History of Wedding Gowns

Since ancient past, brides have made their wedding gowns an extraordinary and delicate prop to go well with their sacred event and make themselves as stunning as princesses. Wedding clothing has been there for as long as weddings have, but the wedding gowns that we see today are quite a recent creation. Marriages among the nobility were of high political importance in the medieval times and were usually done to build alliance between the ruling classes of countries amidst the never-ending wars, border conflicts and trade disputes. As such, it made sense for a bride of noble background to look glorious on her wedding day, in order to advocate the esteem of her tribe or country and impress the groom’s family.

The first wedding gown ever recorded in history was that worn by Princess Philippa at her marriage to Erik of Denmark in year 1406. Unlike the white gowns that we see today, gowns that time were of posh materials such as velvet and silk, decorated with precious gems, sapphires, pearls and gold. Dresses could be in red, purple and even black, as long as they were beautiful, and were usually full gathered skirts, very long trains and floor-sweeping sleeves. As only the rich nobles could afford expensive red, purple and black dyes, the colors of the gowns were rich in hues. Some wedding gowns were so heavily laden that the bride has to be carried into the church by attendants. It was more of political reasons rather than love for pre-arranged weddings among the nobility. The bride’s look on that big day reflected directly on her family, so no expense was spared on her gowns to ensure she looked rich and glamorous.

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On the other hand, commoner brides wore gowns in greens or blues. Wedding was still considered as an important event for them and they would try to dress themselves as formal as possible. They would usually copy the gown designs of the royal weddings using cheaper fabrics. Blue, not white, was considered then as the symbol of purity in the middle ages. Thus, during those periods, brides and grooms wore blue ribbons at wedding ceremonies.

Although white gown is a recent invention, there were historical instances where white bridal gowns were worn in the medieval times. Princess Phillipa, daughter of King Henry IV, wore a tunic and mantle of white satin, rimed with velvet and ermine, at her royal marriage in 1406. In 1499, Anne of Brittany married in white and in 1527, Marguerite of Valois wore in a white ermine covered with a blue coat. In AD 1613, Elizabeth of Bohemia and her maids were robed in white and silver tissues at her wedding. Her gown was sewn with silvers, diamonds and gold, costing her king dad (James I of England and Scotland) a huge fortune.

Bridal white has now being widely considered as the conventional color of wedding gown. Although brides can still wear gowns in different colors, white is now set as the standard color of choice for weddings and has continued ever since. The choice of using white as the standard gown color was largely caused by the marriage of Queen Victoria at her marriage to her cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg in AD 1840. Prior to her reign, brides normally wore contemporary fashions and colors. Their gowns were usually simple and not heavily embroidered. Quite often the case, the veil was made the most elaborate piece of their entire wedding outfit. Most brides wore blue gowns as it was still considered as the symbol of purity during that period. The Queen’s wedding changed all that and since then, white becomes the symbol of purity and innocence. At her grand wedding, Queen Victoria wore a fairly simple white satin gown decorated with orange flourish wreath headdress, with lace veil and eighteen-foot train, carried over her arm. Since then, white becomes the most appropriate color for wedding gowns and is the customary color for any wedding as a crest for purity and innocence.

Another major impact on wedding gowns is the industrial revolution. With the arrival of big department stores, women could then realize their dreams of wearing cheaper dresses for their weddings. With greater accessibility to fabrics and designs, prices of gowns dropped and no longer the preserve of the very rich. In present modern days, we are usually too busy to put attention on romance and elegance. Weddings give a rare opportunity for us to transform ourselves from daily casual attires into glamorous princesses. With women becoming more independent and marrying at older age, modern-day brides tend to eclectically presume their own custom look and feel.

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