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Wedding White, Decoded: The Differences Between Each Popular Wedding Dress Shade

Pick the white that works for you.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Bryan Gardner

Most brides choose to walk down the aisle wearing a wedding dress in some shade of white, but this isn't always the case. Some women prefer to tie the knot wearing a colorful gown, and although this choice may seem non-traditional now, it used to be that the bride wore her best, most beautiful dress—no matter what color it was—to her wedding. The trend didn't take off until after Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert in 1840, when she famously wore a white dress. "At the time, white dresses symbolized wealth and status. Queen Victoria was a pioneer in the world of bridal fashion, setting this trend into motion for centuries to come," explains Dareth Colburn, CEO and founder of the Dareth Colburn Bridal Collection.

 

Ever since, white has been the go-to wedding hue, but deciding to wear the color doesn't mean you don't have options. There are an array of different shades that qualify as "wedding white," and each has its own qualities that complement a different vibe or bride. If you're looking for the perfect wedding dress, you've probably encountered some of these different colors and may feel confused about which shade is right for you. Here, we asked the bridal pros for a breakdown on everything from stark white to ivory in order to help you find your perfect white.

 

Related: Proper Wedding Attire Etiquette

 

Stark White

If you're looking for the whitest shade of white you can possibly find, this is your color. "This super bright white is typically bleached and is a color option you'll find available in most wedding dresses that are," explains Malinda Macari, owner of Your Dream Bridal in Sudbury, Massachusetts. "Because it's a rather harsh shade with an almost a blue undertone, it doesn't complement every skin tone. That's something to consider before setting your sights on a stark white gown!"

 

Natural White

While this shade is also a crisp white, it tends to be a little less bright and intense because it's found in natural fibers, like silk or chiffon, as opposed to something synthetic or manmade. "Natural white wedding dresses are lighter than ivory and darker than pure white with a softer appearance. That means they have less of a tendency to wash out your complexion," says wedding planner Lindsey Sachs, owner of COLLECTIVE/by Sachs in Boulder, Colorado.

 

Ivory

In terms of bridal fashion, ivory, sometimes referred to as eggshell, tends to reign supreme over all other shades. Its popularity may stem from its wide availability; brides can find nearly every fabric—from silk and tulle to lace and chiffon—in this soft hue. "Ivory has a warm undertone and can range from deep crème to an almost off-white," says Macari. "It does look great on most skin tones unless it's too yellow, which can sometimes clash with olive skin tones since it draws out the yellow in the complexion." Perhaps the best part about ivory is its versatility. "It looks great in everything from an A-line to a classic ball gown," adds Macari.

 

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Dress Fabrics

 

Champagne

If you're goal is to stray from classic white and maybe even flirt pink and gold undertones, consider a champagne-colored wedding dress. "Champagne can have a rose or chocolate undertone depending on the fabric, be it silk, chiffon, or tulle," says Macari. She explains that these undertones are achieved through a process that involves dying the actual fabric. "Silk can be dyed to this tone and look sophisticated and sleek." And it's not just the main portion of the gown that has to be champagne. Get the best of both worlds by mixing it with another white color. "Many times you will have an ivory lace dress over a champagne underlay or ivory lace sewn to champagne tulle," she says. "This makes the lace standout and provide more detail and texture to a gown." 

 

Light Gold

This shade can look very similar to champagne, but it has some slight differences including a deeper gold hue. "Light gold is still a soft, but more defined hue, and is ideal for a bride looking to make a statement," says Sachs. You can also find lace with light gold stitched in embroidery or beading. "Light gold is typically available in fabrics like tulle, satin, and polyester dyed underlays and can be used in various styles and silhouettes," adds Macari.

 

Alabaster

Considering the fact that alabaster symbolizes purity, it does make sense that it serves as an option for a wedding dress hue. "It has a creamy tone and light ivory appearance that almost makes it glow," says Sachs. Experts agree that it flatters every skin type out there and works nicely with an iridescent color scheme, which is becoming increasingly popular.