Weddings and Wedding Gowns

Weddings and Wedding Gowns

When we think of weddings, we think of beautiful white wedding gowns also. But it wasn’t always so. Prior to Victorian times, wedding gowns could be of a variety of colors but not usually white. Why not? Evidently, white gowns were more difficult to maintain requiring quite a bit of care in regards to cleaning them. Colors such as blue, pink, yellow and green were more likely to be utilized as they were lower maintenance. And those of the lower classes might wear a brown or even a black wedding gown.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. How about a little bit of information concerning the wedding itself. Then we’ll look at some gorgeous examples of wedding gowns from past years. These, of course, would be the more expensive gowns that were given great care and preserved until our day. The young women’s ‘best gowns’ would probably have been worn until worn out.

Banns could be read for three weeks in church allowing anyone with objections to a marriage being able to voice those objections. Marriage ceremonies under these circumstances would need to be held between 8:00 AM and noon in a church or chapel. Those who had common or ordinary licenses could marry within fifteen days in their parish but still had to adhere to the 8:00 AM or before noon time period. Special licenses allowed a couple to marry any time and anywhere but because they were expensive, they were out of reach of the average individual.

The marriage ceremony was simple and followed the prescribed service found in the Book of Common Prayer, and it usually had a rather small audience in attendance. This would include family, close friends and possibly some neighbors. Other neighbors and well-wishers would be outside to wish the couple well. The wedding breakfast, held after the wedding, would include other neighbors and friends.

What might seem a little unusual is that a relative or close friend, such as a sister of the bride, would accompany the bride and groom on their honeymoon. There may have been a good reason for that. The couple may not have spent a lot of time alone before the wedding, that conversation might be awkward, and that having a third party accompany them might aid with the transition from single persons to a married couple.

Now, back to the wedding gowns. Today’s wedding gowns may be worn only one time then be kept as a remembrance of that special day. In Regency times and prior times, textiles were expensive, so the wedding gowns would be worn more than once if the brides were not from a wealthy family. Many times, the wedding gown was a young woman’s best gown that would still be in use after the wedding as well. There would be no wedding veil either. This came into vogue during the Victorian era along with some of the customs we still have today. Prior to that time, brides would wear caps, hats, bonnets, or flowers in their hair.

So, what would some of the wedding gowns starting back then look like? Well, let’s see.

I was unable to obtain a year for this particular gown. It looks like it could be from the 17th century but may also just be a copy. But what a gorgeous creation it is no matter its time period.

This beautiful gown is a fine example of different types of handwork and lace.

Wedding dress ca 1779-1780. Norwegian, hand-woven silk satin. glazed linen, cotton, silk trimmings, baleen boning, and hand-stitching.

Many of the wedding dresses that have survived in good shape until today were those of royalty.

1823 Josefina of Sweden’s wedding dress

Princess Mary’s Wedding Dress 1893

Some of these beautiful gowns were made of Irish lace, cotton, or organdy.

Tambour Wedding dress ca. 1905

Lace wedding gown

Organdy wedding dress  ca.1860

Then there are the very fancy, brighter colored wedding gowns that seem to be the ones that catch my eye. My goodness. How gorgeous. Enjoy!

ca. 1885 Culture American Medium silk, glass, leather

Victorian silk, pale pink and gold brocade wedding gown 1880.

Wedding gown 1880

1877 Pink Princess gown. Charles Frederick Worth was the courtier who designed the Princess line that is still used today. This gown may be one of his. 

Then there are those that are a little bit simpler in design but just as lovely. Enjoy!

English wedding dress and train. Silk satin embroidered with silk thread, pearls, lace, and silk fringe. boned and linen

Belle Époque Wedding Dress 1867

It is amazing how many of these gorgeous wedding gowns have been preserved and can be enjoyed by us today. We have heard that clothes make the man. Well, they also make the woman as well, especially those who are brides and making the most of that special day.

I hope you have enjoyed this small viewing of these beautiful gowns. To see more, please go to my Pinterest page. On two of my pages, (My 1700’s Gowns and My 1830-1910 gowns) have wedding gowns at the beginning of those pages and include some not featured in this post. Enjoy!

