Bridal History

This week, Faith Roswell writes about fashion and the upcoming royal nuptials.

Another royal wedding is coming and I’d bet just about anything that Meghan Markle will wear white. Under so much scrutiny already, looking iconic (read ‘good enough’) while remaining traditional (read ‘fitting in’) isn’t an easy thing to achieve. Marrying in a dress other than white, ivory or cream is considered ‘making a statement’; the press called Gwen Stefani ‘rebellious’ for her two-toned pink Dior dress back in 2002, descriptions of actress Shenae Grimes’s black dress took more column inches than the wedding itself in 2017 and according to Vogue, Agyness Deyn “made the case for a non-white wedding” in 2016, wearing a dress barely tinted blush pink.


This year, capes dominated bridal runway shows, and while coloured dresses were shown, coverage still focused on their ‘rebel factor’. Yet, the white dress is not an ancient tradition. Historically, wealthy brides wore a variety of colours, including white, but there was no traditional colour for bridal wear until Queen Victoria’s iconic look inspired the nation. In support of the UK’s struggling lace industry, Victoria chose to dress herself and her bridesmaids in white and wore an intricate lace panel over much of the dress. She was so pleased with it that she invited the head lacemaker to her wedding and recycled parts of her bridal outfit over the years as was normal for the time. Victoria was even buried with the veil over her face.

Etiquette manuals quickly linked white with virginity and purity, making a bride’s choice to wear white appear a moral one. For the women of the age, choosing otherwise made a clear and unflattering statement. With that, a tradition was born.

Victoria’s dress has been in storage since 2012 due to its fragility but the Victoria and Albert Museum in London houses some fascinating wedding attire – both traditional and not. The nearest tube station is South Kensington.

Image credits: Milly Bridal Studio, Resources for History Teachers, Mark Jones, Wikipedia Loves Art UK_FGR, The Royal Collection

Read more from Faith at http://www.lifeoutthere.co.uk/

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