Red cabbage remains red cabbage, and a wedding dress remains a wedding dress – but is that really so?
We took a closer look at the history of the wedding dresses and wanted to know: Where does the tradition of the dress actually come from? Have brides always married in white and if so, why?
To answer these questions, we need to get a bit historical. Everything began, as so often, in antiquity. In the times of the Roman Empire, the lives of citizens and their privacy were subjected to the laws of the state. Clothing could not simply be chosen freely but was regulated by law. Tradition, customs, and strict regulations determined certain colours, patterns, and shapes of clothing. So, bridal fashion itself can be traced back to antiquity, although the dress did not become established until modern times.
In ancient Rome, women already wore calf- to ankle-length garments, more precisely, tunics, to weddings. These were cinched at the waist with a wooden belt, which was knotted twice with the so-called Hercules knot to emphasize the feminine form. The prospective bride also wore a yellow veil and wore yellow sandals and other matching accessories.
Traditionally, after the ceremony, the guests withdrew and the bridegroom’s first task in the newly sealed marriage was to open the Hercules knot.
With the age of the Middle Ages, brides’ dresses became ever more magnificent and ceremonial. By now, at the latest, the wedding dress was of enormous social significance. The dress was seen as a sign of power, wealth, and standing in society. Accordingly, only extremely luxurious fabrics such as velvet, silk, and gold and silver brocade were used to make the masterpieces, which were then decorated with elaborate appliques, embroideries, and semi-precious stones. In terms of colour, they opted for vibrant shades during this period. So brides married in red, blue, or green. However, this was only reserved for the nobility or the upper social class. The poorer classes wore their black Sunday dresses.
With the start of the 16th century, bridal fashion turned black. Influenced by Spanish fashion, brides now wore black, strict, high-necked dresses, which were supposed to emphasize the piety of the bride. Moreover, the dark fabric was easier to clean and could also be worn on several occasions. After all, it was almost frowned upon to wear dresses for only one occasion.
In this century, the black robe was not only reserved for the upper social class but was worn by all prospective brides. Around 1900, the first white veil was combined with a black dress.
The white wedding dress, as we know it, emerged in the 17th century. The colour white was then a symbol of purity, virginity, and innocence. Virtues that played a significant role for a prospective bride at the time.
Initially, the white robe was once again only reserved for the nobility and the upper social class, but gradually women from lower social classes also married in white.
In contrast to the 16th century, wearing the white wedding dress was now again restricted to just one day and thus also developed into a status symbol. Here a tight top with a corset-shaped waist was en vogue. The best-known example of the trend of this time was worn by Empress Sissi in 1854.
The colour white continued as a trend into the 20th century. It was less owed to former virtue than to the colour itself, which embodies something festive and special. In line with the prevailing trends of the 20s, 50s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, brides married in slim dresses with extravagant headgear, petit coats, short dresses, hippie dresses, opulent dresses with long trains and frills (Princess Diana), or freely according to the motto: “What pleases is allowed.”
This motto should continue to be the primary decision criterion when buying the dress for this special day, and so we encourage you: “Allow yourself to please yourself!”