Do I have to wear white on my wedding day?

Today's bride may find herself asking this question more often than not.  With all the traditions, and old wive's tales, how is it that brides started wearing white?  Is this written in stone?  You decide!

The white bridal gown... it signifies purity and innocence, or so we thought.  If you ask your grandmother, this might be what she would say.  Many believe that is why brides predominantly wear white. With new trends and new lifestyles, brides are now questioning if that is the right color for them.  Well lets dig into history and figure out how this white dress thing got started.  A simple search on the internet or visit to the library, perhaps in the fashion history section, you will find fashion trends are not a new thing.  As a matter of fact fashion has been around probably since the beginning of time.  
Photo courtesy of  Elegance by Marliese Carmona, main blog photo courtesy of  K. Napier Phogotgraphy.

Photo courtesy of  Elegance by Marliese Carmona, main blog photo courtesy of  K. Napier Phogotgraphy.

--- Have you noticed that any time you see one of those very old wedding portraits of some diplomat or princess, it really does not immediately strike you as a wedding portrait?  Probably because the bride is seldom wearing white.  You may find green, black, blue.... but white? Not often at all.  Not until the 19th century. Why is this?  Well back in the 1700's and 1800's brides wore colors that signified things.  Green for wealth, Black... well because it looked good and it was readily available, red signifying royalty or auspiciousness.  Back then the color of the gown told you if the bride was affluent,  or a  dignitary.  Until a certain queen.  


Queen Victoria

This queen would shake up the fashion norm for wedding attire, for years to come (3).  Prior to marrying King Albert, Victoria had acquired a certain Honiton lace (2).  Honiton Lace is a lace which was hand made with bobbin net in England.  The lace was so beautiful to her that when the time came to order her custom bridal gown, she wanted that lace on the gown.  The gown, which was constructed of Silk Satin, was white to compliment her lace.  Because Victoria was such a public influence.  The fashion world almost immediately adopted her choice as what any dignified woman should wear to their wedding.  In an instance white became the color of choice.  Years passed and new generations really did not know why every one always wore white.  Perhaps that started the stories of purity etc.   But, it is actually blue which signifies purity, that was accredited to the Virgin Mary (1).

So now that we clearly see that white is well.... a trend setting choice of a Queen.  Then maybe it is safe to assume that any color is just fine. Now a days you will find brides are breaking free from Victoria's standard.  We see many in blush, black, and other colors.  What color describes you?  Maybe that should be your bridal color.  Who knows you may start a fashion craze of your own.

How The Internet Changed My Expectations of a Wedding Gown

It is fair to say that 99.9% of brides turn to the internet for bridal inspiration.  Its fast, easy and they can find just about anything.  Or can they?


 The internet is full of bridal inspiration and hundreds of pictures of gown styles.  A simple search will yield hundreds of options.  Brides are constantly on the look out for that design that will catch their eye.  All of the sudden there it is.  That's the one.  Where can I get it?  

What happens next can be frustrating and disheartening.  Many do not realize that the internet can also be very misleading.  For instance, the picture of "the one".  Well that many times is an old picture of a gown that is not even available from the original manufacturer.  Why is it coming up on searches?  Well, it shows up because often those old pictures are pirated.   Yes!  Pirated pictures, stolen from the original manufacturer and now posted by websites claiming to be able to provide that very same gown for a couple of hundred dollars.  Buy one and your lucky if you get anything at all.  Those companies are usually in China.  They will go through great lengths to appear to be American or western companies but they are not.  

A quick search yielded many places to find information on online websites that sell counterfeit gowns.

A quick search yielded many places to find information on online websites that sell counterfeit gowns.

Another scenario,... lets say you found "the one" on an internet search and low and behold its available at XYZ boutique.  You call, make your appointment to try "the one" on.  The expectations are overwhelming. There you are standing in that particular gown, as the attendant tells you it is $10,000.00 plus alteration charges!  What?  Did you hear her correctly?  Well, that is because  internet searches have no filter, it will show you what ever it pleases, price is not an issue right?  But wait, remember that Chinese website they have it for $300.00 it's your lucky day!  

I guess the internet does not always deliver now does it?  Unfortunately it can deliver false expectations and cruel disappointment.  So how do you search wisely?  Here are some tips to help avoid the internet pitfalls.

First, you should determine your budget and remember to include funds for the alterations.  Do some research on what the average bride spends for a dress.  Then do some research on the median income in your area.  That will give you and idea on how you compare to the average bride.  For instance if the average bride is spending $1,500.0 and the median income for your area is $65,000 then you can at least get a rough idea of what people in your budget are spending.

Now that you know what you can afford,  here is how to identify what dress manufacturer and how much certain styles cost.  Lets say you want a lace mermaid dress with a sweetheart neckline.  When you find an image of a similar dress to what your envisioning do a search for the manufacturer.  Now, make sure that you are avoiding websites that are not only foreign but  post pirated pictures.  I did an internet search and found a page called "Brides Beware"  it had a nice little list of the usual suspects that seem like a deal but in the end not so much.

To try to find the original manufacturer simply right click on the image and select "search google for this image".  That way you can find many instances of the picture and many times the original manufacturer shows up.  Once you find the manufacturer you can search the price of the dress. One easy way is to go to "The Knot" website and look up the price by the manufacturer.  The Knot website shows you the price range  for a particular dress  by manufacturer .  You don't have to be a member to search dress prices there.  Now that you know the price range of that particular dress you can decide whether that dress is in your budget or not.  Remember, add at least $300.00 o $600.00 for alterations.

Now you wonder?  Is it safe to buy a gown on the internet at all?  Yes, it is possible to buy a gown on the internet.  But you have to do your homework and find reputable places.  One big red flag is that they do not have a local phone number for you to call or an address.  If an online bridal gown seller does all their business online by email or chats only, beware and dig further.  Another place to look is The Knot or Wedding Wire and other bridal service websites that are reputable. These websites provide retailer information, retailers usually have to provide credentials in order to do business with them.  See if that retail seller is listed with any of them. Check to see if they are registered with the Federal Trade Commission and have an RN number. It is required that manufacturers have an RN number in the US. If you know what state a bridal website is doing business in.  Check to see if they are a registered business there.  

Another good way to know whether the business is legitimate.  Is checking reviews.  You can do an internet search for reviews of that business and see what all shows up.  While there is no guaranteed way to make sure you get the perfect gown from the perfect online retailer, it does help to find out as much as you can and see what other's experience has been in order to weed the not so reputable ones out. Being aware that most likely a bridal gown from a reputable source will not cost $150.00 and that goes for bridesmaid dresses too!  There are many custom bridal shops online and custom retail stores.  Many of these shops are reputable and many will have options in your price range.  Make sure you include them in your consideration.  Custom dresses often offer better fabrics, unique styles, great fit, and can be very reasonable as well.

Stay tuned for our next publication "WHERE DO BRIDAL GOWNS COME FROM?"  There we will take a look at how the manufacturing of bridal gowns has changed and  also identifying some key differences in the manufacturing process.

Picture taken by Natasha Smith Photography.  Custom dresses by Krustallos Couture Bridal.

Picture taken by Natasha Smith Photography.  Custom dresses by Krustallos Couture Bridal.

Celeste Herdeman is owner and designer of Krustallos Couture Bridal, retail and online bridal boutique.  Celeste has kept up with the bridal industry for more than 30 years.  

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