Why wear white for your wedding?
The color has been popular for bridal gowns since the mid-1800s.
Quick! Think of a wedding gown. What color is it?
More than likely, the first and only color to pop into your head is white. Ever stop to wonder why? Editors at The Knot have dug deep into the annals of history to answer this very question.
In ancient Egypt, brides traditionally were draped in layers of pleated white linen. In Greece, white was the color of celebration and therefore generally worn for weddings as an emblem of joy. And at Roman weddings brides donned softly pleated white robes as a tribute to Hymen, the god of fertility and marriage, who was said to have particularly admired the color white.
And, in what must have been a shocking visual contrast, both Greek and Roman brides covered their heads with flame-colored veils as a sign of modesty.
One of the first officially documented brides to wear white was Anne of Brittany, who married Louis XII of France in 1499. Margaret Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII, was married four years later in a white damask gown edged with crimson, the traditional color of royalty. And in 1612, when Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King James I, was married, it was in a silver dress embroidered with pearls, real silver and precious stones.
The common people
But since only royalty and the truly affluent could afford the luxury of a specially made wedding gown in impractical white, most commoners, including those of the American colonies, simply donned their Sunday-best to get married. Or, if they did have the means to make a special dress, they selected fabrics in soft blues, grays, pastels and browns -- in any shade except green, which was considered unlucky -- that could easily fit into their everyday wardrobes after the fact.
Throughout the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, royal brides for the most part remained true to luxurious fabrics in tones of white, silver and red, and the commoners to more subdued but still elegant dresses in various colors and floral patterns.
Then, in 1840, along came Queen Victoria in her all-white bridal ensemble: Her rich white satin gown was adorned with orange blossoms and had an 18-foot train, which she carried over her arm. On her head she wore a matching wreath of blossoms entwined with diamonds and a veil of Honiton lace. She was immediately heralded for her grace and beauty and was ultimately responsible for establishing the white, worn-only-once gown as the Western wedding-day ideal.
XYou can read more fascinating dress details in "The Knot Book of Wedding Gowns" (Chronicle Books). And if you're looking for a little something in white yourself, go to www.theknot.com/gowns to browse more than 20,000 pictures of gowns from the country's top designers.