Gentle Readers, My niece is getting married and I will be away for a week to attend her wedding. In celebration, I have created this Georgian to Victorian era wedding dress post that consists of a series of quotes gathered on the topic.
The handsome veil of Mechlin lace,
A sister’s love bestows,
It adds new beauties to her face,
Which now with pleasure glows.
Friends brothers sisters cousins meet,
To attend the happy bride,
And Queer’s joy is all complete,
The nuptial knot is tied –
The Dandy’s Wedding, London, 1823, Two Centuries of Costume in America, MDCXX-MDCCCXX By Alice Morse Earle
Hand made lace was extremely expensive and few brides could afford a veil. As the 19th century progressed and machine made laces became more readily available, the bridal veil became more prevalent at weddings.
White was not the prevalent color for wedding dresses during this era. Royal bridal gowns were made of silver tissue and lace, and for a short time regency brides preferred to wear yellow bridal dresses over other colors.
You may be surprised to learn that in the 1800’s, it was common for brides to wear everyday colors such as blue, pink, green, dark brown, burgundy and, yes, even black, rather than white and ivory. It was much more practical for a bride of the average class to wear darker colors for a variety of reasons. One major reason being money. Prudent brides planned ahead – a wedding gown could be worn for many occasions, not just on their “special day.” The wedding gown was a lady’s “best dress” after the ceremony and it was much more practical to have a darker colored dress than a white or ivory dress. Let’s take a minute to imagine the time and effort involved in keeping the hemline of a white gown clean! Dust and dirt and no modern conveniences! Just think about what a white hemline would look like at the end of a day! Laundering was a big consideration, unless, of course, the lady was from a prominate family who had servants available to handle the laundry. – Wedding Gown Traditions
Description of Princess Charlotte’s Wedding in 1816: The Royal Bride, happy in obtaining him whom her heart had selected, and whom consenting friends approved, wore on her countenance that tranquil and chastened joy which a female so situated could not fail to experience. Her fine fair hair, elegantly yet simply arranged, owed more to its natural beautiful wave than to the art of the friseur; it was crowned with a most superb wreath of brilliants, forming rosebuds with their leaves.
Her dress was silver lama [lamé] on net, over a silver tissue slip, embroidered at the bottom with silver lama in shells and flowers. Body and sleeves to correspond, elegantly trimmed with point Brussels lace. The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress … La Belle Assemblee, May 1816
In the 1800’s, gray became a color for wedding gowns for brides of lower classes because the dress became re-used as the bride’s Sunday best. For those who had to wear a dress that would be used for regular occasions after the wedding, many brides would decorate the dress for the special day with temporary decorations.
The “traditional” wedding dress as known today didn’t appear until the 1800’s. By 1800, machine made fabrics and inexpensive muslins made the white dress with a veil the prevailing fashion. By the nineteenth century, a bride wearing her white dress after the wedding was accepted. Re-trimming the dress made it appropriate for many different functions.- Ezine Articles: Wedding Dresses
The bridal image has not always been white. Wedding dresses were virtually any color in the 1800’s, said Phyllis Magidson, the curator of ”New York Gets Married.”
”It was simply the best dress your family had to offer, meant to be worn at special occasions thereafter,” she said. A very wealthy woman might have her gown made at Maison Worth in Paris, where a dress could cost as much as a middle-class person’s salary for a year, but for most people, Ms. Magidson added, ”wearing something that was specifically and solely intended to be worn for the wedding — the concept that we have of being a fairy princess — is a fairly contemporary perception.”
Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840 was the 19th-century equivalent of Lady Diana Spencer’s extravaganza in 1982, and Victoria just happened to get married in white because she wanted her gown trimmed with a particularly rich lace. Her wedding-picture engravings were so widely circulated that the public began to associate white with weddings, Ms. Magidson said. – New York Times, Style, 1997
The wedding of Queen Victoria had more of an impact than most and actually started an entirely new trend when she decided not to wear the traditional royal silver bridal gown. Instead Queen Victoria gave the white wedding dress completely new meaning and symbolism when she married her beloved Prince Albert in a simple dress, made of white satin, trimmed with Honiton lace, with Honiton long veil and a wreath of orange blossoms to represent purity. It was then that white became the dominant, traditional choice, symbolizing purity and maidenhood. – Emma’s Wedding Diary
- Wedding Dress in Two Parts: Regency Reproductions
There is an old poem about how the color of your wedding dress will influence your future: “Married in white, you will have chosen all right. Married in grey , you will go far away. Married in black, you will wish yourself back. Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead. Married in blue, you will always be true. Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl. Married in green, ashamed to be seen, Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow. Married in brown, you’ll live out of town. Married in pink, your spirits will sink.” – History of the White Wedding Dress
- More About Weddings on this Blog: The Wedding Procession in Sense and Sensibility