Reference: Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World by Maria Grace

18 Responses to Weddings and Wedding Gowns

    • Thank you, Maria. I liked most of them. Some I included to show the variety of the gowns though not all are favorites. Would have loved to have seen the undergarments for the lace gowns, so we could see how it looked complete. However, having it like this allowed us to see the pattern of the lace which is beautiful.

  1. Wow fabulous dresses. I’m not into fashion in any shape or form but how could anyone not love these. I like the plainer ones. For my first wedding I had a borrowed dress and when I think of it now it was actually in the Regency style. It was ivory in colour and had a train. It was a beautiful dress, pity the same couldn’t be said for the marriage. I’m off to look at your Pinterest pages.

    • Glad you enjoyed them, Teresa. My first one was made by my grandmother who was a seamstress for years for some of the wealthiest in the Dallas area. She did a beautiful job with the lace and the rhinestones. And, yes, mines was the same as yours: a beautiful dress, pity the marriage. Enjoy my Pinterest pages. Nearly 12,000 on the 1830-1910 board.

  2. I love these posts that show the clothing from yesteryear. How beautiful. Any bride would feel like a princess [although some were] on her special day.

    • I know what you mean. The fashions of today just don’t hold up to some of clothing from yesteryear. It’s jaw dropping, drop dead gorgeous in some instances. Today’s fashions just don’t cut it. 🙂

  3. Fun post and lovely dresses. Supporting your point about a wedding gown being reused, family tradition is that Jane’s mother repurposed her red wedding gown over a number of years. First it was a formal dress, then an informal dress. When it became too shoddy for inside wear, she used it while gardening and, the story goes, she eventually cut up the fabric into some kind of outfit for her son Frank, a year older than Jane, as a young boy.

    • That’s something else, Collins. But when we remember that she was married to a preacher, their income couldn’t have been a lot, and by necessity, she would have been very frugal. But, I must say, that was almost using her wedding gown (red at that) to the nth degree.Thanks for the info. 🙂

  4. My favourites are the white V back dress with train and the Belle Epoque dress. Such a lovely post. I really enjoy seeing different fashions. When my daughter lived in London we went to the V&A museum to see the fashion exhibition ranging from early times up to Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. I also loved the exhibition in the Assembly Rooms in Bath and we went to Shambellie House in Dumfries where they had rooms with decorations and costumes from different eras. All wonderful.
    Thank you so much for sharing these Gianna.

    • You’re welcome, Glynis. It’s funny I love seeing all these various fashions, but I’m NOT a fashionista myself at all. I can appreciate them, though, and I love the antique gowns and am a little jealous that you’ve had opportunity to see many of the older fashions. The appliques and embroidery are so beautiful and make some of the gowns so special. I have to imagine all the lovely antique clothing you’ve seen. Glad you’ve had those opportunities, and hope I will as well some day. 🙂

  5. Beautiful dresses. I particularly love the last one. It’s so pretty. I made my wedding dress and then later cut off the train and added a beautiful floral overlay so I could reuse the dress for my voice recital in college. I loved being able to wear it again. Nice post.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Jennifer. And how smart you were to be able to continue to use your wedding gown. I’ll admit I was torn about mine. Wish it could have been redone in some way.

  6. The first one is my favorite. I can’t imagine a more beautiful gown. I wonder how much that train weighs? It’s lace, but still, it’s endless!

    • I agree, Summer. That’s why I put it first. This train was probably not as heavy as some that were of velvet with embroidery, such as court dresses, which would have had considerable weight to drag around. Definitely would necessitate the train being held as the bride walked down the aisle or at court if they were of considerable weight.

    • Thank you, Cindie. I agree the lace ones are pretty. I did wonder if the underdress (not sure of designation) would also be white or could have been a color like light blue or pink.

  7. Loved many of the dresses. I eloped and got married in the best dress I owned which was black so I’m glad to see this would have been common among the lower class during Regency times.

    • Glad you like the dresses, Darcy. When I read about the different colors that were worn, I wondered if young women who had come out and worn only very light colors perhaps including white, would have preferred any color but white. Didn’t know about how difficult it was to keep them clean. The variety in the dresses also surprised me: from the very simple lines to the almost ostentatious such as the dark pink one which is way too busy for me. That is the only Worth gown I’ve seen that I like the color but didn’t particularly for the style.

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