Why wedding dress is always white? Ask Queen Victoria

Kate Middleton, left, and accompanied by maid of honour Pippa Middleton as they arrive at Westminster Abbey at the Royal Wedding in London Friday, April 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Prince Harry’s wedding ceremony is going to be held on May 19th. Different from others’, British royal weddings are always spotlighted by the world. The grand ceremony, illustrious participants, and of course the wedding dress of the bride will definitely get reported widely by the media.

Being dressed in gorgeous white wedding dress like Lady Diana did is almost every bride’s life dream. However, why are most of wedding dresses designed in white, and why brides seldom choose other colors to wear on their wedding? Despite the explanation that the white symbolizes purity, if tracing back the roots, it was not the real reason.

The formal wedding portrait of Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, taken at Buckingham Palace on July 29, 1981, after their marriage at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. (AP Photo)

Nowadays, it will become a hot issue if bride doesn’t wear white on the wedding. Yet, before mid-19th century, there were a lot of options of colors for brides to choose. In Victoria Era, red was the more popular choice for brides actually. Although in 1558, Mary, Queen of Scots, wore the white dress on the wedding, it didn’t become a trend influencing the fashion. Until 1840, British Queen Victoria wore a pure white dress on her wedding with Prince Albert, bringing about a white revolution.

The painting of Queen Victoria wearing the wedding dress (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

In a long time, the marriages between the royalties in Europe had got involved in power and fortune instead of love and intimacy. Thus, on royal wedding ceremony, the bride would be dressed up as stunningly as she could to show off the wealth and influence. However, Queen Victoria was dressed in a simpler white dress to break the old royal custom in extravagance, and this action was in fact, politics. The wedding dress was sewed on hand-made lace from Honiton Country, England. The Queen estimated that her wedding was going to be the target that every paper would discuss, so she chose the laced dress made in domestic villages in order to boost the industry of lace. At the same time, the Queen thought that the white long dress could best highlight the outstanding craftsmanship of lace makers. In addition to promote the British industry, this wedding dress even expressed frugal style and values of the monarch.

As the estimation, there had been reports about the design of Queen’s wedding dress on both special columns of papers and female magazines for months. The news spread widely even across the Atlantic Ocean to the colonies. Because of Queen, the white dress has become the main stream of wedding dress since then. In 1849, Godey’s Lady’s Book, the fashion magazine in Victoria era, even claimed: “From the beginning, white is the perfect color for wedding dress. Regardless of texture, white is always the symbol of purity.”

However, in addition to purity, there is another reason that white dress becomes the top choice for brides: fortune. At that time, cleansing the white clothing was far less convenient for people than today. In order words, if staining, the white dress is hard to clean. Thus, only wealthy people could afford the expenses of white dresses. For working class, considering the celebrations like drinking and dancing, the wedding dress could be spotted anytime, so the purchase of a white dress was unrealistic for them. Hence, the white wedding dress was not only ladies’ fashion of trend but also a dream that was difficult to realize.

Wedding dress. Photo by: Jan Haas/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Until the end of World War 2, the middle class became able to lead a life of former wealthy people, so the idea of buying wedding dress to celebrate emerged in the society. Besides, the women wearing white wedding dress in the movies made a wonderful image of traditional brides who held the wedding in the church. Afterwards, the white wedding dress has become the essential goal for every bride until now.

Moraine Lake Banff National Park Alberta Canada Photo by: Ton Koene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images