The wedding dress is undoubtedly one of the most iconic pieces of clothing a woman will wear during her lifetime – it is something that says something about her style, her lifestyle and even her relationship. Many women spend months (even years) searching for the perfect dress, and this importance is something which has always been there – even 500 years ago!

Woman walks with flowers in a wedding dress.

Whereas now, brides may search bridal magazines and chase after the latest wedding trend – the method of choosing was much different many years ago. In some cultures, brides had no say about the dress they wore!

Weddings in ancient times were often arranged by families. The dress worn by the bride, was a display of the families wealth. The fabric for the dress was expensive, and often elaborate. The dress was often a bright colour or embroidered. Beading and jewels were added to show the wealth of the bride’s family. Layers of furs might be worn over velvet dresses. An excessive amount of fabric used for trains, or embellishments also reflected the wealth of the families, which often turned the wedding day into a parade of wealth and status – rather than a parade of love or romance. Women with less money simply wore their best dress, or church outfit for their wedding day.

Today, most western brides wear long dresses in silk, or silk-like fabrics. Dresses are usually white, or near white in colour. White was actually not a popular choice of colour until the middle of the 1800s – when it was introduced to represent the purity and virginity of the girl being married. Again, this was a symbol of status – because the purity of the bride was somewhat a commodity to trade. In some cultures the brides virginity was even “tested” before the big day – and if she was found to be lying, the white dress was taken away.

Traditionally, a wedding dress has a long train of varying lengths. The dress may be embellished with lace, beads or embroidery. A veil is typically worn, that coordinates with the dress. The bride wears white shoes, and has white accessories. The idea of wearing white is something which has stuck throughout the changing social contexts – and remains the most popular choice.

Bride and groom walk hand in hand in a garden

Many brides in the United States, and other countries may choose a dress, that reflects their heritage and ancestry. Red is the traditional colour of dress for many brides from Taiwan, India, China or Vietnam. Dresses are styled in the traditional styles from those countries. Embellishments, headpieces and accessories worn by the bride are reflective of their culture. In some countries, brides wear more than one dress throughout the wedding day.

Wedding dresses can also be famous, and have been auctioned off for huge amounts of money to collectors. Grace Kelly, an American actress married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. Her dress is highly popular, and has been a model for many other wedding dresses. Princess Diana’s wedding dress was also highly anticipated, and was styled quite differently from Grace Kelly’s dress – after Dianas wedding she set a huge trend which saw brides wearing similar styles for many years later. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was reminiscent of the dress style made popular by Grace Kelly and was another hugely anticipated gown. In fact – it was the main feature of her big day and the thing most people were excited to see.

Occasionally, there are brides who enjoy being different. They may choose to wear a dress in an unusual colour, or strange design. A military wedding might have a wedding dress created from camouflage printed material. There have been wedding dresses made entirely from paper. Recent trends include, the extravagant fluffy skirted styles made popular by Gypsy wedding television shows.

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