Why Do Brides Wear White?

The over six-century-long evolution of bridal attire recounted.

For centuries, wealthy brides in the West wore richly colored dresses cut from expensive fabrics, while their poorer counterparts made do with their Sunday best. The first known description of a bride wearing white dates to 1406, when Princess Philippa of England wore a white silk cloak (finished with squirrel fur, just because).

But going blanc de blancs didn’t really catch on until 1840, when Queen Victoria got hitched in a white gown trimmed with Honiton lace. By the end of the century, brides on both sides of the Atlantic favored white, and began to associate it with ideas of purity.

According to Erin VanCronkhite, the owner of Brookfield’s Evermore Bridal boutique, “shades of ivory, champagne and soft beige” are becoming increasingly popular too. And bridalwear is more impacted by trends than ever before. “Social media has accelerated the pace of change within bridal fashion,” she says, including more options in color and style.

We can only hope that is an indication that squirrel-fur cloaks will start trending again very soon.

‘Why White?’ appears in Milwaukee Weddings 2018.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.