The bride's dress was a focal point just as it is today. By 1800 it had become usual for her to wear white or cream. This was a popular colour as it implied purity, cleanliness and social refinement. The wide skirt of dress would have been supported underneath by a cage crinoline. In 1865 cage crinolines protruded out more from behind and were flatter in front in contrast to the bell-shaped crinolines of the 1850s.
Queen Victoria helped popularise the fashion for white when she got married in 1840. She set a royal precedent by choosing a simple ivory satin dress which was very much in the fashions of the day. Earlier royal brides had worn white but their dresses were often woven or heavily embroidered with gold or silver.
Weddings were one of the most festive social occasions. They gave families the chance to show off their wealth and even less well-off couples would make an effort to dress appropriately. Not everyone, however, wore white. Widows, older brides and the less well-off often preferred more practical coloured gowns. These could then be worn for Sunday best long after the marriage. They would not have looked out of place as wedding dresses in the 19th century were designed in line with the current fashions.
Ownership & Use
This dress, veil and a pair of boots also in the museum's collection (T.43B, C-1947) were worn by Eliza Penelope Bright, nee Clay (the mother of the donor) for her marriage to Joseph Bright at St James's, Piccadilly on 16th February 1865. Wedding dresses are one of the rare types of garment for which the name of the wearer and the date of her marriage are often recorded.