Wedding Dresses – Why White?

Ahead of our two wedding fayres at Lancaster House and The Wild Boar on Sunday 2nd March 2014. We thought we would follow up our Weird and Wonderful Wedding Traditions blog with a look at the traditional white wedding dress we so often see at our five individual Lake District and Lancashire wedding venues.


In the west we often accept the tradition of a white wedding dress as a staple part of  the wedding celebration and assume that it has always been the case.

Not so, the white wedding dress fashion was initially introduced as a  protest against the effects of the industrial revolution! Below are a ten interesting facts around wedding attire…

1.  The weight of glory …

400_F_39716574_Eln4xSNBkhQuHiYxVlqIqimFcr58L7PPIn medieval times royal marriages were of great political importance and represented alliances between countries. Therefore, it was important to put a nation’s wealth on display and the wedding dress was often an elaborate affair with the most expensive fabrics available.

Dresses were also encrusted with jewels. In the 15th Century, Margaret of Flanders’ dress was so heavily bejewelled she had to be carried into church by two gentlemen attendants.

2.  Something borrowed, something blue!

virgin maryWhite wedding dresses did not always symbolize purity.

In ancient Rome, brides wore blue to symbolize love, modesty and fidelity. The art world has long time dressed the Virgin Mary in blue, so purity and fidelity became associated with the colour, as evidenced in proverbs like, “Marry in blue, lover be true”.

Today, brides still often wear ‘something blue’.

3.  Any colour will do!

black-dressWhite wedding dresses became an emblem of wealth rather than purity as, prior to effective bleaching techniques, white was a difficult colour to achieve and only within the reach of a small minority of brides.

Most brides opted to use the best fabric they could afford of any colour.

4.  Seeing Red …

red-brideIn Chinese, Indian and other eastern cultures brides often wear red or a white-red combination.

In these cultures red symbolizes auspiciousness and good luck.

5.  Revival in Hand-made Lace

laceQueen Victoria made a strong political and social statement with her wedding

dress in 1847. The industrial revolution had destroyed the handmade lace industry causing widespread unemployment and poverty. Victoria chose a handmade Honiton lace overskirt and the rest of the outfit was chosen to complement the lace – and white was deemed the best colour for this. It had the desired effect and caused a upsurge in the demand for handmade lace and brought in the new ‘fashion’ for white wedding dresses.

6.  Kate Middleton carried a snippet of a bush

kate bouquetQueen Victoria’s dress featured orange blossoms at the time a sign of purity

and she carried within her bouquet, myrtle signifying love and romantic happiness. A sprig of myrtle was taken from her bouquet and planted. Cuttings from the bush have been carried by every royal bride since and was included in Kate Middleton’s bouquet.

7. Royal Re-cycling

vicFinancial restraints in all walks of life meant that once the wedding dress was worn it was never just consigned to the back of the wardrobe.

It was dyed or altered and used over and over. Even Queen Victoria herself re-cycled her dress by removing the lace overskirt and wearing it frequently over a black silk gown.

This is what she wore for her diamond jubilee 50 years later.

8.  Parachute Fashion

Credit: Smithsonian Snapshot seriesDuring World War II clothes rationing came into force and white wedding dresses virtually disappeared.

A few brides made brave attempts at white wedding dresses using parachute silk. Most brides wore their military or air force uniforms.

9.  We all love a Royal Wedding, but this tested our loyalty!

elizabethWhen Queen Elizabeth II, was married in 1947, rationing was still in force after the war.

Nobody wanted her to skimp, so clothing coupons poured in from loyal citizens.

As a result she wore a sumptuous wedding gown in flowing satin embroidered and beaded with a long train and silk net veil.

10. Excuse me, which one is the bride?

bridesEarliest traditions in bridesmaid fashion involved dressing the bridesmaids exactly like the bride.

This was to set up a ‘lookalike’ bride so that any troublesome spirits in the area could not fixate on the bride.

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