Death of traditional white wedding dress: Black symbolises power, elegance

Johannesburg- Women in the 20th century are no longer buying into myths that the colour of their wedding dress will determine the happiness of their union.

The traditional white wedding dress has slowly evolved into lighter shades of pink, blue, yellow, ivory and green.

And a trend coming on strong internationally is that of the black wedding gown, with stars like Sarah Jessica Parker and the legendary Tina Turner donning it to their nuptials. Renowned designer Vera Wang released a black wedding dress collection in 2011.

But it seems it may take a while for South Africans to embrace it.

Most local cultures associate the colour with mourning, bad luck, an evil omen and everything sombre.


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A post shared by Vera Wang (@verawang)

But designer to the stars Paledi Segapo says it’s time to step out of that mould.

He points to the Alexander McQueen dress showcased in Paris this week and says it was a show stopper.

Segapo says after his own leather-inspired wedding gown was showcased in Tanzania in 2015, he hoped to see women streaming in for the design.

“I believe in time the new generation will embrace it. Black symbolises power, elegance and sophistication. It’s bold and robust. White is old, boring, blaze and attaching purity to it is utter nonsense,” he says.


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A post shared by Paledi Segapo II (@paledisegapo)

Gert Johann Coetzee says though that after designing three black wedding gowns and seeing two of those marriages falling apart – he associates the colour with bad luck.

“I wouldn’t advise that brides go for something like this. I agree that it photographs well, and I’ve seen the bridal parties wearing black dresses.

“For South Africans, it won’t take off because across all our cultures we use black to commemorate bad times in our lives,” says Coetzee.

He recommends ice and baby blues, blush pinks, champagne, soft yellows and ivory, especially for photographic reasons.

“White tends to show off grey, and it is acceptable to not stick to the tradition of white only.”

Hangwani Nengovhela of Rubicon says the history of the black gown goes back centuries, but as a black Venda woman and creative, she would never recommend it.

The history she refers to dates back to 3000 years ago when women in China under the Zhou Dynasty wore black wedding gowns with red trim.


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A post shared by Rubicon (@rubiconclothing)

In Spain, Roman Catholic brides also wore black wedding gowns, which symbolised the woman’s devotion and loyalty to her husband.

“I’m a spiritual person. I do believe that colour has meaning. Black may be slimming but as Africans, we wear it when we are mourning – so we can’t switch it up for a joyous occasion like a wedding,” says Nongovela.

Thunderstorms designer Thabo Maserumule says walking away from the white dress was a breath of fresh air. He is also creating more gowns in hues of pinks and peach for the “white wedding” celebration.

“The belief that white is pure and clean is such a Caucasian ideology anyway. As Africans, we are embracing our colourful traditions and bring those colours into our celebrations.

Thabo Thunderstorm black wedding gown

It’s wonderful to see this happening as it used to back in the day – as my mother said to me. Today, our people are more educated and comfortable with themselves. So, if they want to wear a black dress and commission me to design one, I certainly will as it spells dramatic, daring but also beautiful and elegant,” he says.

Also read: Former Miss SA Tamaryn Green’s dress puts two local designers against each other

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