. Most western wedding dresses are white, though “wedding white” pertains to cream or ivory shade of white as it flatters women’s complexion more.

Christian Beliefs

Traditional and religious weddings take place in churches. In addition, many people prefer wearing white wedding dresses because it means they are innocent and pure. 

A rack full of traditional white wedding dresses

Current Trends

White wedding dresses are traditionally associated with marriage and purity. These days, people wear them in many cultures and regions around the world. But a bride’s choice of wedding attire nowadays has become a very personal decision. The wedding dress usually reflects the personality of the bride and also complements her figure. In addition, it should be designed according to current trends and fashion styles.

Brides today are no longer limited to wearing a traditional white wedding gown. Colored dresses are also popular among brides. Most wedding attire designers really bring colored wedding gowns to life. A colorful bridal dress is an excellent choice for a woman who wants to add some fun to her wedding. It is a way to express the personal style of the bride.

It is also not necessary to stick to white for bridesmaids’ dresses. Wedding entourage dresses are usually selected based on the wedding’s theme.

This year, 2022, designers expect modern dusty cool tones such as dove gray, ice blue and silver purple to be more popular.

A bride in a non-traditional lavander wedding dress


Would you wear white on your wedding day? Share it with us [email protected]

a gay couple nearly kissing at their wedding


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