Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wedding Day White

ballerina wedding dress, pink sky over Mount Fuji


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Obviously this purity-based paradigm is obsolete, slipping out of relevance as birth control and genetic tests become increasingly accessible.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...

The Cactus Flower Wedding DressThe Cactus Flower Wedding Dress

19 comments :

  1. I think white wedding dresses persist because of tradition, yeah. Also, even if a young person getting married is like "Hey, maybe I'll have a purple dress" there is pressure from the older generation to adhere to customs a lot of the time. That said, I've always felt self-conscious wearing white (I spill! And stain!) so I'd probably opt for something else if I ever had a wedding. But the idea of having a traditional wedding ceremony doesn't really appeal to me so I'm probably the wrong person to be offering commentary on this ...

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    1. Yup, I have a hard time wearing white for that same reason! I really do like the idea of a traditional ceremony so I will probably end up wearing a white dress, but at the same time it baffles me...

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  2. Part of me wants to reclaim the white dress (and bloodstain the hell out of it), but another part wants something all-out psychedelic. But let's face it: I'll probably change dresses multiple times at my wedding...

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  3. I wanted to have a 'white' dress for my wedding mostly because I wanted a historical leaning one (although not pre-Victorian historical, obviously, hence white), and partly because I never really wear full on cream or white outfits generally. I also wanted a kind of soft, 'Edwardian tea party' leaning to my wedding, so my alternative of electric violet or midnight blue was kind of out, heh.

    That being said, my dress is (I was going to say 'was' but I still have it so...) ivory - pure white looks ridiculous on my already paper pale skin, and, well... I lived with the wizard for 4 years before I married him, so, uh...yeah. Even the noxious patriarchal purity angle wasn't gonna get me into a pure white dress! :-D

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    1. Your wedding sounds LOVELY! Yeah, I'm not trying attack white wedding dresses, just kinda wondering why they continue to reign supreme.

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    2. It's become a tradition, and tradition is a powerful thing! Also not, as you say, necessarily a bad thing (once you excise the patriarchy) - I mean, it's an excuse to wear a big fabulous dress, and how many of those occasions are there in life, really? (since most of us aren't on the Oscars invite list, LOL!)

      Full disclosure: I had two weddings (same wizard!), and the one in Germany was at a secluded, original medieval castle. I may have worn royal blue for that one ;-) A jewelled girdle belt may have been involved too...

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    3. IT TOTALLY WAS. :-D Both of our weddings were very small (~20 people all up), but they were both gorgeous, and actually very cost effective. Also, you know, medieval castle OMG. Totally a dream come true!

      The castle is the Johanniterburg (Kühndorf), of you wanna Google Image it :-)

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  4. When I got married I had all intentions of not wearing white, I've always slightly rebelled against tradition. But alas, I could not find colored a dress I liked so I ended up with a bright white dress. -_- Haha

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