The first documented wedding gown was worn by Princess Philippa, daughter of Henry IV, when she wed Erik of Denmark in 1406. Royal gowns spared no expense. They used silk, satin, velvet, and even fur. Gold and silver threads were used to weave precious stones into the fabric.
In the Medieval Period, marriages were less about love and more about the union between two families, businesses, or countries. Regardless of social status, brides dressed for the occasion to the best of their ability. Bold colors and expensive fabrics were worn by brides of a higher social status. The amount of material used in the gown, the length of the train and flowing sleeves all indicated the bride’s family’s economic status. The commoners copied these dresses the best they could. The poorest brides wore their church dress.
Gowns with trains debuted in the Renaissance Period as well as the garter tradition. A bride’s garter was considered good luck and presenting one to your own true love symbolized your enduring faithfulness.
Queen Victoria was the first to wear a white wedding gown in 1840 when she married Prince Albert of Saxe. In the Victorian Era brides often wore blue because that was the color of purity; white meant wealth. It was also common for hoops and petticoats to be worn underneath the gown to add volume and make sure the legs stayed hidden.
Queen Victoria was also the first bride to have her bridesmaids carry her train. Fortunately for them, they didn’t have to help carry the wedding cake which measured an astounding three yards in width and weighed a whopping three hundred pounds.
Soon women in Europe and America wore white wedding gowns. In the Civil War Era even the bridesmaids wore white. After the wedding, dresses were altered and used for evening gowns. When brides wore them it was considered a compliment to the hostess.
By the turn of the century white was the chosen color. During the Depression women wore their Sunday best but after the war wedding dresses were again formal. Different shades of white – cream, ivory, off-white – became acceptable colors. Black was considered bad luck.
Today gowns are more of a reflection of personal style and choice than anything else. What did you wear? Post a comment and a pic. Here’s my dress: