Long before Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was setting fashion trends, there was Queen Victoria, who is widely considered to be the one who made white wedding dresses popular.
In the decades prior to her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in 1840, brides reportedly stayed away from white and instead wore dresses that were pretty much any other color, according to InStyle. The colors were representative of different things. Green, for instance, symbolized fertility.
But the queen wanted something different, and instead of going with a colored dress, she opted for a white silk-satin gown trimmed with lace, according to Newswise.
Vogue notes the young queen also ordered her guests not to wear white, and even had her dress pattern destroyed so her dress couldn’t be copied. On top of that, Queen Victoria had her bridesmaids dress in white, a trend followed by the Duchess of Cambridge, who had her bridesmaids, including sister Pippa Middleton, wear white as well.
One reason white was unconventional in Queen Victoria’s time is that it was generally seen as the color for mourning, according to The Washington Post. Members of the royal court also thought the queen’s white dress was too restrained for a royal, as it wasn’t overly embellished, Time reports.
It should be noted that Queen Victoria wasn’t the first royal to walk down the aisle in white. As Time points out, Mary, Queen of Scots, chose a white gown for her nuptials in 1558, but it’s Queen Victoria who’s credited with making white wedding dresses the norm.
A few years after Victoria’s wedding, a popular ladies publication called white “the most fitting hue” for a bride, writing that it represented “an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one.” Brides-to-be in Europe, and eventually America, were convinced, and white wedding dresses continue to be considered traditional.
On Saturday, when we watch Meghan Markle walk down the aisle, presumably wearing a white dress, for her wedding to Prince Harry, we’ll find out whether Queen Victoria’s influence continues.