Thursday, July 17, 2014
Wedding Day White
Yesterday I wore a white dress. Not the one pictured above, of course--I like fluffy tulle skirts, but I am not literally made out of hundred-dollar bills. However, wearing a white dress always makes me think of bridal gowns, because Anglo-American culture has designated white as the bridal color. Fellow fans of Say Yes to the Dress will agree that bright-hued wedding dresses are far less common than ivory, cream, and so on.
Remember how in grade school there was always that kid who insisted, "White isn't really a color!" Physics and color theory provide various retorts, but in terms of symbolic importance, wedding white actually is defined by absence. Absence of sexual activity, that is. Brides are supposed to be blushing virgins, and in fact custom dictates that a "fallen" bride shouldn't wear white. In that sense, the obnoxious classmate was right. White isn't a color. Rather, it's the opposite of the red-smeared sheets that conquering husbands would display to prove that the marriage had been consummated.
Obviously this purity-based paradigm is obsolete, slipping out of relevance as birth control and genetic tests become increasingly accessible. (Recent "moral" atrociousness notwithstanding...) It's not culturally vital for a woman to remain a virgin, because lineage can be determined other ways, and people are increasingly willing to raise someone else's biological kid. It's not a big deal for a divorced parent to remarry and share child-rearing responsibility with their new spouse. Etc.
So why are white wedding dresses still the norm? Is it simply because they have been for a long time? It's true that honoring old traditions can add to the feeling of specialness surrounding an occasion...