There are few clothing items more iconic than the wedding dress. A symbol of love and commitment that is recognised around the world, a garment that is often one of the most expensive pieces of clothing someone will ever buy. Wedding dresses are handed down through generations, adored by brides and cherished for a lifetime. The wedding dress industry is also one that is predicted to reach a worth of 43.5 billion US dollars by 2022.
So how did this humble dress become one of the most recognisable fashion pieces around the world?
Prior to the Victorian era wedding dresses were not associated with being white. Brides would marry in dresses of any colour, with black particularly popular in Scandinavia.
The material was of high importance and as many weddings were created more for political, economical and social advancements, wedding dresses were seen as way to show the wealth and standing of the bride’s family.
Dresses were often in rich colours and made of expensive fabrics such as velvet, silk and often incorporated furs. Brides from poor families would marry in their best church clothes, these being of a variety of colours and fabrics.
The Rise of the White Wedding Dress
The first recorded instance of a white wedding dress being used by royalty or the upper class was at the wedding of Phillipa of England in 1406. Queen Mary of Scots is also recorded to have worn white as this was her favourite colour, however this was unusual as in France at the time white was considered a colour for mourning.
We can thank Queen Victoria though for the popularity of the white wedding dress. In 1840, Victoria wore a white dress to her wedding to Prince Albert and when illustration of the wedding were published, demand for white wedding dresses surged.
Since the 1840s, in most Western cultures white or ivory has been the colour of choice for wedding dresses. Although the popularity of the white dress has endured, styles of wedding dresses have been influenced by trends of the time. The most popular current style is sleeveless or strapless.
Weddings Around the World
Although globally recognisable, white wedding dresses do not hold as much acclaim everywhere in the world.
In Mexico red is a popular colour for wedding dresses and in China, India and Pakistan wedding attire is also often red.
However global demand for white dresses has been growing around the world since the late 1800s.
The wedding dress is one of the most recognisable pieces of fashion in the world. Influenced by current trends, styles, and prominent members of society it has adapted and changed throughout history but remains unrivalled in its place within the fashion world. A multi-billion dollar industry, the iconic wedding dress is likely to be around for a long time yet to come.