Queen V

Here comes the bride.  All dressed in white.  But why?  We’ve all heard the purity spiel but there’s another reason much more En Vogue.  Queen Victoria.  After proposing to her cousin Prince Albert, she was ready to be a bride.  Before you judge her for asking him, she was the queen, she didn’t really have much of a choice.


(Photo Credit: fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu)

It’s important to note that Queen Victoria wasn’t the first to wear white.  It had already been done for centuries.  The spin she put on things, however, is what set her apart and changed the game.  Before Victoria wore white most brides chose to wear colourful dresses or their “best dress.”  To wear white was a sign of wealth because white wasn’t something you could clean easily.  Someone wearing white could afford to get it dirty and could afford to not wear it ever again.  A colourful dress was suitable for many occasions.  Specifically grey or purple could go from married to mourning.  In keeping in line with those who could wear white was obviously royalty.  Royals would also include gold or silver to really let the crowd know they were wealthy.  Victoria really should have worn the red ermine robe of the state but her goal was to present as a bride.  Choices like that piqued the interest of fashion magazines.

Now let’s set the scene for the wedding.  At this time the monarchy really needed the people to care about them.  The monarchy had been disconnected from the public, so Queen Victoria’s wedding was really marketed as a romantic event.  That should have been easy enough because she really loved Prince Albert.  She was even paraded through the streets as a way to share the celebration with the public.  This is not a big deal now because it’s so normal, but it started with Victoria. 

(Photo Credit: fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu)

As mentioned in the previous blog about Ann Lowe, Jackie Kennedy’s father-in-law decided that an American designer should be used to show loyalty to their country.  It was a political decision.  This is a running theme through weddings of powerful people.  Even their seemingly “frivolous” decisions have another reason for them.  Victoria’s gown prioritized British materials specifically from industries that were in decline.  As a sign of patriotism, she chose to buy from English lacemakers.  The silk of the dress was specifically English Spitalfields, Spitalfields is a district in London.  In the late 17th century, it had become a respected location for silk manufacturing.  To go back a little further, it was due to French refugees who came in the late 16th century and brought their knowledge with them as silk weavers.

The lace was designed by William Dye as he was commissioned by the Crown.  200 employees were used to make the Honiton Lace.  Note that at the time, Honiton lace was a peculiar choice for bridal wear.  There is a rumour floating around that she had the pattern for the lace destroyed after her wedding.  She wanted everything exclusive.

(Photo Credit: fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu)

To break down the dress itself there are some key points.  The bodice was eight pieces. The neckline was off-shoulder with puffy sleeves.  Her bertha collar was made of lace.  Her flounce was trimmed with Honiton lace. The corset had a pointed waistline with a deep v-sheep.  The late Vivienne Westwood is known for this.  The skirt of the dress was floor length with seven widths of front-facing pleated fabric!  This would be followed by over six yards of a satin train trimmed with orange blossom.  She needed 12 attendants to carry it down the aisle. 

(Photo Credit: fashionhistory.fitnyc.edu)

Her head carried a wreath of orange blossoms and Myrtle.  It should be noted that at the time orange blossoms were a sign of fertility.  If her nine kids are anything to go by, they did the trick.  Her veil was lace and she would wear it quite a few times afterwards.  For instance, to her kids and grand-children's christening, and her son Leopold’s wedding.  Also, it is the same veil in her diamond jubilee portrait.  Speaking of portraits, the photos you see of Victoria in her dress were recreated 14 years after she tied the knot.


(Victoria wearing her veil for her jubilee portrait)

I would like to think the real reason this white dress became so fashionable was due to the thought process behind it.  She really let the dress lead the show.  Some people claim that she wanted to be seen as his wife so that is she chose white.  Others claim she chose white to really highlight the lace.  I’m inclined to believe she did it to show the lace because she also toned down the jewellery.  She didn’t even wear a crown instead opting for a flower wreath. Most of the time royals are dripping in the crowned jewels but Victoria opted for Turkish diamond earrings and a sapphire brooch from Albright.  For shoes, flat white satin slippers.

To ensure that she stood out she made sure no one else wore white.  That is next-level thinking.  All these components have me lean more into the idea that she wanted to make a statement in white.  However, if you really wanted to argue she chose white to really lean into being a wife, you could focus on how she was excited to be a wife.  Victoria really loved Albert.  She even grieved him for 40 years after he passed instead of the normal two to three years.  Victoria would say as part of her vows that she “promised to obey” Albert.

Maybe it was two things coming into play and you know what?  That’s how it should be.  Showing our love is half the battle of love.  The wedding day brings so many things together that can really derail the core reason everyone has gathered together to celebrate.  You never know who you’re inspiring by being bold and thoughtful in how you display your love.  You never know what new trend or tradition you’re starting simply by being yourself.  But I hope you’re having fun in the process.

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