Wedding Dresses of the World

Wedding Dresses of the World

What Traditional Bridal Fashion Looks Like Across the Globe

A lot of women wear the white western-style gown on their wedding day, but that’s not the default. Around the world, wedding dresses vary greatly from country to country. Let’s learn from seven different dressmakers who share about the wedding dresses they make in their home countries.

Indonesian Wedding Dress

Let’s take a look at the wedding culture in Padang Panjang, located in the highlands of Western Sumatra. A fashion designer named Rela Tulusia has been making wedding dresses there for quite a long time. “The wedding dress has a lot of meaning in Minangkabau culture. It’s called buju kurung,” Tulusia said. 

The Minangkabau traditional wedding dress colors are black, red, and yellow. Yellow represents nobility and symbolizes law and regulations. Red represents the affection and consideration of the heart. Black symbolizes Earth and represents an infinite good mind. “Buju kurung has a very loose fit. It lands just below the knee,” Tulusia described. She usually uses satin and velvet among other fabrics. Some elements of the dress can only be created by hand to sew beads and sequins. An embroidery technique called Suji Koto Gadang is also a wedding gown hallmark.

Indonesian Wedding Dress

“Each element complements the others,” Tulusia continued. “The suntiang is an ornament worn on the head of the bride.” This accessory represents the responsibility that the bride will carry after marriage and consequently weighs over 7 pounds. Tulusia mentioned the importance of becoming a bride in Indonesia, especially in her society in Minangkabau. “We have a matrilineal descent system. Here, women have higher value and are highly respected,” she said.

English Wedding Gowns

Thelma Madine from northern England has been making wedding gowns for over 30 years. “In the traveling community, the wedding dress is something that’s dreamed about from three or four years old. They start drawing their wedding dress when they’re that young, and that’s how important it is to them to have the perfect dress for their perfect day,” Madine said. The dress is always white. “There are loads of Swarovski crystal, pearls, and things like that,” she shared.

A typical dress has at least 5,000 crystals but usually more. The fabrics are compromised of 40 to 50 meters of high-end duchess satins and silks. Because satins are manmade fibers, they can be really white. It takes about 300 hours to make a wedding dress like this. There’s usually a big reveal for the first fitting, which is as big of a deal as the first look on the wedding day.

Wedding Dress with Crystal Embellishments
Photo courtesy of Jules Photographer

Native American Wedding Attire

From the Cheyenne tribe in Oklahoma, Kenneth Taylor is a world member of the Ponca Nation, represents the Cheyenne, the Pawnee, and the Southern Ute. His main focus is beading. “Every tribe has a different style of dress,” Taylor said, as he referred to a photo of a Southern Cheyenne buckskin dress. These dresses traditionally have strips on them, and on the skirt, they have curves that represent the mountains. 

The cones are meant to scare away bad spirits. Taylor spoke to the difficulty of creating buckskin dresses, using elk hide, deer hide, which are usually white. “They can be colorful depending on the type of beads,” Taylor shared. The four colors red, yellow, white, and black represent the different peoples of the world. These dresses usually cost around $10,000 depending on the beadwork.

Native American Wedding
Photo courtesy of Talitha Tarro Photography

Taylor’s favorite part of the dress is the last stitch that brings it all together and the sense of pride each bride gets in representing their tribe and wearing their tribe’s traditional clothing on their special day.

North African Wedding Dresses

Traditional wedding dresses in Tunisia are made of gold. A dress designer named Ahlem Nabouli has been working as an embroidery tailor for about 26 years now. She spoke about a dress from Hammamet that has been inherited from her great grandmothers and the tradition that her family has been following for decades. The two traditional colors in this culture are yellow and green. The green is a symbol of life and the yellow represents material elements, like money.  

Tunisian Wedding
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stieler

“The largest part of the dress is called kmejja, this is worn at the bridal henna party,” Nabouli said. “After wearing the kmejja, the bride puts on the jabda [embroidered sleeves] on both of her arms. After that, the prenshkeya is worn on the top of the koufeyya. And finally, the khtamra is worn in a way that covers the bride’s face.” Those are the two more delicate and difficult pieces of the wedding dress to produce. The entire outfit is comprised of materials like silver, sequins, gold, and badla wires. It takes about 5 to 6 months to make and weighs over 20 pounds!

Indian Wedding Dresses

In India, a dressmaker named Karan Torani believes that Indian fashion in general completely revolves around weddings. There are many beautiful different cultures in which everyone follows a different tradition. However, the lehenga choli, an extension of Indian attire from ancient eras, is at the core of Indian bridal attire. It’s a crop top paired with a skirt with many flowers. “The entire outfit is eventually paired with a loose fabric that a girl wears on her body sometimes over the bride’s head,” Torani said.

“Chanderi is one of the main focus fabrics which is handwoven,” Torani described. “It’s a mix of cotton and silk. Then embroidery stars take months and months.” Stitching a really elaborate wedding outfit requires around 7 pounds of sataras or beads that ordain the entire outfit. Craftsmanship, embroidery, and finesse is a proud part of Indian wedding design.

Indian Wedding Dress
Photo courtesy of Jessica Kettle Photography

Ghanaian Wedding Dresses

For over two decades in Ghana, a dressmaker named Kwadzo Gyapong has been weaving kente, a traditional cloth for the people of the Ashanti empire. Most couples in the country prefer this type of wedding dress because it makes them feel royal. Kente was traditionally made with silk, but now it’s commonly made of cotton and rayon. The colors are determined by the couple.

The national colors are red, yellow, and green. “Most people love the kente fabric that has our national colors in it,” Gyapong said. He often suggests some weaving designs that represent love to his brides. Guests are welcome to wear African prints, too.

Ghana Wedding
Photo courtesy of I do Ghana

Swedish Wedding Dresses

In Sweden, a traditional folk dressmaker and embroiderer named Fia Lindblom says that the Swedish wedding dress is meant to signal festivity. It’s a black silk taffeta dress that Lindblom decorates in either white or gold lace, glass beads, and pearls. She normally makes flowers out of paper scraps. Her favorite part of the gown is the check pattern at the bottom of the skirt.

“Under this dress, there will be three layers of wool skirts to make the dress stand out like a bell,” Lindblom said. “One of the most important elements is the crown. It’s big and heavy. It’s from Virgin Mary. It’s something a bit royal about a girl who wears a crown.” Today, she sees more people wear more folk costumes and wedding dresses, and even more so in the countryside where the culture of heritage is relatively stronger. 

Swedish Wedding Dresses

The Common Thread

There’s one thing that wedding gown designers have in common, and that’s their passion and motivation to make every bride feel proud, special, graceful, charming, joyful, and the prettiest they’ve ever been in the dresses they make. When there’s an element of a culture outside of your own that you wish to incorporate into your wedding day or bridal attire, explore where it comes from, and take a moment to acknowledge and honor its traditional context.


Hero photo courtesy of Jessica Kettle Photography

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