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Are white wedding dresses dying out?

09 Oct 2018

Recent research suggests that white wedding dresses are on the way out and are being replaced with coloured gowns, but is it just a trend?

Image: Everton Vila via Unsplash

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A recent survey commissioned by Newbury Racecourse revealed that the tradition of a white wedding dress is becoming a thing of the past. When questioned about a shift in traditions, 39% of Brits agreed that the bride wearing a white wedding dress on her big day is the wedding custom most at risk of dying out.

Gemma Williams, weddings executive at Newbury Racecourse, commented: “The survey results show that modern British attitudes towards weddings are shifting to reflect society’s changing values around gender – brides have more freedom to express themselves and wear a colour that they feel truly comfortable in. They are no longer bound to one image of the perfect bride."

“We have seen a sharp increase in brides opting for more pastel pinks and blues," continues Gemma. "We expect this trend to continue in 2019, with even the more traditionally-minded brides selecting unconventional bridal gowns in colours more flattering than the classic white.” 

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Images: Anna Docking via Unsplash

Indeed, the white wedding dress is a historical tradition that has become engrained in Western culture since Queen Victoria made it popular with an ivory lace design in 1840. Dating as far back as 1499 when Anne of Brittany wore a white wedding dress to become Queen Consort of France, the white wedding dress hasn't always been the norm. Before then, white was considered the colour of mourning and Irish and Celtic brides even wore blue wedding dresses to represent purity - a quality now symbolised by the white wedding dress.

However, times are changing and as more couples turn their backs on wedding traditions altogether, the white wedding dress is seemingly no longer the go-to gown. Brides are increasingly choosing colours that better reflect their personality, with subtle shades firmly establishing themselves in the bridal colour palette such as powder blue and blush pink. We are also seeing a continued emergence of bolder and brighter colours on the bridal runways, as well as prints, patterns and colourful embroidery that the conventional bride would shy away from. 

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Image: Lawrence Green via Unsplash

Celebrities have catapulted the trend with Kaley Cuoco, Gwen Stefani, Chrissy Teigen and Jessica Biel all opting for coloured bridal gowns on their big days, and Poppy Delevingne adding a splash of colour with a statement print.

Amy Nichols, owner of The Frock Spot in Norwich, says: "Here at The Frock Spot, we love coloured wedding dresses. In the boutique we always have a variety of different colours: almond, pink, blue and floral patterns are among the most popular choices for brides. Our brides have come to expect different colour choices for their gown. Ivory will always remain a popular choice but will be combined with other colours and different fabrics such as crepe and silk, which display different hues of ivory. Will this trend continue? Definitely, at The Frock Spot."

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Dresses (L-R): Hermia by Watters Wtoo (ivory with almond lining and rose gold embroidery); Annie by LouLou Bride (ivory silk organza with a floral printed layer); Nora by LouLou Bride (silk Italian damask fabric in pink and also avaliable in blue and ivory) - all available from The Frock Spot. 

In a move further away from tradition, black is also breaking through as a popular choice for brides who crave gothic-chic on their wedding day. Canadian actress Shenae Grimes and popstar Avril Lavigne both demonstrated how a bride bedecked in black can look captivatingly cool. Ines Di Santo's black wedding dress even took centre stage at the designer's runway show at New York Bridal Fashion Week (Fall 2019), demonstrating how brides can make a dark and daring statement all of their very own. 

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Image: Ines Di Santo Fall 2019, photography by FirstView (hair by Peter Gray using Shu Uemura Art of Hair, make-up by Tia Hebron for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, manicure by Deborah Lippmann)

Yet, while coloured wedding dresses were indeed prevalent at New York Bridal Fashion Week, they failed to dominate. White and ivory dresses occupied the majority of the runways, played out in modern reworkings of classic shapes and styles. Alternative outfit options in bridal white are also en vogue and featured heavily on the catwalk; jumpsuits, tailored suits and separates all thrown into the mix to satisfy the bride who dares to be different.

It appears that white wedding dresses are definitely not on the way out, but we are certainly seeing an evolution of the white wedding dress as we know it. Instead, brides are presented with far more choice to better reflect their sense of style and are, therefore, no longer confined to the white wedding dress tradition. 

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Image: Gracy Accad Fall 2019 (photography by Dan Lecca)

Sam Walsh, owner of Hampshire bridal boutique Sass & Grace, confirms: "While we have definitely seen a shift towards more coloured dresses in recent years, the majority of our brides will still go for an ivory gown. Some brides will definitely not even want to try anything that has a colour, while others will actively seek out gowns in champagne and pinks."

"There is a definite trend that brides will wear what suits them, so if they are paler and the champagne tones flatter their skin tone then they will be more open to trying them."

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Image: Gabriel Crismariu via Unsplash

Still, if the bride desires a traditional white wedding dress and a pop of colour, all is not lost... The 'two wedding dress' trend is also taking hold, allowing brides to transform their daytime look with a more practical evening ensemble to party the night away - just like Meghan Markle. Two wedding dresses allow brides to have it all if they're torn between two styles - be it a more traditional design in white and a coloured evening dress that is perfectly suited to the celebrations. 

In conclusion, trends come and go but tradition has staying power. There will always be a place in the market for the humble white wedding dress and while the conventional form of bridalwear looks set to stay for the time being, its future uptake lies in the hands of the ever discerning bride. 

Did you wear a coloured dress on your wedding day or do you know a bride who did? We want to hear from you; email sarah.george@archant.co.uk