17th-Century Wedding Gowns

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17th-Century Wedding Gowns
Light green was the colour of fertility. (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Fashions in the 17th century became softer than in the previous century. The extremely wide or round skirts disappeared early in the century and were replaced with a softer, leaner look. White was not common for brides to wear until Queen Victoria was wed in the next century. The average bride was a teenager in the 1600s. A woman who was not married until she was in her 20s was considered "mature," meaning old.

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Brides in the 17th century wore gowns much like their everyday gown. A young woman of little means might wear her Sunday best. If the lady was better off, she would have a blue or pale green gown made for her, with gold or cream inlays.

Blue meant true love and pale green was sign of fertility. The only women who wore white were the very poor. The white gown was a statement that she had no dowry to bring to the wedding. A mature woman might wear brown or black.


In the beginning of the 17th century, women wore hoops under their dresses to create a distinct ball gown effect. Their collars were white, stiff lace that stood up and were called a whisk collar.

At the middle of the century, the collars softened and laid down, and hoops were eliminated. The dresses became more of a straight line, with higher waistline or a corset bodice. Sleeves were full, slashed, and often adored with small ribbons in several places.

In the latter part of the century, woman's necklines dropped considerably and sleeves came up slightly to expose the woman's wrists and lower arms. The wedding gown had layers of material and might have a long train if the woman was an aristocrat.


Gowns made from linen, satin, velvet or silk brocade were embroidered with intricate patterns, often from nature such as flowers or birds. Often seen in the first half of the century, pomegranate and artichoke patterns adorned the dresses. Hand-sewn lace trimmed collars and ruffles on sleeves. The typical bride might wear a linen dress with a sleeveless satin jacquard robe.

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Clothing was often adorned with ribbons, rope, jewels and beading. During the latter half of the century, women started wearing a wired lace headdress called the fontage that stood up on top of her head. Ribbons adorned the hair of women of lower class, but their clothing would be much plainer with less fabric and adornments.

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