Before you can talk couture bridal, you need to understand a little bit about the history of the “traditional” white bridal gown. According to Spinelli, two different phenomena are generally considered to have inspired the frothy white wedding gown that we now consider traditional: The dress code for being presented at court in the late 19th century, and Queen Victoria’s wedding gown.
• 1840: Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 wearing a white lace gown. This was a complete departure from the tradition of the time. Up until then, women just wore their best dresses to get married.
• 1868: Charles Frederick Worth started his couture business in 1868. At the time, ladies had to wear white gowns with trains to be presented at court, and he dressed all the important society doyennes of the time. Spinelli explained that white was a sign of wealth and status because it was so difficult to keep clean.
•1895: Consuelo Vanderbilt married the Duke of Marlborough wearing a House of Worth gown. You can read this fascinating blurb about it in a vintage New York Times article here. The article notes that the bride’s cream dress has a “train in the Court fashion.” It’s a great example of how court fashion found its way into bridal.
• Pre-World War II: Dincuff told us that couturiers like Lanvin, Vionnet, and Mainbocher all showed bridal looks at smaller summer shows. In addition to bridal gowns, they also showed mother-of-the-bride dresses, bridesmaids gowns, and appropriate trousseau items–sort of a precursor to the pre-season collections we see now.
• During World War II: Many couture houses closed; fabrics and materials all went to the war effort.
After World War II, though, everything changed.