You can blame Queen Victoria for the white wedding dress.

Primrose Moyo chibika wearing a white gown.
Primrose Moyo chibika wearing a white gown.

She wore plain white to marry Prince Albert in 1840, and sparked a trend that's lasted to this day —

Nomsa Nyauchi Wearing a white gown.
Nomsa Nyauchi Wearing a white gown.
but, surprisingly, she didn't wear it to symbolize purity or virginity. She just wore it because, well, she liked white.

The connotations of virginity we know so well today only really appeared later in her reign, as the sentimental Victorians idolized innocent brides and their pure white gowns. "It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one," said the Godey's Lady's Book (a bit sickeningly) a decade later.

Before Queen Victoria's history-making royal gown, brides wore any nice dress they had.

Life Moments Photography. Venencia Mangwende and Hope Muzunze wear green gowns.
Life Moments Photography. Venencia Mangwende and Hope Muzunze wear green gowns.
The color white, however, was pretty unattainable for commoners for much of European history, because white was a) expensive and b) difficult to keep clean. White wedding gowns were rare and confined to the wealthy, which of course, made them cooler.

For French royals, white was actually the colour of mourning — hence Mary Queen of Scots' wedding gown faux pas. She caused a scandal when she wore her favorite white gown in 1558 to marry the Dauphin of France, but instead of copying her, people just tutted about her impropriety. When her husband died two years later (after having a hole drilled in his head to relieve an ailment — yeesh), the white wedding dress was accused of cursing him.

 


Indeed, one theory about Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, suggests that she often wore white in paintings because she was supposedly 'in mourning' for an early suitor who'd died. The white meant "I am deeply sad about that dead dude, princes, so please buzz off and stop proposing to me."

J.R Thorpe