|Queen Victoria in her wedding gown|
But to give history its due, it was not Victoria who first wore white for her wedding. Mary Queen of Scots (the one who lost her head because she stepped on Elizabeth I of England’s toes a little too hard) was the first royal bride to wear full white when she married the Dauphin of France in 1559. At that time, white was the color of mourning for French queens, but Mary, not being one to abide by rules, chose white. It was her favorite color. Philippa of England also wore white, though Philippa didn’t go the full hog. Her bow to the color that eventually came to be associated with virginity was a silk cloak bordered with squirrel and ermine.
Prior to the Victorian era, it was anything goes when it came to the color of the wedding dress - even black, which was popular in Scandinavia. Rich and boldly colored fabrics lined and trimmed with furs were worn by the crème de la crème of society up to that point. The marriage unions of the nobility weren’t just about two people. A marriage was also a union between families and, just as often, states. Brides of the aristocracy therefore dressed accordingly – to the nines. But no matter what her station, every bride put on her best show for her wedding, even if she was so poor she had to make do with her Sunday best. After all, the wedding, as it still often does, reflected the status of the family.
Edwardian brides took the Victorian wedding dress to the hilt with an extravagance of frills and flounces never before seen. On the right is Alexandra, bride of King Edward VII of England. However, with the outbreak of World War 1, the over-the-top wedding dress took a backseat to practicality. Styles became simpler, hems became shorter and the tightly laced corset was disposed of for once and for all.
I’m sure it won't come as a surprise to hear it was the indomitable Coco Chanel who introduced the short wedding dress, a knee-length dress worn with a long train – everything white of course. According to From Times Past, “This cemented white as the universal color of the wedding dress.”