Amid the barrage of May 2014 Kimye wedding details to emerge, one seemed to set social media ablaze more than any other: Kim Kardashian’s white wedding gown, custom-designed for her by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci (groom Kanye West also offered input, according to reports). Chances are you either know somebody or you were that person who took to Facebook or Twitter to express shock or consternation: “She’s wearing white?!”Yes, and it’s time we moved beyond the self-righteous outrage. Over the years the white wedding gown has become perhaps the most recognized symbol of a bride’s purity, and yet that idea is far removed from its true origins. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose to wear a white satin wedding gown lavishly trimmed in white lace; both fabrics were handmade in England and were chosen by the 20-year-old queen to highlight both her love of English lace and her country’s excellence in the craft.The color also represented wealth and luxury: In more pragmatic times prior to Victoria’s wedding, white was considered impractical, and no matter how large or small the family finances, a bride typically wore the nicest dress in her wardrobe, also often known as her “Sunday best,” or the dress she wore to church. If a bride was lucky enough to have a dress made for her wedding, she didn’t choose white, but rather a color easy to wear for other important occasions thereafter.
As societal attitudes have evolved and relaxed, however, so has the mindset about the pure-white wedding gown. Acra points to the wide spectrum of white and ivory shades, from pristine-as-snow to deep ecru, as well as accents of other colors, as ranking high among a growing list of options for a bride embarking on her perfect-gown hunt. “Today’s bride is really savvy and knows herself; it used to be that the family, the mother or the grandmother played a large role in the choice, but today’s bride relies on her own sense of style,” Acra says. “She’s very attuned to the best shade of white or ivory to suit her skintone, or she might want a hint of color, such as blush, pink or blue. More than anything, it’s about expressing her own personality.” Acra notes that she sometimes favors using a shade of pink to line a bridal gown, “which gives the dress a fresh, light and airy feel.”Ultimately, no matter how you choose to define the meaning of a white wedding gown, consider that the bride gliding down the aisle has formulated her own theory, one that might be based on family heritage, religious background, personal taste, her desire to be the center of attention, a demonstration of wealth, or any combination of the above. But almost 175 years later, do bridal designers owe Queen Victoria a debt of gratitude? Acra laughs. “Even if it wasn’t white, I think we would have found some other way to let brides know we’re there for them, for whatever they might need.”