Victorian Weddings: Colors for the Wedding Gown

Brides have not always worn white for their weddings. In fact, it wasn’t until Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840 that the white wedding gown became a tradition.

16th and 17th century wedding dresses

For example, in the 16th and 17th centuries, teenage girls married wearing pale green dresses: a sign of fertility. A girl in her 20s was considered “mature,” and she wore a brown dress. “Older” women wore black dresses.

Only poor girls wore white

From the early Saxon times to the 18th century, only the poorest girls wore white, symbolizing that she brought nothing to the marriage. Other brides wore their “best dress.”

The wedding gown’s color foretold the bride’s future

Brides thought that the color of their gown would foretell their future life, and here is what they thought each color represented:

  • White — chosen right
  • Blue — love will be true
  • Yellow — ashamed of her fellow
  • Red — wishes herself dead
  • Black — wishes herself back
  • Grey — will travel far away
  • Pink — of you he’ll always think
  • Green — ashamed to be seen

1840s wedding dresses

In the 1840s time period, formal wedding were usually all-white occasions, with the bridal gown, bridesmaids’ dresses and veils being white. Veils were attached to a flower coronet that included orange blossoms for the bride and roses or other seasonal flowers for the attendants.

American Frontier wedding

American Frontier wedding dresses

On the American Frontier, brides in the 1850s and 1860s rarely wore white, since their dress would subsequently be used for special events and church. Their wedding dresses were most likely made of cambric, wool or linen, and they often wore a colorful shawl at the wedding. The warm shawl could be more cherished than the wedding dress.

The widow’s wedding dress

The widow who remarried in the early and mid-Victorian eras did not wear white, and had no bridesmaids, veil or orange blossoms (a symbol of purity). She would generally wear a lavender or pearl-colored silk gown trimmed with ostrich feathers. Or she could wear shades just off from white, such as rose, salmon, ivory or violet.

–Excerpted from The Victorian Wedding,


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