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Wedding dress from 2003

A wedding dress or bridal gown is the dress worn by the bride during a wedding ceremony. The color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants. In Western culture, the wedding dress is most commonly white, a fashion made popular by Queen Victoria when she married in 1840. In Eastern cultures, brides often choose red to symbolize auspiciousness.

Western culture

Wedding dress from 1891. Until the late 1960s wedding dresses reflected the styles of the day; since then they have often been based on Victorian styles.

Weddings performed during and immediately following the Middle Ages were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light and befitted their social status, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides from wealthy families often wore rich colors and exclusive fabrics. It was common to see them wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. Brides dressed in the height of current fashion, with the richest materials their families' money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount and the price of material a wedding dress contained was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests.

Color of wedding dresses

The first documented instance of a princess who wore a white wedding dress for a royal wedding ceremony is that of Philippa of England, who wore a tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with squirrel and ermine in 1406, when she married Eric of Pomerania.[1][2] Mary, Queen of Scots, wore a white wedding dress in 1559 when she married her first husband, Francis, the Dauphin of France, because it was her favorite color, although white was then the color of mourning for French queens.[3][4]

This was not a widespread trend, however: prior to the Victorian era, a bride was married in any color, black being popular in Finland.[5]

White became a popular option in 1840, after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when Victoria wore a white gown trimmed with Honiton lace. Illustrations of the wedding were widely published, and many brides opted for white in accordance with the Queen's choice.[6]

Later, many people assumed that the color white was intended to symbolize virginity, though this was not the original intention: it was the color blue that was connected to purity, piety, faithfulness, and the Virgin Mary.[7]

Even after white became the dominant color, for a period, wedding dresses were adapted to the styles of the day. In the early 1900s, clothing included a lot of decorations, such as lace or frills. This was also adopted in wedding dresses, where decorative frills and lace were common. For example, in the 1920s, they were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils. This tendency to follow current fashions continued until the late 1960s, when it became popular to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era.[citation needed]

Since the middle of the 20th century, most Western wedding dresses have usually been white,[8] though "wedding white" includes shades such as eggshell, ecru, and ivory.

White is not the universal color of wedding dresses. In Mexico, for example, red is a popular color.[citation needed]

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the color white is used as a symbol of purity, innocence, and cleanliness, particularly in religious ceremonies such as baptism[9] and temple ceremonies, including weddings.[10] For weddings in the temple, white clothing is also worn by all participants during the ceremony, both men and women, to symbolize unity and equality before God.[11][12] The brides should be "white, modest in design and fabric, and free of elaborate ornamentation."[13]

Current fashion

A bride in a contemporary version of the traditional long white wedding dress with train, tiara and white veil.

In the early 21st century many wedding dresses on the market are sleeveless and strapless.[14][better source needed] Other brides prefer styles with sleeves, higher necklines, and covered backs.[citation needed]

Eastern culture

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Many wedding dresses in China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are red; the traditional Indian color representing good luck and auspiciousness. Vietnamese wedding dresses (in the traditional form of áo tấc the ancient Ao dai) were dark blue.

Nowadays, many women choose other colors besides red. In modern mainland Chinese weddings, the bride may opt for Western dresses of any color, and don a traditional costume for the wedding tea ceremony.

Qing-dynasty styled traditional Chinese wedding dress with a phoenix crown (鳳冠) headpiece still used in modern Taiwanese weddings.

In modern Taiwanese weddings, the bride generally picks red (following Chinese tradition) or white (more Western) silk for the wedding gown material, but most will wear the red traditional garment for their formal wedding banquets. Traditionally, the father of the bride is responsible for the wedding banquet hosted on the bride's side and the alcohol (specifically called "xi-jiu," confusingly the same as what the wedding banquet itself is called) consumed during both banquets. While the wedding itself is often based on the couple's choices, the wedding banquets are a symbolic gesture of "thanks" and appreciation, to those who have raised the bride and groom (such as grandparents and uncles) and those who will continue to be there to help the bride and groom in the future. Thus out of respect for the elders, wedding banquets are usually done formally and traditionally.

Red saris, lehengas, and salwar kameez are traditional garment options for brides in Indian cultures. The fabric of choice is also traditionally silk, regardless of garment type. Over time, color options and fabric choices for Indian brides have expanded. Today fabrics like crepe, Georgette, charmeuse, and satin are used, and colors have been expanded to include gold, pink, orange, maroon, brown, and yellow as well.

Traditionally, a Kurdish first-time bride would wear a red dress for her wedding to symbolize the postcoital bleeding she will experience when she loses her virginity while a Kurdish bride who used to be married before would wear pink. Today, many Kurds associate red wedding dresses with impoverished Kurdish rural society and it is no longer commonly worn.[15][16][17]

Japanese formal wedding dress still used today.

