Wedding Dresses in the 1800s

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Wedding Dresses in the 1800s
Corsets worn under 19th century wedding dresses have inspired modern bridal designers. (The bridesmaid helps the bride to lace up a corset image by Nadezda Kraft from

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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