The Wedding Dress - History

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The Wedding in its various forms may be the oldest of human traditions and the customs of the modern wedding can be traced right back through the Romans to ancient Greece and back as far as the Egypt of the Pharoes.

And as well as the purpose of marriage, the role and influence of the Wedding in society have evolved through the centuries. Today, the importance of the bridal attire has increased to such an extent that the bride to be, in having the privilege to choose what has become the most important item of this most special of events will determine the general tone of the wedding.

In ancient times, it was even a custom for guests to tear a bit of the bride's dress and keep it for luck. Thankfully this tradition has passed into history - otherwise The Dressmarket would be out of business!


Here follows a brief history of the origin and evolution of the bridal outfit through the years, an opportunity maybe to take a pause and remind ourselves of why this piece of clothing is so special and what it will reflect through the style we will decide to adopt.

Looking at the history of the wedding dress, we seem to have returned to the original starting point of the pre-Victorian era when brides could let their imagination run free to chose the colour of their dress.

We see brides in the 16th and 17th centuries wearing outfits varying between the different shades of green, brown, blue, yellow and even black; according to their age, those colours would symbolise fertility or maturity. Often brides would only wear their best dress and continue to do so on special occasions. Only if they were from a wealthier background they would wear something more dazzling. Brides from more deprived backgrounds would wear a white dress to display publicly their lack of wealth.

But of course, as we all know, this was to change. This custom was due to be entirely eradicated and to carry a different meaning when Queen Victoria, disregarding beliefs and customs from the past, chose to wear white as a symbol of purity and maidenhood, instead of the traditional silver royal wedding gown, when she married Prince Albert.

Although we find examples of white dresses before that period, it was never as dominant as it became then. Queen Victoria made a never to be forgetton impression in the fashion world when she opted for a simple dress, made of white satin, trimmed with Honiton lace, with Honiton long veil and a wreath of orange blossoms to emphasize purity. The unconditional love of Queen Victoria for her husband, added to the dress she wore, appealed deeply to the romantic side of all women and it became fashionable to copy the Queen?s wedding. Unaware of the trend she had started, Queen Victoria went even further when she ordered for her daughter?s wedding a very detailed tiered cake covered with a first to be seen pure white icing and chose the Mendelssohn?s wedding march to be played when her daughter walked down the aisle of the church wearing a white wedding dress. No need to say this made quite an impression at the time and is still in fashion today.

This new concept of romanticism and fairy tale wedding became a way for the middle classes to display their new wealth. People would now want to follow the 'wedding fashion' and the new use of many different types of fabrics and patterns was never going to stop until today where brides to be have a nearly limitless choice of styles, fabrics and designs.

The Victorian wedding dress was a two-piece dress with a fitted bodice and a full panel skirt and thin waist . By 1860, wedding dresses became more fancy and extravagant within the richest classes. Accessories such as white kid gloves, embroidered silk stockings and shoes embellished with buttons, bows or ribbons started to play a more important part. It is still the case today where much care and attention is given to accessories to give the final touch to the bridal outfit. The choice of the headdress has become essential, whether it is a veil, a hat, flowers or a tiara.

The crinoline was discarded in favour of the bustle, which around 1890s was replaced by a train with a veil of equal length .The veil covered the face of the bride and was not to be lifted until the bride left the church.

Through the following centuries, the classic bridal styles will be influenced by period costumes, going from the low-waist 1920?s dress to the high waist Empire style, the Edwardian style, Princess line and Sheath dress. High necklines and long sleeves were transformed into less severe features such as off ?the- shoulder, V-neck low cut or strapless, which has become very popular.

To recreate the romantic style bridal designers have taken inspiration from the luxurious fashion of the 18th century pre-revolutionary French dresses whose main features were a boned corset, thin waist and a vast skirt made of lustrous fabrics.

The most enduring favourite remains the full-blown romantic dress , since the magical moment of the bride 's dramatic entrance , in a full-skirted white dress with cathedral length veil and train is as alluring as ever. The splendour of this outfit combined with its magic and symbolism offers an escape from today?s world and a once in a life opportunity for brides to be to transform themselves in something they never otherwise would .

But some brides do find this fairy tale style too much of a 'big production' and will choose styles of elegant simplicity such the sheath dress which is nowadays very popular. Weddings are changing ; religious or civil? availability of venues, in a church, in a registry office , on a remote tropical island beach or in a Scottish island castle, all those factors have contributed to the evolution of the bridal fashion but what has stayed unchanged through the centuries is the essential part that the dress will play.



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