The history of the bridal gown is a long and interesting one. Until modern times, getting married was the single most significant event in the life of most women. As such, brides-to be would dress in their finest attire, whether they were poor or well-to-do. The color of the dress was never an issue until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 and established a new tradition.
When the most powerful woman on earth walked down the aisle in an immaculate white dress, she started a fashion trend. Like most fashion trends, it first caught on with the elite. Women of means just had to copy the queen. Of course, their white designer gowns were too expensive for members of the middle class, who continued to dress in their Sunday best for more than a century.
It was not until the Second World War ended that the tradition of the white wedding finally caught on with the commoners. What changed? Like most fashion trends, items only catch fire if people can afford them. Before the war, when the Great Depression was raging, the average American couple simply could not afford a white wedding.
But as disposable income increased after the war years, more and more couples planned elaborate wedding ceremonies. This was both good and bad news for dress designers. On the plus side, wedding dresses had been differentiated from regular gowns, which gave them a new style to work with. However, it also put limits on what they could do with the dress. Since the rules of the traditional white wedding were all but written in stone, most dressmakers felt circumscribed by the basic design. As a result, they pretty much left it alone for decades.
When we examine wedding styles from the fifties through the seventies and even into the eighties, we notice that they did not change that much. Dressmakers continued to produce elaborate white dresses with heavy materials, excessive ornamentation and long hemlines, veils and trains. One reason these styles remained essentially unchanged is that most of the top designers had abandoned the bridal gown. Then, suddenly, they came back to it. What changed?
We'd like to say they had a change of heart, but that is simply not the case. The truth is that the wedding industry experienced a period of unprecedented growth from 1990 to 2010. Wedding costs doubled as haute couture became more affordable. With more disposable income on hand, American couples were willing to spend more on designer bridal fashions instead of simply buying off the rack.
Most of the top designers offer their own take on the modern bridal gown. On the plus side, they have remade and redefined a dowdy old dress. On the downside, they have raised costs across the board. Because they are designed by the best in the business, these dresses are far more expensive. The average designer bridal gown costs $1500. Let us take a moment to review a few of the most popular bridal fashion trends.
White is still the most popular color, but it is losing ground due to designers. With a history of pushing the envelope, many of the top dressmakers have begun to challenge the premise that all bridal gowns must be pure white. Non-white colors like pink and red are slowly catching on with modern brides and can be found at most bridal salons and boutiques. Though they are far more popular at outdoor ceremonies, some traditional brides are choosing non-white or at least off-white colors. Pink, for instance, has gained a loyal following with beach brides.
One easy way to add color if you want to wear a white dress is to slip on a pink or red sash, colorful shoes, lace, beading, or embroidery. Adding little hints of color can highlight your best features, but adding too much might make you look like a Christmas tree.
The single biggest change to the modern bridal gown has been in the type and amount of the materials that are used. Big, extravagant dresses with flowing veils, long trains, and heavily brocaded fabrics are out. The modern bride actually wants to enjoy her wedding day, so she has bid a fond farewell to uncomfortable dresses that do not breathe. Lighter fabrics like chameuse and chiffon are on the rise, while heavier satins and velvets are not. Since the average bride wears her dress for six to eight hours, the gown must be versatile and comfortable.