Queen Victoria's Wedding & Victorian Vintage Influences on Contemporary Bridal Fashion

February 12, 2011

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) is often credited for initiating the use of white for bridal gowns. Although history indicates that Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) wore a white bridal gown when she married King Louis XII of France 3 centuries earlier (1499) among others (Marie Louise of Austria when she married Napoleon in 1810 and Princess Charlotte of Wales when she married Prince Leopold of Cobourg in 1816), Victoria's choice of white (1840) occurred in the spotlight of photography and in the midst of a long-standing tradition of wearing color. . . a trend that is returning to the bridal fashion scene. It seems that changes are called for periodically.

Marie Louise of Austria
Princess Charlotte of Wales

Ever inspired by Victoria and Albert's love story, I want to share some detail about her bridal attire. Much of Victoria's gown was made of fine white Honiton lace made exclusively for her, costing approximately 1,000 pounds and the efforts of more than 200 people over an eight month period. It is said that the designs for this lace were destroyed to keep others from duplicating them. The gown itself was made of white satin accented with clusters of orange flower blossoms and crafted by artisans in Spitelfields Market of London.

Orange blossoms were very popular accessories during the Victorian era, often worn as a wreath or circlet, which is exactly what Queen Victoria wore on her wedding day. Her orange blossom crown was accented with two large ostrich feather plumes that helped fill out the space over her lace veiling. The plumes appear in the royal photographs, but were omitted in her bridal portrait.

Orange blossoms are very fragrant and during the Victorian era, symbolized fertility, purity, and chasity, making their addition to the bridal ensemble quite appropriate for the times. When the blossoms were in season, brides would often use wax facsimiles or crowns made of other blossoms such as roses, lavender or wild flowers for their headpiece coronets.

Royal brides often wore a crown of jewels, rather than the floral crown. Victoria, however, wore jewels that represented her social status. She wore an armlet with the Order of the Garter (which reads, “Honi soit qui mal y pense”, or translated in English “Shame be to him who thinks evil of it”) and the Star of the Order. Both are pictured below. Does the tradition of wearing a bridal brooch date back to this choice?

Order of the Garter

Star of the Order

Below are examples of English Honiton lace, similar to that used for Queen Victoria's gown. . .

and a photo of her bridal slippers. . .

We still see strong influences from the Victorian era in our bridal designs. Some contemporary designs below with their accentuated butt bustles and trains are classic Victorian. Lace, embroidery, and other intricate, delicate and feminine details are all aspects of Victorian design that still reign in many contemporary designs such as those below.

And I just had to share these Victorian-style shoes from Peterfox shoes. You can check out more of their gorgeous vintage designs by clicking on the photos below. . .

One has to admire Victoria, the woman who ascended to her throne at the age of 18, and held that position for the longest reign in British history; a life of intensity in love, public service and influence - an influence that has lasted many lifetimes. Victoria and Albert parented 9 off-spring; each leaving their own marks on society.

An event at the Royal Albert Hall is a must for any London honeymooners! Several years ago my husband took me there to see Puccini's Madame Butterfly. It is an evening I will never forget.

The Royal Albert Hall was built to fulfil the vision of Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's consort) of a 'Central Hall' that would be used to promote understanding and appreciation of the Arts and Sciences and would stand at the heart of the South Kensington estate, surrounded by museums and places of learning.

Wishing you all many memorable moments of your own.




Peter Fox Shoes said...

Thank-you so much for including our shoes in your wonderful posting!
It's amazing how much influence there is in today's wedding fashion.

Sandra said...

My pleasure! Your shoes are gorgeous. =)

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