Blushing brides of the 1800s didn't always dress in white. Before Queen Victoria donned a light-coloured bridal gown, most women preparing to wed wore their best Sunday or travelling dresses, according to The Knot. Many of the dresses strayed from the popular white or ivory hues. Ladies of the 1800s often wore slimming dark dresses of blue, grey or black fabric when exchanging vows.
Wedding Dress Colors
Some early brides exchanged vows while wearing floral or striped dresses. Brides favoured this style from 1825 to 1850. In 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, the standard for wedding dresses changed, according to Victoriana Magazine. Brides in the 1800s began mimicking the Queen's wedding day attire: A white satin gown with a patterned-lace flounce, a lace veil and a headdress of orange flower blossoms.
Wedding Dress Fabrics
Before Queen Victoria influenced 19th century brides, wedding dresses were often heavy, durable and more utilitarian than glamorous. Bridal wear displayed in the Irma Bowen Textile Collection at the University of New Hampshire Museum in 2010 showcased garments made from wool and silk taffeta. The vintage bridal wear featured hand-stitched lace and netting. Bridal gowns from the 1800s also featured velvet or brocade fabrics. Seamstresses or family members of the bride crafted the fanciest of dresses from linen, cambric, sheer cotton mull or dimity.
Styles of Wedding Dresses
Brides from the 1800s wore one or two-piece garments on their wedding day. The durability of a two-piece suit meant the wedding dress could function for more occasions after the wedding. The bride might wear her wedding suit on a wedding trip to visit relatives, or at belated receptions honouring the newlyweds. One-piece dresses worn for weddings usually had long sleeves, a modest neckline and several layers of fabric. This style of dress was re-worn when attending religious services.
Wedding Dress Accessories
Brides in the 19th century often covered their heads with fancy bonnets draped in lace -- a precursor to the wedding veil. A special bonnet -- often the only white portion of the bride's outfit -- accompanied her best dress, making the bonnet a true keepsake of her wedding day. Most brides displayed their wedding bonnets proudly as a sign of their marital commitment.
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- The Knot: Wedding Traditions & Superstitions: 50 Wedding Facts & Trivia, Fashionable Lore
- The University of New Hampshire; "UNH Museum Wedding Dresses on Display at Bridal Show Jan. 17, 2010"; Jody Record; 2010
- Patches From the Past; "The Fabric of Marriage: Wedding Dresses"; Judy Anne Breneman
- Victoriana Magazine: Victorian Wedding, Queen Victoria Wedding