A wedding gown or dress is the one most important aspect of a bride's wedding day. The color and style of wedding gowns depend on the culture and religion of the bride and groom; While western cultures usually choose white as the dominant color to symbolize purity, in eastern cultures, red is often used because it symbolizes auspiciousness.
In the Middle Ages and following years, weddings were seen as a union of more than two people; They were unions between two businesses, between two families, between governments and even rival communities to establish peach and goodwill. Therefore, brides were expected to clothe themselves in a manner appropriate to show both families and entities in a favorable public light. Brides from rich families and large societies often used fabrics like fur, silk and velvet to fashion extravagantly layered gowns; In fact the wedding dress was a reflection of the social standing of the family and the extent of their wealth.
The earliest documented evidence of a bride wearing a white wedding gown is that of Princess Philippa of England; She wore a tunic in white silk to a royal wedding in 1406. The celebrated Mary, Queen of Scots also wore a wedding gown in white during her first marriage to Francis Dauphin of France in 1559 despite the French white was the color of mourning.
However, it was not until 1840 that white became the obvious color choice for a wedding gown, after Queen Victoria's official wedding portrait became widely published.
Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s wedding dresses adapted the styles that were common to that time; Sometimes the dresses were long and flowing with short trains, at others they were short in the front with longer trains and were worn with or without veils. This trend continued till around the mid 1950s when the Victorian era fashions of long, flowing dresses with full-skirted designs came back into Vogue.
Nowadays, western wedding gowns are preferably white, although broadly what classifies as 'wedding white' also includes shades of cream white, eggshell and ivory. Most people assume that white symbolizes virginity although the original intention to convey piety and purity was through the use of the color blue.
Wedding dresses of today have undergone many changes in design; There are many designers and labels that have a range of gowns in addition to customizing designs for brides. Most brides today prefer to design and fashion their own styles with good use of material and skilled bridal outfitters. Wedding gowns today feature sleeveless and strapless designs, completely doing away with the idea of a conventional Victorian gown and modesty.
Many forms of wedding attire in the Oriental and South Asia are traditionally in the color red for auspiciousness and good luck. However, many brides now choose to be bolder in their choice of color, experimenting with shades and designs to show them in the best light possible. In China and Japan, brides may opt for western wear during the wedding ceremony but still prefer to wear the traditional costume for the official reception or tea ceremony.
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