For other uses see Wedding dress (disambiguation).
A wedding dress or wedding gown is clothing worn by a bride during a wedding ceremony. Color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants.
Weddings performed during and immediately following the medieval era were often more than just a union between two people. They could be a union between two families, two businesses or even two countries. Many weddings were more a matter of politics than love, particularly among the nobility and the higher social classes. Brides were therefore expected to dress in a manner that cast their families in the most favorable light, for they were not representing only themselves during the ceremony. Brides of an elevated social standing often wore rich colors and expensive fabrics. It was common to see such brides wearing bold colors and layers of furs, velvet and silk. Brides of a lower social standing often copied the elegant styles of wealthier brides as best they could.
Over the centuries, brides continued to dress in a manner befitting their social status—always in the height of fashion, with the richest, boldest materials money could buy. The poorest of brides wore their best church dress on their wedding day. The amount of material a wedding dress contained also was a reflection of the bride's social standing and indicated the extent of the family's wealth to wedding guests. Today, there are wedding dresses available in all price ranges, and Western traditions have loosened up to include a rainbow of colors and variety of lengths, which are now considered acceptable. Women may purchase ready-made gowns, wear a family heirloom, or they may choose to have a dressmaker create one for her. In addition, today many bridal salons have samples of wedding gowns in their stores where the bride selects a certain style and orders one to be made to fit.
Wedding dresses have traditionally been based on the popular styles of the day. For example, in the 1920s, wedding dresses were typically short in the front with a longer train in the back and were worn with cloche-style wedding veils. This tendency to follow current fashions continued until the late 1940s, when it became popular to revert to long, full-skirted designs reminiscent of the Victorian era. Although there has always been a style that dominates the bridal market for a time, and then shifts with the changes in fashion, a growing number of modern brides are not choosing to follow these trends. This is due in large part to non-traditional and non-first-time weddings, and women who are marrying later in life.
Today, Western wedding dresses are usually white, though "wedding white" includes creamy shades such as eggshell, ecru and ivory. One of the first women to wear white at her wedding was Mary Queen of Scots, when she married François II of France. However, white was not then a tradition but rather a choice and one considered inauspicious, since white was the official colour of mourning in France at the time.
White did not become a popular option until 1840, after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Victoria had worn a white gown for the event so as to incorporate some lace she owned. The official wedding portrait photograph was widely published, and many other brides opted for a similar dress in honor of the Queen's choice. The tradition continues today in the form of a white wedding, though prior to the Victorian era, a bride was married in any color except black (the color of mourning) or red (which was connected with prostitutes). However, in Finland during the 19th century, it was popular for brides to wear dark colors, especially black. Later, many people assumed that the color white was intended to symbolize virginity, though this had not been the original intention. (It was the color blue that was connected to purity.) Today, the white dress is understood merely as the most traditional and popular choice for weddings, not necessarily a statement of virginity.
Many wedding dresses in China, India and Vietnam (in the traditional form of the Ao dai) are colored red, the traditional color of good luck and auspiciousness. Nowadays, many women opt not to wear red and choose other colors. In modern Chinese weddings, the bride usually opts for the white Western dress or changes from a white gown to a red gown later in the day and sometimes a gold-colored gown later on.
South Indian weddings traditionally use white or cream-colored saris. Indian brides in Western countries often wear the sari at the wedding ceremony and change into traditional Indian wear afterwards (lehnga, choli, etc.).
In Japan, brides will often wear three or more dresses throughout the ceremony and subsequent celebrations with a traditional kimono, white and colour dress combination being popular. The Javanese people of Indonesia wear a kebaya, a traditional kind of blouse, along with batik.
Traditionally, Pakistani brides are required to keep their faces hidden in veil.
The indigenous peoples of the Americas have varying traditions related to weddings and thus wedding dresses. A Hopi bride traditionally would have her garments woven by the groom and any men in the village who wished to participate. The garments consisted of a large belt, two all-white wedding robes, a white wedding robe with red stripes at top and bottom, white buckskin leggings and moccasins, a string for tying the hair, and a reed mat in which to wrap the outfit. This outfit also would serve as a shroud, since these garments would be necessary for the trip through the underworld. A Pueblo bride wore a cotton garment tied above the right shoulder, secured with a belt around the waist. In the traditions of the Delaware, a bride would wear a knee-length skirt of deerskin and a band of wampum beads around her forehead. Except for fine beads or shell necklaces, the body would be bare from the waist up. If it were a winter wedding, she would wear deerskin leggings and moccasins and a robe of turkey feathers. Her face would be painted with white, red and yellow clay. The tribes of Northern California (which include the Klamath, the Modoc and the Yurok) had a traditional bridal dress woven in symbolic colors: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow (orange) for the west; and black for the north. Turquoise and silver jewelry were worn by both the bride and the groom in addition to a silver concho belt. Jewelry was considered a shield against evils including hunger, poverty and bad luck.