The evolution of the wedding dress
200 BC: Indian Saris
A tradition that can be traced back to approximately 200 BC, brides in many parts of India wear a sari, which is typically red with golden embroidery. She covers her head as a sign of respect. Many brides also adorn their hands and feet with henna, a natural dye, and it's also traditional for the new wife not to do any housework until the designs have faded away.
During the Roman Empire (around 27 BC through 476 AD), the mother of the bride dressed her daughter on the morning of her wedding. The Roman bride donned a tunica rēcta — a one-piece, floor-length tunic — knotted around the waist with a band of wool that only the husband was allowed to untie. Over the tunic, she wore a bright yellow veil, the flammeum.
This artwork was painted between 1510 and 1520 and depicts a wedding procession and a traditional bride in blue. During the Middle Ages, the color was considered a symbol of purity (this is likely where "something blue" comes from). The bride often wore either a blue dress or accessory — like a garter, which gained popularity during this era.
1603: Japanese Kimonos
Japanese brides have been wearing a white kimono called the shiromuku ("pure white" in Japanese) since the Edo period. Today, brides often wear glittery threads woven throughout the design, or a thin accent color along the hem or collar. After the ceremony, it's customary to put on the uchikake, a colorful silk kimono — often red, which is considered good luck — that's worn open over the white garment. The bride is done up in heavy makeup, a wig, and a head covering.
1840: Queen Victoria
When she married her cousin Prince Albert, Queen Victoria also popularized the white wedding dress for the Western world. The lacy gown was made entirely in England, and featured a low-cut bodice and an 18-foot train that was carried by 12 attendants.
1911: Native American Attire
In this photo, the bride, who is from the Wishram tribe of Oregon, is wearing a beaded headdress with shell beads and Chinese coins, dentalium shell earrings, a beaded buckskin dress, and many beads around her neck. According to Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: Photographic Images, "This form of headdress was worn on special occasions by girls between the age of puberty and their marriage."
1922: Princess Mary
While Coco Chanel was introducing the first knee-length wedding dress, King George V's daughter went a more traditional route with her floor-length gown and long train. She still kept up with '20s styles, though, with a loose, low-waisted shape and cloche veil.
1937: Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
The pale blue dress the American socialite wore for her wedding to the Duke of Windsor has been called "one of the most photographed, most copied dresses of modern times." It was a simple, sleek column topped by a corseted jacket with rows of covered buttons — one of the first tops where the jacket is not supposed to be removed.
1947: Queen Elizabeth
The Queen's ivory satin gown has been called a "fresh beacon of hope" for post-World War II England, symbolizing spring and rebirth with its floral design. The dress had a 13-foot train, and was decorated with 10,000 imported white pearls, silver thread, and tulle embroidery. According to British Vogue, "Her Majesty famously saved up ration cards to purchase the material needed."
1950: Elizabeth Taylor in Father of the Bride
That lacy neckline! That dramatic skirt! For a woman who got married eight times in real life, it was a wedding gown from a movie role that truly struck a chord. Costume designer Helen Rose created the dress, which was very similar to the one she designed for Taylor's wedding to Conrad Hilton later that year.