Traditional wedding attire has existed across cultures for centuries, but the white dress familiar for most Western brides hasn’t always been the norm. In fact, it’s a fairly recent phenomenon. Brides rarely wore white until one person—Queen Victoria—made a daring and rather unconventional choice in 1840: an entirely white gown for her wedding day. (Notably, she also ditched the traditional crown and wore an orange blossom wreath.)
Prior to this moment, most brides simply wore their best or favorite dresses to tie the knot; designs were often colorful and indistinguishable from other formal dresses. Soon after the Queen’s bold move, brides readily adopted both the color and the idea of a special wedding day dress. White was declared a “most fitting” choice for brides by Godey’s Lady Book, a popular American magazine of the era. Flash forward 180 years and the trend has stuck around.