White Wedding Gown Has a Short History

By Buren, Abigail Van | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 12, 1995 | Go to article overview

White Wedding Gown Has a Short History


Buren, Abigail Van, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Dear Abby: My co-workers and I have been reading your column for many years and sometimes discuss the letters over lunch.

You printed a letter from "Bride-to-Be," who was planning her second wedding. She was worried because she wasn't a virgin and her fiance wanted her to wear white.

Abby, do you know where the rule that only virgin brides can wear white originated? We all know that rule has been relaxed in recent years. THE LUNCH BUNCH

That question has generated a fair amount of mail since I became Dear Abby.

A few years ago, I posed that question to my friend, the late Edith Head (an Academy Award-winning costume designer). She said that the literature concerning proper attire for brides is surprisingly scant - there's actually no "rule" that states that only virgin brides may wear white.

She then informed me that in ancient Rome, brides were wrapped from head to toe in orange-colored veils, and in medieval times brides wore red. The first white wedding gown was worn by Anne of Brittany when she married Louis XII in 1499.

According to Millie Martini Bratten, editor in chief of Brides magazine: "Red was the favored color for brides during the Middle Ages, and red is still the preferred color for Hindu, Islamic and Chinese brides. The reason: Red is considered the `color of celebration.'

"The white wedding dress is a fairly recent tradition. Victorian brides from privileged backgrounds wore white to indicate they were rich enough to wear a dress for one day only - but still the majority at that time wore only their best finery."

In further researching the modern bridal dress code, my staff discovered that in 1922, Emily Post wrote: "Brides have been known to choose colors other than white. …

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