It’s no secret that many Americans are infatuated with the British royal family. (Kelly here: OK, I may be a little more than infatuated. I make no apologies.) But, with each royal wedding, everyone gets to pretend they are a prince or a princess for a day. 
In addition to making our princess dreams come true, many members of the royal family have influenced modern day wedding traditions. Most notably, Queen Victoria (Queen Elizabeth II’s great great grandmother) influenced the color of wedding dresses when she opted for an all white, lace gown for her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840. 

Yesterday, Feb. 10, was Victoria and Albert’s wedding anniversary – which fell perfectly in line with the WYES/PBS airing of a new episode of “Victoria,” staring Jenna Coleman as the queen in the British ITV drama. 

In honor of the day, we wanted to share again the story of how Queen Victoria forever changed the world of wedding fashion.



Lady in Red?

Winter white wasn’t always a popular choice for wedding dresses

Victoria and Albert
Queen Victoria's wedding dress on display for the "Victoria Revealed" exhibition at Kensington Palace in London.

Wedding dresses as we know them today are typically white, or an off white or champagne color, perhaps with lace or embellishments. But what if this style of gown wasn’t always the norm?

During the 18th and 19th centuries, wedding dresses were far more likely to be red, as well as to have colors such as blue and green mixed in.

It wasn’t until Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 that wearing white for your wedding became popular and turned into the tradition we know today. (Related: If you’re anything like us, we can’t wait for the return of BBC America’s “Victoria.”)

Women in this time would simply wear their best dress, locally sourced and frequently used. It would sit in their wardrobe and they’d wear it again and again, no matter the color. White was also considered a hue for the wealthy, because of the difficulty of removing stains. The everyday woman didn’t have the time required to keep white clothing in a pristine state.

Was Victoria the first to sport white? No. Actually, her predecessor Queen Mary donned white as well, but something about Victoria’s celebrity made the color stick.

Actually, it’s probably due more to the fact that by the 1830s, less expensive magazines aimed at the general public started being published. Prior to that, magazines were very expensive and only the wealthy could afford them. 

Victoria and Albert
*Pieces of Queen Victoria's wedding dress displayed in a scrapbook. 

When Victoria wed Albert, she not only helped to continue breaking the mold, but also opted to follow that of her people using only locally-sourced material and adornments. Victoria kept her dress in her possession and wore different parts of it throughout her life. She even brought out the lace of her dress for her golden jubilee.

Since 1840, the wedding dress has seen many changes in its evolution. From wartime wardrobe  downsizing in World War II, to modern-day color changes, such as Gwen Stefani’s bright pink gown, the wedding dress has never had a bad moment. It continues to be the ultimate showstopper on a woman’s Big Day.