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Queen Victoria Dreamed Up the White Wedding Dress in 1840

For most people, wearing a white wedding dress wasn’t really a thing until the 1950s

An illustration of the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on February 10, 1840. (Stefano Bianchetti/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

In America, in the 2010s, weddings follow a set script—big church, fancy party, blushing bride in a long white dress—that costs, on average, about $30,000 to follow. But, very recently, up until around the 1950s, most American weddings were quiet family affairs, says Beth Montemurro for Aeon. It wasn't until more Americans had more money to burn that they started recreating the lavish ceremonies that had traditionally been the domain of the rich.

But even among the extraordinarily rich elites, many of now-traditional practices harken back fewer than 200 years. Take, for instance, the white wedding dress.

Though white is now seen as a symbol of virginity and purity, in the mid-19th century, white was the color of mourning—not a color in which to be wed, says the Washington Post. So, when fashion-forward Queen Victoria donned a white dress for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, she met with criticism. (In addition to the color faux pas, “Victoria’s attire was considered far too restrained by royal standards, with no jewels, crown, or velvet robes trimmed with ermine,” the Post says.)

After Queen Victoria's white dress, however, the trend caught on. Before her, women would wear a dress that fit the fashions of the day. Now it's rare to find wedding dress that isn't white, though they do exist.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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