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Wedding Dress And It's Role In Society

May 26, 2008
Parts of what defines civilization are the customs and ceremonies we develop to mark specific life events. While different cultures devise their own ideas for how to highlight these occasions there are some aspects that maintain a rather universal appeal. This is especially true when it comes to the costume worn by women during their marriage.

Since ancient times the wedding ceremonies have been viewed as the most important events in a woman's life and special clothing has been chosen to make it a memorable affair. As a status symbol, the wedding dress is used as a reflection of how valuable the woman is to the relationship. While modern styles have evolved to where simple attire is acceptable, the wedding dress is usually constructed to be somewhat larger than life with extra trim, ornamentation and accessories.

It is most often the rich or ruling class of a culture than sets the trends for wedding dress design. While they may be able to show their status with the inclusion of gem stones, rare materials and exotic trappings, lower class women will often emulate the style and cut of these dresses with more common fabrics and semi-precious stones or ornamentation made of common materials. The princess may wear pearls while the commoner will achieve a similar look with beads.

Usually it is preferred by most cultures that the wedding dress be a special item that can be used the once and then handed down to daughters to use. Some heirloom wedding dresses have seen multiple generations take this right of passage it the same dress. With the extra cost involved, some poorer classes have had to settle for more durable materials and design so the wedding dress can then be worn on special occasions throughout the life of the bride.

Color is another aspect of the wedding dress that has had great significance placed upon it. This color symbology has changed from culture to culture and ever within the same tradition system over time. Modern Chinese culture utilizes red in their wedding dresses, as it is the color of good luck and fortune with the bride changing into a second, gold colored gown later in the day.

The ancient Egyptians and Romans preferred red for a new bride while by the Victorian age red became associated with prostitution and was thereafter a scandalous choice. Through most of the second millennium blue was considered the color of purity and virginity. Mary Queen of Scots was the first to wear white when she wed Francois II and may have been using a discreet symbology with it as at the time white was the color of mourning in French society.

It was not until the mid 1800's that white began to be associated with purity and virginity. The English Queen Victoria wore white when she wed her consort Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Photography had just begun its rise in popularity at this time and pictures of the marriage were widely distributed.

As is typical with fashion trends, many new brides emulated the white gown thereafter and the traditional Victorian wedding dress has become a mainstay in western culture. While the details would change, this design has held sway even into today's wedding regalia.

Only in the late twentieth century has this tradition loosened to the point where now the color of the wedding dress can be chosen to match the decor of the wedding ceremony.
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