Why Are Wedding Dresses White?
There is a joke “why wedding dresses are white” that I recently heard.
A little boy was attending a wedding with his mother.
He asked, “Mother, why do brides wear white dresses at their weddings?”
The mother responded, “Because it is the happiest day of their lives.”
The little boy, again: “Then how come the groom is wearing black?”
When it comes to white wedding dresses, most people go with the reasoning that it is tradition. When a bride decides to have a traditional wedding ceremony, we expect to see a white wedding gown. This is specific mostly to western countries.
When looking for a wedding dress, you will notice that they come in different styles, a-line, ball gown, mermaid wedding dress, and more. However, they mostly come in white. So, when did this color become the standard for a wedding gown?
It all began back in the Roman Republic, over 2,000 years ago. When the time came for a girl to become a Roman matron, she would wear a white tunic in her wedding ceremony. White represents purity in the same way it does to us now. However, it mostly emphasized the girl’s abstinence from sexual intercourse.
Moreover, the bride’s tunic color was also associated with Vesta, a virgin goddess. Vesta was a goddess for everything concerning the home and family. She was served by priestesses who stood out because of their white clothing.
White wedding dresses were then forsaken when the Roman Empire collapsed. Most brides opted for dresses they would be able to wear again. This Roman traditional gown color was therefore not an option in a period of no running water and where laundry was hand-washed. If that tradition ended with the fall of Rome, why are wedding dresses white now?
Once upon a time, in 1840, weddings were considered a big event that had the power to set trends. Queen Victoria decided to wear a white gown instead of the red gown typical of royal brides. Though this was shocking and frowned upon by many, as white was traditionally a color for mourning, the white dress slowly gained mainstream appeal.
At first, it was embraced by elite brides, then became accessible to the working economic class bride. But if white dresses in the modern period only started being a tradition in the 20th century, why are all wedding dresses white?
In America, white wedding dresses became fashionable after World War II. The second World War was a tragic period where soldiers were risking their lives so the rest of the citizens could live longer. Therefore, the end of the war meant freedom and longer living. Then white gowns in America became a tradition not only because white symbolizes virginity but also prosperity and a lifetime commitment to one person. Also, it was after World War II that America became dominant. Thus it became more influential to the rest of the globe.
So to answer the question: why are wedding dresses white? It is because of the influence people have over others. Even today, trends are set by the most influential designers in the fashion industry, the most iconic celebrities, and the most significant events globally. Thus, though some brides today opt for a totally different color, the white dress is still the most adored because of what the color white signifies.
All in all, we will continue to see brides wearing stylish white dresses until maybe a prominent individual decides otherwise, or a significant event changes everything. Since that hasn’t happened yet, you can still find a lovely white ball gown, a-line style, or mermaid wedding dress in a style that you prefer.