Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding to Blink-182’s drummer Travis Barker in May was a visual spectacle. The couple had got married three times within the space of two months, but their Dolce & Gabbana styled wedding at Villa Olivetta was a worldwide spectacle. Taking place at D&G’s Portofino estate, and almost all of the outfits and decor arranged by the brand, Dolce & Gabbana (who are thought to have sponsored the wedding) are estimated to have made over $25 million in media impact value. Kourtney wore a micro wedding dress which was very much a love-it or hate-it move, but it did get us thinking about wedding dresses and their history.
Wedding dresses are different all over the world and white isn’t the universal go-to colour. Wedding gowns in the East are typically red.
In Ancient Rome, brides would wear deep yellow veils.
In ancient Athens, brides wore violet robes with a tight girdle symbolising their virginity (insert eye-roll).
In ancient China during the Zhou Dynasty both bride and groom wore black with red details, then later the Tang Dynasty brides wore green and grooms wore red.
In the West in the 16th and 17th Centuries, teen brides would wear pale green dresses to show off their fertility, women in their twenties wore brown, and those above thirty wore black. From the Saxon times until the 18th Century, wearing white was actually a symbol of you not having any money to contribute to the marriage.
It was Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 that cemented wearing white on your wedding day as the go-to choice in the West (even though the young Queen probably wore a champagne-coloured dress). Before this, some did wear white, but many simply wore the best dress they owned. At this point white wasn’t synonymous with virginity, rather it showed your status (that you were wealthy enough to afford an all-white garment that you kept spotlessly clean). Up to this point in history, it would have been unheard of to only wear your wedding dress once, and even Queen Victoria wore hers again.
After this point, not only white dresses, but the idea of dressing as grandly as you could (mimicking royalty) became the dominant fashion.
Here are a handful of our favourite wedding dresses from art history, which we’d wear in a heart-beat:
Fredrick Morgan’s Off for the Honeymoon (c. 19th Century)
It’s giving us Sense & Sensibility (1995) vibes. The yellow detailing in each of the bride’s accessories gets a thumbs-up from us. We do think that’s a lot of children to have at your wedding though…
Edmund Leighton’s To Arms! (1888)
The whole title of this work is Sweet bridal hymn, that issuing through the porch is rudely challenged with the cry ‘to arms’ – It’s obviously very sad that her new husband is about to be called to join the army, but she does look beautiful in this fur-detailed medieval gown.
Firs Sergeevich Zhuravlev’s Before the Wedding (1874)
Another scene of marital crisis, but this painting by Zhuravlev does show the typical 19th Century bridal ball gown. With floral details and a dramatic mountain of fabric, this would be the dress we’d choose to have a breakdown in too.
Edvard Munch’s The Wedding of the Bohemian (c.1920)
Sort of an anti-wedding dress, we love the peach-coloured outfit worn by this Bohemian bride. Munch himself is sat at the table at the far left, and despite the gloomy-vibes, we think this intimate celebration is very hip.
Laurits Tuxen’s Wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna (1895-6)
No expense was spared in this wedding in the Imperial Chapel of the Winter Palace in 1984, and while the bride wore an “embroidered silver cloth Russian court dress & very pretty” (according to Queen Victoria) we’re beginning to think we want a gold fur-lined robe for our nuptials, too. Both Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna were closely related to Queen Victoria (and each other) and Tuxen was commissioned to make two versions of this painting, one smaller one for Alexandra and one for Victoria.
Henri Rousseau’s The Wedding Party (c. 1905)
This is one of Rousseau’s most ambitious compositions and we love the simplicity of the white gown. High-neck with a cinched-in waist? Double tick.
John Henry Frederick Bacon’s The Wedding Morning (1892)
It’s a shame that the teeny-tiny waists of Victorian fashion were a literal health and safety risk, because this dress is beautiful. The translucent veil over the floral headdress and shorter-sleeved dress is screaming Spring Wedding.
Author: Verity Babbs