The History of the Wedding Dress

The History of the Wedding Dress Find more genealogy blogs at FamilyTree.comYour grandmother’s wedding dress might be considered a family heirloom. Much emphasis is placed upon the dress that a bride chooses to wear on her wedding day. Today, most brides select a dress that is white. This was not always the case!

According to The Daily Mail, a woman named Abigail Kingston got married in a dress that was a century old. It originally was worn by her great-great-grandmother, Mary, in 1895. That wedding dress has been worn by 11 members of the same family and has been handed down for 120 years.

In general, brides tend to choose a dress that fits with the social conventions of the time. During Medieval times, a bride was required to dress in a manner that cast her family in the most favorable light possible. Marriage was seen as a union between two families, two business, and sometimes even two countries. The bride had to look good in order to make everyone connected to her look good.

Up through Victorian times, brides wore the finest dress that they owned. They didn’t go out and specifically buy, or have someone make, a new wedding dress for them. Brides who were from financially poor families wore their church dress on their wedding day. Brides from richer families would have the most ostentatious dress they could afford, with flowing sleeves and long trains. This was a way to show that the bride came from a rich family.

It wasn’t until 1840 that brides started choosing a white dress to get married in. This choice was heavily influenced by the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe. At the time, blue was considered to be the color that was a symbol of purity, and many brides got married in a blue gown. Queen Victoria, however, choose to white wedding gown. The color white symbolized wealth.

You can probably see a pattern now in the reasons behind the choice of a wedding gown. The color, style, and extra additions to the gown were important because these things were a way to make it clear to one’s social circle that the bride came from wealth.

There is a time-frame that was an exception to this rule. During World War II, many brides (once again) decided to wear their church dress as their wedding gown. Others selected a good suit (obviously, with a skirt – not pants) as their wedding “dress”.

People felt that it was inappropriate to wear a lavish wedding gown. The reason could be due to the fact that a war was going on and there were shortages happening that involved nylon and many other items.

Image by Porsche Brosseau on Flickr.

Related Articles at

* Great Ways to Share Family Heirlooms

* Ancestral Weddings in the 19th Century

* A Wedding Gown

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