The Victorian White Wedding

While most historical fashions are in someway similar to Victorian fashion, one aspect of Victorian fashion new for Victorians was the notion of a white wedding dress. Queen Victoria set this trend in 1840 by wearing a white satin gown at her wedding. Soon after the Queen’s wedding, brides in much of the Western world were following suit, literally, by choosing white as the color for their wedding gowns5. Generally, women wore their high Victorian fashion garments to relay a societal message of personal or familial prestige and class6. However, brides living on the American frontier had more to consider when choosing a wedding dress than the trends of the Victorian era. Practical interests such as keeping warm, dry and safe were pressing issues, thus clothing was durable – “not necessarily stylish or good looking7.”

Wedding portraits of Queen Victoria. Notice the white satin fabric, conservative length and pagoda-esque sleeves -- as well as the overall excess of dress material and accompanying accessories -- the signature Victorian wedding! Image courtesy of Lea Ann Belter Bridal, a user of Creative Commons


5. Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, Ohio State University. “Wedding Traditions” Last updated 2012. Accessed May 1, 2012.


6. Donald Clay-Johnson. Wedding Dress Across Cultures (Oxford: Berg, 2003) 1.


7. Katherine Krohn. Calico dresses and buffalo robes: American West fashions from the 1840s to the 1890s (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2012) 16. Accessed April 1, 2012.