W Wedding dress history
For most of western history there hasn’t been any such thing as a wedding gown. People usually just got married in their "church clothes."
Until recently, people didn't own that many clothes. Weddings also weren't terribly important, unless you were royal or your family was very wealthy. Marriage was important, but weddings were simple and quick.
The white wedding dress was debuted by Queen Victoria in 1840. Wealthy, fashionable brides followed the royal trend-setter, though many still opted for other colors.
In the 1890s, the industrial revolution ushered in inexpensive, factory-made clothes. White wedding dresses were suddenly in the department stores, in advertising, and pretty soon in weddings everywhere.
The Great Depression and WWII put new wedding dresses back on hold for almost a generation. They were still made, and desired, but often shared between sisters, friends, and neighbors.
The brand new, single-use dress didn’t truly become standard in the United States until after the war. The huge number of weddings that took place as soldiers came home and the huge growth of the middle class gave birth to the wedding industry as we know it today.
Want to learn more?
Coontz, Stephanie.Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. New York: Viking Penguin, 2005. Print.
Otnes, Cele C. and Elizabeth H. Pleck. Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. Print.
Wallace, Carol McD. All Dressed in White. London: Penguin Books, 2004. Print.
Yalom, Marilyn. A History of the Wife. New York: HarperCollins Publications, 2001. Print.