When did wedding dresses get so racist? From time immemorial, women around the globe have eschewed color to swathe themselves in white fabric on their wedding days.
Actually, that’s not really true. But apparently, in the Western hemisphere, we started wearing white dresses after Queen Victoria wore one to marry Prince Albert in 1840. And as with so many other things, the Brits colonized our fashion sense, making us follow in their elitist footsteps until the present day.
Why are white dresses so elitist? Because they show dirt more easily than other dresses. And while people might have gotten dirtier at the same rate in the 19th century that we do today, they definitely got cleaner a whole lot less often.
According to Ye Olde Wikipedia:
“They were favored primarily as a way to show the world that the bride’s family was so wealthy and so firmly part of the leisure class that the bride would choose an elaborate dress that could be ruined by any sort of work or spill.”
“Take that, world!” Says the discerning, ethereal bride. “I am easily ruined and DO NOT CARE.”
Strangely, in this century, the tides have turned and the most elitist among us (ie: celebrities) are turning their noses at the idea of the boring white dress, and choosing all kinds of pastels for their big day. Often, the choice is pink, as with Reese Witherspoon and Gwen Stefani.
Granted, celebrities might have more weddings than the average bear, so maybe this trend is maybe just a way to preserve different looks for their second and third weddings. But it has resulted in some beautiful and fine wedding dressery. Did you see Sofia Coppola’s dress from her perfect indie princess wedding to Thomas Mars, the lead singer of Phoenix?
That dress made me want to be a Coppola.
But alas, I am a plebeian writer person. And with my wedding just about a month away, all I can say is that the idea of a colored dress makes me want to take a nap. Ahem. A non-white dress? (Does that seem less racist to you? Not really, actually.) No, thank you.
Finding a white dress was hard enough.
If I had added a rainbow of dresses to my search, I most certainly would still be looking for a dress. In fact, I might just show up naked at the altar due to a complete inability to find the right outfit.
From experience, I can tell you that it is near to impossible to find a white wedding dress that isn’t scalloped or mermaided or covered in rhinestones or full of pickups or lit from underneath? Ok. I didn’t try on any dresses that run on batteries. But after watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, I kind of wish I did.
The worst part of wedding dress shopping might the endless series of options. Oh wait. No, it was still the cost. But buying a dress of color (better?) does not necessarily alleviate that issue.
Here’s the thing. If you can just grab a dress off the rack and be good to go, more power to you. But most of the women I know who want a colorful dress want to use the opportunity to find a beautiful designer dress that fits them perfectly. And that is a great thing. Except designer dresses probably cost more than I spent on my wedding dress. And I wouldn’t know where to begin to look for one.
Like almost every aspect of wedding planning, there are a series of trivial and ridiculous options presented to you in the dress department. Adding color to the mix of wedding dress options makes that choice that much harder to make.
Have you had your eye on a specific Alexander McQueen dress that you’re dying to wear for a day? Great! That sounds like the perfect dress to get married in. Do you like the idea of a non-white dress but haven’t put that much thought into it? Oh my goodness. Good luck to you. You can now choose what you want to wear out of the selection of every dress ever made! Also, people will be entirely unhelpful in your search, because varying from the norm in regards to weddings CONFUSES PEOPLE.
For instance, when I told a few people recently that I planned to put my centerpieces in mason jars, they responded:
“That so… … … … … …. YOU!”
I’m pretty sure glass jars are not so far out in the realm of possible floral arrangements. But what do I know?
Either way, finding a white dress you like is a strangely complicated task. Let’s not make that harder, shall we?
What I’m saying is this. Wedding traditions persist today – not because they have any bearing in fact or necessity, but because they simplify a silly and intricate process of planning an event that (hopefully) happens once in your life.
If you want to complicate that process by trying to find the perfect colored dress for your wedding, than good luck to you! And god speed.
Or find a personal stylist. And they’ll sort it out for you real quick. Francis Ford Coppola optional.
Meghan Keane is getting married in October. This column is helping her cope.