Latest “Just married“? At Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvit’s wedding, obviously. An opportunity to jump at in order to look back at the royal brides dresses’ history. Curiosity always wins.
What childhood surely taught us is that Prince Charming awaits for all of us to love with a great “L“, and have intelligent children, if possible a handsome boy and a beautiful girl. Fairytales, such daydreams (and baffling lies by the way)! That is why watching all of these princesses and queens walking down the aisle side by side with a copy of Ken (sometimes not exactly) feels good, firmly believing that the best is yet to come. Hopefully.
White dresses always and forever. White is understandable, but who stated the dress as the wedding’s uniform? A quick historical revision needed.
The white dress has been made famous by the Queen Victoria in the 19th century. In Western cultures, this is “how we do“. However, it is well known that the Eastern brides choose more often the colour red, symbolizing auspiciousness. As Dr Joanna Marschner, senior curator at Historic Royal Palaces, explains, weddings have been a political tool and gowns strong message givers, even the simplest dress. Representing money and privilege, white was in the 18th and 19th centuries a sign of status and wealth, and still is in Edwina Ehrman‘s words, curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Victoria, already queen when she married, commissioned Honiton lace (Devon, England), which was not meaningless: by wearing such a dress, “she was actually shouted loud about things that Britain was really good at“ (Joanna Marschner).
After 1840, begin of The Victorian Wedding era, weddings became more commercialized and gowns less imposing, men’s clothes darker from the early 1860s. Following, The Artistic Styles period (1900-1930) which featured high fashion, but also appealed to artistic and less conventional women, i.e. women expressing their individuality through their clothes. Shades of white and cream remained popular, but pastel and metallic colours stood out as fashion alternatives. From the 40s to the 60s, time of the Second World War, brides’ dresses had to be practical. From Austerity to New Look. In 1960 the wedding dress got formal, even if the economy was increasing, and women liberating from political and sexual regulations. Hats were added to the silhouette as a youthful alternative, and some even wore their dress again after the wedding – the cool kids of yesterday. Then came Nostalgia, Romance and the Modern Age (1970-1990), where most of the brides chose designers, so dresses based more on fantasy than fashion and that had little use after the ceremony. Refreshing the whole situation in 1990, Vera Wang revitalized/helped to the link between bridal wear and fashion: traditional within a contemporary style. A Fresh Approach until the start of the 21st century: weddings’ locations becoming exotic, designers tried to create suitable dresses for different climates and environments. Mostly important, the choice of the dress had to reflect the bride’s taste, faith or the traditions of her family’s country of origin. Since 2000, the bridal market did not cease to increase: The New Century and The Celebrity Wedding (2000-present) time has come. The introduction of civil partnership ceremonies boosted the British wedding industry and represented an encouragement for a number of designers to offer bridal wear. “The perfect wedding“ ideal has been set. Bridal magazines are here to help.
Zalando‘s graphic designer recreated the most beautiful brides’ dresses of the royal history. How unexpected! Dresses only. Will be one day an off the beaten track royal bride? Daring to marry in suit/tuxedo? Media would endorse. On the spot. They inevitably had an influence on the choice of the dresses by the royal brides, indeed. From puffy and showy, it went to simplicity and minimalism – a catwalk thing perhaps.
In Virginia Bates‘ opinion, antique fashion expert, the Western brides-to-be all want to rise from the ranks today. Ironically, it always ends by the tragicomic question: “don’t you have it in white or cream?“. Enough said.
However, what cannot be denied is the thoroughness present in every dress; they all share a quality of uniqueness, resplendent through precious pearls, lace and embroidery, without forgetting the tiara. Gowns’ length belonging perhaps to some princesses and queens’ gentle competition, kind of a “who’ll dare to wear the longest one“.
Just think of the tuxedo thing, Baby Charlotte… /C.