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.
Philippa of England was actually the first documented princess in
history to wear a white wedding gown during a royal wedding ceremony:
she wore a tunic with a cloak in white silk bordered with grey squirrel
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
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.) The white gown is in fact a
symbolic Christening gown. The are a variation of the white surplice
worn in the Western Catholic tradition by members of the clergy,
church choirs and servers and the gowns worn by girls making their
first communion and at their confirmation and also by women making
religious vows. Today, the white dress is normally understood merely
as the most traditional and popular choice for weddings.