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Bridal Dresses of Famous Women in England

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Essay title: Bridal Dresses of Famous Women in England

Bridal dresses of famous women in England

The wedding gown is unique. Along with baptism and burial, marriage is one of the three most special occasions in a person's life. For the bride, more than the groom, it is Her Big Day. Throughout history, women have tried to make their wedding dress special, to suit the festive occasion, to make the beautiful bride more beautiful and the not so beautiful at least splendid to look at.

Throughout the years wedding dresses have changed a lot because of the social, political, economical situation of each period in history. However, women still did their best to look as astonishing as possible on their wedding day, even if this was not so easy for those who couldn’t afford the wedding of their dreams. Further on, we will observe the changes that occurred in fashion over the years and the powerful social statement that a simple dress can make.

By dealing with this subject I would like, in the end, to make you understand the social statement that wedding dresses make, to see how these gowns differ according to the social position of the person wearing it.


Of course, not many brides were princesses and most could not afford expensive wedding ceremonies. But, in order to look special, a bride would usually try to copy the dress of a woman of a higher social class than herself. A noblewoman would do her best with gems and fur trimmings. A well-to-do middle class woman (like Giovanna Cenami in 1434,(1)) would aspire to velvet or silk fabrics, and because she could not usually afford expensive furs, she would wear fox, or rabbit fur to impress her friends. The poor bride's dress would be of fine wool, instead of the usual coarse 0homespun, and she would use as much fabric as she could. For an everyday girl, clothes would normally be as sparingly cut as was decent, so a gown with flowing sleeves or a train was a big status symbol. In modern times with factory made materials, the symbol of the bride in her train has lost its original meaning, but became a tradition.

An ordinary girl, who could not afford very expensive decorations on her wedding outfit, which would have to become her Sunday-dress immediately afterwards, and maybe serve for many years as part of her everyday wardrobe, still wanted the excitement of a special dress. She could have it by adhering to the rules and traditions of wedding costume.

Although white was popular, some brides, especially the frontier brides, wore dresses that were more practical and could be worn after the wedding. As wedding dresses closely resembled the fashions of the time, only a little alteration was needed for the dress to be perfect to wear again.


Since very early times people have tried to ensure good luck by following superstition. Many superstitions grew up around weddings, to ensure a girl's happiness in her new home and of course to guarantee her fertility. The colour of the gown was a popular source of luck.

White, or a variation of white, was of course always a favorite and symbolized a girl's virginity and innocence. But it was not a practical shade for most purposes and it was not always the favourite choice. Blue (as worn by a bride of 1870, (2) with its associations with the Virgin Mary, was another strong symbol of purity, which also traditionally symbolised fidelity and eternal love. Brides who wore blue believed their husbands would always be true to them. Pink was another popular colour, considered most suitable for a May wedding. It is associated with girlhood, but some superstitions held it to be unlucky - "Marry in pink and your fortunes will sink"!

Mrs Joseph Nollekens (3) was much admired in 1772 in her gown of brocaded white silk embroidered with delicate pink flowers and she wore shoes of the same material. The deeper shade of red was definitely taboo by Victorian times, with its reference to scarlet women and hussies.

Amongst the unpopular shades was green. This was considered the fairies colour, and it was held to make rain spoil the big day.

Any natural shade of brown or beige was considered very rustic. "Marry in brown you will live out of town" with the implication that you will be a peasant and never make good in the city.

The bright shade of yellow has had varied popularity. In the eighteenth century it was THE trendy colour for a while, and many wore it (4), but before that time it had been associated with non Christians and was considered an unholy shade to wear in church!

For brides of the lower classes, an extremely common shade of wedding gown was grey, because it was such a useful

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