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Queen Victoria: Recycling Bride | Manolo for the Brides

Queen Victoria: Recycling Bride

What do you think of when you think of Queen Victoria? I’m betting you don’t think of recycling, or of frugality. The truth is, though, that she hated waste, wasn’t huge on pomp and circumstance where it could be helped, and was tremendously sentimental. These three facts combined to make sure she reused her wedding lace for the rest of her life.
Queen Victoria This is what the scene looked like on February 10, 1840, when young Queen Victoria married her cousin Prince Albert at the Chapel Royal, St. James.

Compared to other royal brides of the period, Victoria dressed simply. She kept the jewels to a minimum and had her wedding clothes made of English products, including her lace. In fact, it’s widely believed that she ordered the Honiton lace ensemble of wide skirt flounce, narrow sleeve flounces, veil, and a fichu before she even proposed to Albert. Whether or not that’s true, she certainly did have the lace made in the village of Beer under the direction of one Miss Jane Bidney. It took some two hundred lacemakers to create the set. When the lace was completed, she ordered the patterns destroyed so that it could not be replicated.

But that’s not the end of the story.

queen_victoria_albert_1854 You see, Queen Victoria was both a practical and a sentimental woman. She hated waste and she adored her husband. Lace was also a very different beast at the dawn of the Victorian age. Machine manufactured lace was in its infancy – or possibly its early childhood, since the first lacemaking machine was invented in 1809. Most lace was still produced by hand. Handmade lace took a long time to make and was tremendously expensive to buy. Lace would be temporarily attached to clothing and unpicked from the garment when it was wanted for another outfit.

Queen Victoria used nearly any excuse she could come up with to reuse her wedding lace. She wore it every year on her wedding anniversary, a tradition she kept up even after Prince Albert’s death in 1861. She wore it to state occasions. She wore it for official portraits. She even wore it to the weddings of all but one of her children. She did not wear it to Princess Beatrice’s wedding because she had loaned it to the bride.
Princess Beatrice's Wedding

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get a good look at the lace itself in these pictures, but there’s one where it’s much easier to see. After all, by the time Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee rolled around, photography had gotten pretty darn good.

9 Responses to “Queen Victoria: Recycling Bride”

  1. Giggles January 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    I love that. I’m now wondering when and how I can reuse parts of my wedding outfit.

  2. Twistie January 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Cool, Giggles! I hope you do. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not done, just tell them about Queen Victoria. It’s hard to come up with a better pedigree for an idea!

  3. Walking Barefoot January 23, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Who knew recycling had such a royal lineage!??! I’ve been wanting to re-wear my dress – now I can say this is an ancient and noble British tradition 😉

  4. Margo A. January 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Well into the 20th century, an English bride was allowed, even expected, to wear her wedding dress as an evening dress, especially to the first dinner party she attended after her marriage. You could bring that tradition back!

  5. gigolokitty January 27, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    In India, women traditionally wear their wedding sarees at formal occasions throughout their lives and leave it to the next generation as well. Which is why I find it reasonably acceptable to blow a years income on a really good saree.

  6. Pencils January 27, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Another old tradition was to use your wedding dress to make the elaborate skirts and draperies for a baby’s bassinet. My aunt suggested that I save my wedding dress to do this. I laughed–for one thing, I don’t sew, and for another, I wasn’t planning on having a baby. Six months later, I was shopping for a bassinet, albeit not the kind with the lush draperies.

    BTW, Queen Victoria was the one who popularized the white wedding dress. Before her, women generally wore their best dress, or if the dress was new for the occasion, the dress then became their best dress. There’s a long traditional rhyme about wedding dress colors:
    Married in White, you have chosen right,
    Married in Blue, your love will always be true,
    Married in Pearl, you will live in a whirl,
    Married in Brown, you will live in town,
    Married in Red, you will wish yourself dead,
    Married in Yellow, ashamed of your fellow,
    Married in Green, ashamed to be seen,
    Married in Pink, your spirit will sink,
    Married in Grey, you will go far away,
    Married in Black, you will wish yourself back.

  7. La BellaDonna February 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    Ugh, such a dispiriting rhyme! And it reads very Wedding Industrial Complex to me, trying to promote white as the only “correct” choice. I therefore fling back at you, O Wedding Industrial Complex:

    Married in Blue, the lovers are true;
    Married in Green, she’s organic, I ween!
    Married in Black, she’ll highlight her rack!
    (Married in Black, look for goths – front and back!)
    Married in Red, she’ll have fun in bed!
    Married in Pink, her sorrows will shrink;
    Married in Brown, she’ll recycle her gown;
    Married in Grey, he’ll brighten her day!
    Married in Yellow, brings love to her fellow
    Married in White, she’ll be his delighttheir future is bright
    Married in Pearl – will bagpipes soon skirl?
    Married in Gold, their joy you’ll behold.

  8. Never teh Bride February 3, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    I married in gold! YEEEEAAAAAH!

    (Also, I like your version better than the original, esp. with regard to ‘married in green’)

  9. La BellaDonna February 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    Hee. Feel free to use it anywhere you want, NtB! I know you frequent many bridal highways and byways. You can also feel free to re-edit the line about “white” – I liked the second one better a bit better since it was more particularly about both of them, but c’est la guerre – my computer burped during the writing/posting process.