Even though the white wedding dress has become the most in vogue bridal dress in the world, traditional wedding dresses are still widely worn by brides that want to uphold their culture when they tie the knot. From the vibrant kimonos of the Japanese bride to the heavily beaded attire of the African brides, the colors of the bridal attire are as diverse as the cultures that these women belong to. Though the traditional white wedding gown is seldom changed during a Christian ceremony, many cultures require the bride to change into as many as four costumes during the course of the day and in some cases the wedding ceremonies last for over a week! Here’s our compilation of the most exotic and colorful traditional bridal dresses from around the globe.
Characterized by simple lines and vibrant colors, the Hanbok is traditional Korean attire that comprises of a high-waist skirt called a chima which is worn with a jacket called jeogori. Paired with traditional jewelry, the Hanbok is fashioned in vibrant colors with shades of red, yellow and blue being used predominantly when the dress is part of a bridal ensemble.
Country: India/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka/Nepal
The sari or saree is the traditional wedding attire for women around the subcontinent. Though the way it is wrapped, the fabrics, colors and embroidery used on it differ from region to region, but the basics of the three piece outfit remain the same. Generally worn in a bright red by both Hindu and Muslim brides, sarees in white with gold embroidery and yellow saris are also worn in many regions. Though the loose end of the sari itself is sometimes used as veil, a separate brocaded veil is also used in many parts of the region. The sari is paired with a blouse which can be either short or long depending on the specific culture the bride wearing it belongs to.
The traditional two-piece wedding dress worn by brides in China is called a Qun Kwa. To symbolize happiness and luck for the auspicious occasion, the dress is made in a striking red fabric with colorful thread, beads and embroidery. Comprising of a loose jacket and skirt, the Qun Kwa is embellished with an embroidered phoenix (symbolic of the female) and a dragon (symbolic of the male) at the front to symbolize the harmony between the yin and yang energies.
The traditional Cambodian wedding dress is comprised of a two-piece ensemble with a long sarong-like skirt called a Kahen that is paired with a form fitting strapless blouse and a heavily embroidered Sbaay sash. The traditional Cambodian wedding dress does not require the bride to wear an elaborate headgear or a veil though the dress is almost always very heavily embroidered and embellished with jewels and sequins. The Kahen and Sash are generally made in shades of red though, other vibrant colors are also acceptable in Cambodian cultures. Wearing black at a weeding is strictly forbidden.
The Kimono is a traditional Japanese garment that is worn by both men and women at a traditional wedding. With long sleeves, attached collars and a straight ankle-length hem, the Kimono is secured by a wide sash called an obi that is generally made a color contrasting the color of the kimono itself. The bridal kimono is generally made in a bright crimson though most modern brides tend to go for a white version of the traditional garb as well.
The Qi Pao or cheongsam came into being in the 1920s as a fashionable version of traditional Chinese attire and is known as a mandarin gown in English. Though the body-hugging one-piece dress is not considered to be traditional Chinese bridal wear, fashionable upper-class women and socialites have popularized their use as wedding wear. Since the color red is considered the most auspicious in Chinese culture, most bridal Qi Pao dresses are made in red with rich embellishments and traditional Chinese embroidery throughout the length of the dress.
The Sharara or the gharara first came into being under the rule of Indian Muslim nawabs though the two-piece outfit has been popular among Muslim brides throughout the subcontinent ever since. Pakistani bridal fashion has seen a revival of the garment in recent years and continues to flourish. The outfit comprises of a pair of wide-legged trousers that flare out dramatically and are ruched at the knee. The pants are paired with a fitted mid-thigh length tunic and a veil all of which are heavily embroidered in zardozi and zari work. In keeping with traditions of the subcontinent, the bridal Sharara is crafted in shades or red or a striking green.
Country: Indonesia/ Malaysia/ Brunei/Burma/Singapore/Southern Thailand.
Worn by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Brunei, Singapore and Burma, the Kebaya is a traditional dress-blouse combination that is worn as a part of the bridal attire. The lower half of the dress is called a batik kain panjang or sarong with a form fitting blouse. Modern interpretations of the dress retain the closed mandarin collar silhouette of the traditional outfit and pair it with a single piece floor length dress. The dress, both in two-piece and one-piece avatars, is created using vibrant colors though shades of white are also acceptable.
A variety of the traditional Moroccan caftan, the Takchita is a traditional women's garment in Morocco and is worn as a part of the bridal attire. Using the traditional sfifa and akaad closures, an over-dress often buttons up the front and the more elaborate second layer of ornately decorated fabric sits over a fine first layer of the two piece dress. Sequins, beading and embroidery adorn the rich second layer and the dress is paired with elaborate headgear during the wedding ceremonies.
During a wedding ceremony, Thai brides don’t wear a standard outfit since the majority of the country’s population boasts of mixed ethnicities. However, a traditional wedding dress for a Thai bride comprises of a silk ensemble of brightly colored, close-fitting, traditional pieces inspired by various cultural influences. A full length wrap-around skirt called a "Pha sin” is one of the staples in the outfit which also has two pleated folds in the front called "na nang". A choice of shawls worn over the shoulder finish the outfit which is encrusted with semiprecious stones and is made in bright colors.