• 09/16/2022

Why Are Wedding Dresses White? The History Behind the Tradition


Revivalist is a reader-supported endeavor and our posts may contain affiliate links. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you’re getting married, you might wonder why most wedding dresses are white.

White is the color for brides, becoming a tradition over centuries and symbolized a variety of attributes. Some brides enjoy the tradition, while others go against the grain. Whatever your choice, you might not realize why white is so prevalent for brides.

Here’s the history behind the popular wedding dress color.

Ancient Rome

Experts believe that the origin of brides wearing white reaches back over 2,000 years.

During the Roman Republic, brides would wear white tunics as a symbol of purity. It also served as a symbol of Vesta, the virgin goddess of hearth, home and family.

The tradition fell with the Roman Empire, and brides switched to wearing an old or reusable gown.

19th-Century England

In 1840, Queen Victoria went against the traditional coronation robes for brides. Instead, she chose a white gown to wear instead.

The images from her wedding saw publication around the world. Brides soon adopted the color and style for their wedding dresses to imitate the queen. Instead of virginity and purity, a white wedding gown represented wealth and status. The industrial revolution’s dirt and grime prevented less affluent brides from wearing white.

These gowns weren’t the bright white many brides wear today, but cream and ivory. The brighter whites of today didn’t become the standard until decades later.

20th-Century America

Bright white dresses came into popularity in the 1930s. However, it didn’t become the standard dress color until World War II.

Many soldiers came back from the front wanting to get married but the war led to a fabric shortage.
The government issues Limitation Order 85 in 1943, which limited dresses to 1 ¾ yard of fabric. The American Associated of Bridal Manufacturers fought back, lobbying for an exemption. They said the dresses boosted the country’s morale. They argued that soldiers deserved a traditional wedding.

Officials lifted the order but the industry still struggled. Disrupted trade routes led silk to be inaccessible. Since they could no longer get silk to manufacture parachutes, they used nylon. This led to the fabric supply diminishing.

Manufacturers used acetate to produce gowns. Some soldiers gave their parachutes to their brides when they came home so they could have a silk dress. Those cases led to “parachute weddings.”
Once things settled down, white wedding gowns symbolized prosperity.

The Modern White Wedding Dress

Though the color doesn’t need as much now, most American brides still prefer a white dress.

It became a bridal uniform, with many brides staying with the traditional color. Some brides like the contrast of wearing a wedding dress on their big day. Others like to coordinate with the photos of their mothers’ and grandmothers’ weddings.

Some brides like the traditional color, and how it identifies them as the bride.

Choosing Your Wedding Dress

You should choose a wedding dress that makes your feel special, whether it’s white, black or rainbow.
Now that you know about the why wedding dresses are traditionally white, you can better decide if a white wedding dress is right for you.

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

We would love to connect deeper with you!

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.