1800s-style wedding dresses

Written by lauren corona
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1800s-style wedding dresses
Early 1800s wedding dresses were rarely white. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

During the 1800s, there were several different styles and variations in wedding dress fashion. If you're planning an 1800s-themed wedding, or just want to wear an 1800s-style wedding dress on your big day, there are several options to consider. Although you are unlikely to be able to get a vintage 19th-century dress, it would be possible to make one or have one made to your specifications.

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Style

In accordance with the modest fashions of the time, 1800s wedding dresses would always be floor length, and would often have long sleeves and a high neckline. The dress would often be a two-part outfit, with a separate skirt and bodice, especially for poorer brides who would want to be able to reuse their bridal gown for other formal occasions.

Colour

Until around 1870 to 1880, in was uncommon for a bride to wear a white or ivory wedding dress. Brides would often wear dresses of dark and more practical colours. This was partly so the dress could be worn to other social events and partly because a light-coloured dress would have got extremely dirty at the hemline. It was customary for the bride to wear a black dress if she was marrying a widower.

Fabric

In the early 1800s, wedding dresses were often made of more conservative materials, such as light wool, sometimes mixed with silk or cotton. Later dresses became somewhat more extravagant, featuring muslin, silk taffeta and hand-stitched lace.

Parisian wedding dresses of the latter half of the 19th century became increasingly fine, often being made of luxurious silks and lace, and adorned with pearls. However, such dresses would only have been affordable to the upper classes.

Accessories

A wedding bonnet was the most important wedding accessory during the earlier part of the 19th century, especially in more modest households. Where a bride's wedding dress would be reused for other occasions, the wedding bonnet would be kept safe as a memento of the special day. The bonnet was usually white and draped with lace, and was an early version of the veil. Later in the 1800s, the veil came into fashion, and was often worn attached to a wreath.

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