You can look back through history and pick out iconic notable fashion trend-setters like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Marie Antoinette and the flamboyant Madame de Pompadour. Whether it was for style or flair that made them stand out from the crowd, one unassuming figure from the annals of history can be credited with one of the most popular wedding traditions that exists today, namely the white wedding gown.
So who was the cutting edge fashion icon who made every bride want to saunter down the aisle in white?
That will be Queen Victoria. Yes, the austere English monarch was the one who really set the ball rolling for brides wearing a white gown on their wedding day. Queen Victoria, who was at the head of the English crown from 1837-1901, was the one who made white fashionable when she donned a pale gown to get married to Prince Albert, who was actually her first cousin. Victoria’s wedding dress, by Winterhalter, for the 1840 nuptials was decorated with orange blossoms.
It was something bright and fresh and something that her subjects really hadn’t seen before, certainly not on that grand of a stage. Plus, hey, if the Queen of England is doing it, it must be fashionable, right, so future brides lining up to be hitched to their betrothed started craving the same look as Her Royal Highness and the white wedding gown grew in popularity. So why white? Well it was perceived to be a political statement by Victoria, who didn’t want to just be an ornament to the throne, after becoming Queen. She did not marry into the position, her lineage put her there. Once there she wanted to make a statement that she was ready to do her duty for the kingdom, so she moved away from more traditional metallic colored royal dresses to do her own thing.
Up until then, wedding attire was pretty much color whatever the bride wanted or could get their hands on. It was common for there not to even be a specific wedding dress as such, it was just what was the best thing hanging in their closet at the time. It really wasn’t about the gown so much before that, because brides would often wear as much as they could, such as furs and silks in order to portray a sense of wealth, to not-so-subtly announce that they were coming from a rich family.
That probably lead to some sweaty brides walking down the aisle in the summer months, but if the groom was happy about the added wealth coming from his overheating bride, then he may not have worried about the B.O too much.
So the look worn by Victoria was very unique at the time as it was grand, special and so very white and it has stuck since then. The color white has nothing to do with virginity, it’s just a color and a preference. Actually modern wedding dresses aren’t actually white too often as you will generally see off-white affairs such as “ivory”, “frost” or “ecru” (which roughly translates as ‘unbleached’). So there you have it. Move aside Jackie Onassis, has anyone had a bigger impact on enduring style than Queen Victoria?
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