Can you ever imagine walking down the isle in a green wedding dress? Probably not. Nowadays, very few women opt for a non-white wedding dress and if they do, they immediately go in the "non-traditional brides" section. White, as a symbol of purity and innocence, has been so widely accepted as the quintessential bridal color that it's hard to believe it hasn't always been that way.
Except that it actually hasn't always been that way.
In fact, up until the mid 19th century women would wear wedding dresses in pretty much any color except white.
One of the most famous portraits in art history, Jan Van Eyck's The Arnolfini Wedding from 1434, shows the bride wearing an elaborate fur-lined green gown with a long train and a long-sleeved blue underdress.
The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck, 1434. This portrait of a couple is one of the most famous in Art History because of its complexity and symbolism, and the use of oils instead of temperas which enabled van Eyck to work in a more realistic way recreating three dimentional figures. #janvaneyck #netherlands #flemish #flemishpainting #flemishart #bruges #15thcentury #arteflamenco #arnolfini #arnolfiniportrait #coupleportrait #weddingportrait #portrait #oilpainting #oak #couplegoals #wedding #weddingart #historyofart #art #arte #arthistory #symbol #symbolism #threedimensional #interior #interiorart #mirror #interiors #masterpiece
Another very popular bridal color in the past was red, because it symbolized fertility. The British novelist and balladeer Thomas Deloney described a German bride in the 16th century as "being habited in a gowne of sheep's russet and a kirtle of fine worseted." Yes, we know, it's not the most romantic description, but it proves that women would rather wear "sheep's russet" than a white gown.
The great Renaissance artist Raffaello Sanzio painted the Virgin also wearing a red gown in his work, The Marriage of the Virgin from 1504. Even black was a common option if the husband-to-be was a widower.
But it all changed in 1840. On February 10, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. It's also probably worth mentioning that back in the day the protocol required Queen Victoria to propose to Prince Albert. So, ladies, there is no shame in proposing to your significant other. After all, once that was actually the norm.
On the day of her wedding, Victoria arrived in a procession of carriages at the Royal Chapel of St James’s Palace wearing a lace-trimmed white satin dress, a lace veil, and an orange blossom wreath instead of a crown. At the time, red was still the color of choice for most brides so the fact that a member of the Royal family wore white instead was, to put it bluntly, a pretty big deal. Imagine if Kate Middleton had worn red to her wedding in 2011—yes, that big of a deal.
But Queen Victoria was known to do things her way. She even recycled her dress and wore it multiple times after her ceremony.
A few years later, women's magazines deemed white as "the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material" which essentially popularized the color among women in Europe and the United States.