A Japanese wedding usually involves a traditional pure white kimono for the formal ceremony, symbolizing purity and maidenhood. The bride may change into a red kimono for the events after the ceremony for good luck.

The Javanese people of Indonesia wear a kebaya, a traditional kind of blouse, along with batik.

In the Philippines, variations of the Baro't saya adapted to the white wedding tradition are considered to be wedding attire for women, along with the Barong Tagalog for men. Various tribes and Muslim Filipinos don other forms of traditional dress during their respective ceremonies.

Native American culture

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Apache bride

The indigenous peoples of the Americas have varying traditions related to weddings and thus wedding dresses. A Hopi bride traditionally had her garments woven by the groom and any men in the village who wished to participate. [18]The garments consisted of a large belt, two all-white wedding robes, a white wedding robe with red stripes at the top and bottom, white buckskin leggings and moccasins, a string for tying the hair, and a reed mat in which to wrap the outfit. This outfit also served as a shroud, since these garments would be necessary for the trip through the underworld.

A Pueblo bride wore a cotton garment tied above the right shoulder, secured with a belt around the waist.

In the traditions of the Delaware, a bride wore a knee-length skirt of deerskin and a band of wampum beads around her forehead. Except for fine beads or shell necklaces, the body was bare from the waist up. If it was a winter wedding, she wore deerskin leggings and moccasins and a robe of turkey feathers. Her face was painted with white, red, and yellow clay.

The tribes of Northern California (which include the Klamath, the Modoc, and the Yurok) had a traditional bridal dress woven in symbolic colors: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north. Turquoise and silver jewelry were worn by both the bride and the groom in addition to a silver concho belt. Jewelry was considered a shield against evils including hunger, poverty, and bad luck.


Historical Western European wedding dresses

Wedding dresses from different areas of the world

West Asian/North African dresses

East Asian dresses

South Asian dresses

Southeast Asian dresses

Modern Western-style dresses

See also


  1. ^ "Wedding white doesn't mean what you think it means". Ivy Bridal Studio. 3 March 2014. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2014. Princess Philippa of England is the first recorded princess to have worn white during her wedding in 1406, with her attire consisting of a tunic and cloak in white silk, but it wasn't until Queen Mary that the white dress would explode in popularity
  2. ^ "The History of Matrimony". Amalfi Wedding Planner. Archived from the original on 6 May 2006.
  3. ^ "Mary, Queen of Scots' first wedding day". Madame Guillotine. 24 April 2011. Archived from the original on 23 June 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2014. Mary's choice of a white wedding dress was an unusual one, particularly as white was more traditionally worn by royal ladies when they were in dieul blanc mourning but in this as in other things the strong willed Mary may well have been an innovator, keen to not just impress her own taste on her wedding day (after all, she hadn't been allowed the privilege of choosing her groom) but also emphasise her virginity and show off her famously pale redheaded beauty, which would have been accentuated by a pure white dress.
  4. ^ "Elizabeth I Facts". The Elizabeth Files. 23 August 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2014. Her favourite dress colours were white and black which symbolised purity.
  5. ^ Pelo, June. "Old Marriage Customs in Finland". Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  6. ^ "Royal Weddings 1840-1947". Royal Collection Trust. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  7. ^ Ashliman, DL (2004). Folk and Fairy Tales: A Handbook–Greenwood Folklore Handbooks. ABC-CLIO. p. 9. ISBN 9780313058592.
  8. ^ Stewart, Jude (14 February 2011). "The Bride Wore Chartreuse: Why (Most) Wedding Dresses are White". Print. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Chapter 15: The Covenant of Baptism". Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple". Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Lesson 5: Learning from the Lord through Symbols". Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  12. ^ "Why Symbols?". Ensign. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. February 2007. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 16 December 2021.
  13. ^ "27. Temple Ordinances for the Living". General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  14. ^ Goldstein, Katherine (17 May 2012). "Say Yes to a Different Dress: Down with the strapless wedding gown". Slate. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  15. ^ Allison, Christine (1996). Kurdish Culture and Identity. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 154. ISBN 9781856493291.
  16. ^ Russel, Jan (November 2007). They Lived to Tell the Tale. Lyons Press. ISBN 9781599216393.
  17. ^ Smothers Bruni, Mary Ann (1995). Journey Through Kurdistan. Texas Memorial Museum. p. 57.
  18. ^ "Hopi traditions reinforce sacredness of marriage - The Times-Independent". The Times-Independent - The Times-Independent. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2022-06-14.