Daring to Dye the White Dress: Colored Wedding Dresses
Married in White, you have chosen right,
Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
Married in Brown, you’ll never live in town,
Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
Married in Grey, you will go far away,
Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.
This little folk poem must be great for the wedding dress market! Basically, it just reminds you that brides need to wear white on their wedding otherwise terrible calamities will befall them and all hell will break loose and everything that could go wrong at their wedding, will go wrong.
Good thing it's all a myth.
Colored wedding dresses while not particularly popular in most Western/American fashions are common throughout history and the rest of the modern world. While we may think that the white wedding dress has been around for all eternity, it has actually existed for a relatively short time, given the history of weddings. It pops up across history every now and then, but there are rare instances and they are usually outside the traditional norm. Once,white actually represented mourning – making it unlucky to be married in. Despite this Mary Queen of Scots (an English Princess) wore white because it was her favorite color. It wasn't until another English princess's marriage, Queen Victoria's, that white ever became fashionable for weddings.
The color white has many connotations. There are multiple reasons for why a bride might wear it. There is the often cited “purity card”, representing virginity, innocence, and simplicity. This, however, isn't the only reason to wear white. White can also be a status of wealth. Back in the days of walking around in muddy dirt streets, white clothing was not a common choice because it quickly turned brown. Therefore, the idea that a dress could be worn once, just once, and retain that perfect bleached appearance, meant you could afford to have clothes that you never intended to wear again. The whole thing is impractical. For Victoria's wedding, she choose white to go with some lace she was quite fond of – but politically it represented wealth, purity, and the simplicity and honesty of her reign. It was to conform with the Queen that many people began to pick white as their wedding color. Soon enough it became the norm, and soon enough the norm was so strongly held to that most people simply forgot that wedding dresses came in other colors at all!
So while the Western world embraced white, the rest of the world sees weddings, not through a bleached bone white lens, but in vibrant living color. Red is a popular color across Asia; it represents fertility and good luck. Traditional Indian wedding sari's are still red. Other popular colors are orange and yellow, along with brilliant magenta and purple. Gold is used often in detailing as well. White is seen in many regions of the world as the color of death and is avoided at weddings. In Japan, the traditional bride does wear white – to symbolize her death to her family. She later sheds the white dress to reveal an inner red garment representing her rebirth into her husband's family.
The controversy of color
Branching out and breaking out the color spectrum is a gutsy move in modern America. White at weddings is so ingrained into our psyche that when we look at a colored wedding dress we simply think “prom” or “ballroom.” The wedding dress has to be white otherwise it is not a wedding dress. It's just another puffy dress. We avoid white prom dresses for this reason, they look like wedding dresses, and at the same time we avoid colored wedding dresses because they look like prom dresses.
The issue here is our perception of what constitutes a wedding dress. Stark white doesn't even look good on most people, which pushes the boundaries slightly into colors like ivory, eggshell, and ecru. (Is that even a color? Sadly it is. It's this dull pale grey shade) But this hardly increases your options, especially as women are finding more and more often the styles of dress being limited to the hourglass focused, you-must-have-great-shoulders-to-wear-this, strapless dress. A dress that most women find extremely difficult to pull off! It leaves brides a nervous wreck over their appearance and that just doesn't seem fair. The bride should have the dress fit her body – and not have to worry about making her body fit the dress.
Who has ever heard of the color ecru anyway? It's a ridiculous name for a silly color. Where is the vibrancy and joy that should be found in wedding dresses? Why is it so taboo to get married in a color other than white? It seems odd that in just a short hundred years (in terms of modern fashion that might be forever but speaking of tradition it is just a blip at the end of the time line) we managed to go from a wide spectrum of dresses and a plethora of choices to virtually one dress: the white strapless floor length gown.
We avoid color like the plague, it, because we don't want to break tradition. White is tradition now. It has meaning, it has implications – both societal and personal. White represents innocence and honesty. It speaks to a happy, airy, joy filled future with the person you love and does not carry the darker connotations of other colors like red (lust) or yellow (cowardice). White is always pure otherwise it ceases to be white. It's like a blank pages in a book just waiting to be written on – but this doesn't mean other colors aren't meaningful and beautiful.
Using a Prism
Red is the traditional color for many cultures in Asia. It is the color of good luck, health, fertility, and passion. It's bright and eye catching. It stands out in a crowd. It's the color of war and of love. Red is bold, daring, and has an in your face mentality; it's dangerous and exciting. It's also a very romantic and sensual color, inspiring warmth and devotion. Think of red roses – thorns included.
Orange is similar to red. It's energetic and unusual. It's a creative color that might not be seen all that often, especially at weddings. It's a friendly and sociable color but also practical. Unlike red, orange has a very down-to-earth feel to it. It inspires openness and laughter, it's commonly associated with summer and is a popular color in India because it's a holy color in Hinduism.
Yellow is a cheerful color. It is one of the hardest colors for our eyes to perceive, giving it a hectic and distinctive appearance. It promotes energy and focus and draws attention. It's an optimistic color and for a dress would look great in a spring wedding. It's the color of early blooming flowers like daffodils or tulips. For those of you that remember the Green Lantern universe it also can represent fear or cowardice, but traditionally it is more associated with spring and rebirth, and the smiles that come with it.
Green is the color of life. Wearing it promotes happiness and friendliness, as well as good luck. While Shakespeare dubbed it the color of envy, green is a soothing color that comforts and enlivens us. It makes us think of living things and growth. Wearing it at your wedding promotes a connection with nature and health. Green also represents freshness and starting anew. In a wedding dress it would draw attention to the new life you are going to lead.
Blue is a relaxing color, the color of patience, loyalty, and calm. Traditionally, most wedding dresses were this color because of the association with the Virgin Mary. And because of it's connotation with Mary it represents much the same as the color white plus that of loyalty and fidelity. Blue has a calming effect that makes people relax. It is also the color of the sky and ocean, giving it a natural feel that would go great at any outdoor wedding; a beach wedding in particular.
Purple is a mysterious color. Commonly associated with wealth and royalty purple gives a noble and elegant air but also has the whimsical, elfin elements of magic and mystery. Like orange, it is a little used color that can energize and thrill. It has the warmth of red and the coolness of blue, while not exactly belonging to one group or another. When it's lighter, like a lilac shade, it represents spring and rebirth. When it's darker it has a mysterious, daring edge.
Pink is a fun flirty color that is both sweet and very feminine. It is already a popular color for wedding dresses and it is a great way to break away from white without going too far. Like red, pink is a romantic color but it is more light-hearted and flirty color than it is passionate or intense. Pink is a youthful, playful, and unique alternative to the traditional white.
The most controversial of the colors for a wedding dress, black is also the boldest. It is a very fashion forward and avant-garde color, much like red, but also, when worn as a wedding dress, defies the past connotations of death and despair. Black has a sharp edge to it, and many people find it disturbing to wear to a wedding while others see it as dauntless and gutsy.
Colors are a large part of how we perceive the world. They affect our moods, personality, and desires. And everyone reacts to differently and attaches different meanings to their favorite colors. Brides should have the option of incorporating this vital aspect of our humanity into their wedding dresses without fear of facing a stigma or horrible wedding calamities. Instead we should cherish and promote the individuality displayed by being able to wear any color on you wedding day – it might take time and guts but bringing a prism to that white dress might just be for the better.