Object: Wedding Dress
San Antonio, Texas
Materials: Cloth, Metal
Wedding dresses have been worn by brides for hundreds of years, however a white wedding dress is a fairly new custom. Over time wedding dress styles have changed and not all cultures share the same wedding traditions. This wedding dress was worn by Emma Steubing on her wedding day, December 14, 1912 to Robert Gass. The dress was likely made by a family member or the bride herself, which was common. The dress is an off white color and has lace trimmings throughout. Lace was and still is a popular material used in wedding dresses.
Today in Western culture the traditional color for a wedding dress is white. Queen Victoria is credited for starting the white dress trend in 1840 after her marriage to Albert of Saxe-Coburg . Phillipa of England wore white in in 1406 and Mary Queen of Scots wore white when she married Francis the Dauphine of France in 1559. In France, white was typically the color of mourning for French Queens, but Mary wore white anyway because it was her favorite color.
Before Queen Victoria decided she would wear white to her wedding, the popular color of the time was red. In the 1800s brides would usually wear the best dress they had to their weddings, which were usually a color like red or blue, rather than wear a dress specially made for the occasion. White was rarely used because at that time washing white articles of clothing was difficult. It was then easier to wear a dark colored dress and use it multiple times after. Wearing white was usually just done by the wealthy. However, Queen Victoria also wanted to send a message that she supported domestic commerce using only British made materials, a custom still supported 171 years later at the marriage of Catherine Middleton and Prince William. A few years after Queen Victoria’s wedding a popular lady’s monthly called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.” It was after this publication that young women everywhere started shifting their ideas of what a wedding dress should look like.
Although white maybe the popular color to wear in places like the United States, in China the brides usually wear red. The color red symbolizes love and prosperity in Chinese culture. In South Asian cultures a sari is worn during weddings. Sari, which translates to ‘strip of cloth’, is a clothing garment made of a piece of cloth five to nine yards in long and two to four feet in wide. The sari is wrapped around the waist and one end around the shoulder, baring the midriff. The wedding sari was traditionally red with gold and made out of silk but different colors and fabrics are also used today. All around the world wedding dresses and traditions are different, and as time goes by the styles of these wedding dresses change. [Rebecca Gonzalez, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
Victoria, and Barry St.-John Nevill. Life at the Court of Queen Victoria, 1861-1901: Illustrated from the Collection of Lord Edward Pelham-Clinton, Master of the Household : with Selections from the Journals of Queen Victoria. Exeter, England: Webb & Bower, 1984.