What Happened to the White Dress?

This passed Saturday I celebrated with my family the Quinceañera of my cousin Priscilla and it was the most fun I’ve had with them in a long while.

Months of planning in en effort to make one day as special as possible for a well-deserving teenager is all worth it.

For those of you who come across this post and are not familiar with this Latin/Hispanic tradition it can be considered along the lines of a Sweet 16, a debutante ball, and/or a cotillion. For most families in my culture, if not all, religion plays a role in the whole celebration. There is a mass honoring the young lady- a steppping stone into her young adult life as a señorita. The sermon is all about the new responsibilities she’s to undertake as such and the expectations her parents and society have of her (older tradition meant she was ready to wed- the festivities were purposed to let eligible bachelors know she was available). She’s presented with gifts from her padrinos at the altar and they’re blessed in order to have her protected at all times as she  dons them throughout her life. The most telling part of what the honoree wears is her white dress, which symbolizes purity and honesty (much like a wedding dress).

My cousin’s dress was not white; the dress was turquoise and black. It was a really nice dress and she looked lovely in it. A silent thought crossed my mind before the mass started since the other Quinceañera was also not wearing a white dress (some churches honor multiple girls at once): what happened to the white dresses? In my family I have celebrated twelve Quinceañeras, including mine and out those only two non-white dresses have been worn. After the mass it’s customary to go take pictures with the Quinceañera at the local scenic park. There you see other girls celebrating their big day too. We saw four other girls during our time there and no white dresses. Hot pink, lite pink, some pink and blue cotton candy looking dress, and a purple one.

The dress is a huge deal. Not sure why the white dress has fallen to the wayside. Possibly it’s the idea of being different and the bigger the better. I guess you can’t do much of that with a white dress, huh? While at the park my sister said she saw not one white dress amongst the girls. My surrounding cousins, whom have also celebrated their Quince agreed and said they noticed the same thing. From the conversation none of us could answer why. Maybe there is no answer. Maybe it just is. And just how the celebration was a presentation to society and eligible men back in the day, today the dress tradition has also changed.

Having colored dresses challenges the patriarchal and religious views of womanhood and I commend these young ladies for doing so whether they know it or not. Initially I didn’t get it, but then I asked what does the white dress mean? Why so much emphasis on it? But these young girls are doing what they want- they are defining who they are by the colors and styles of their dresses. Back when I had mine the only option was the style of the shoulder straps and whether I wanted tool or silk to cover the “ball” part of the gown. I accepted the white. I accepted that it meant honesty and purity. I didn’t know, however, that it was in some way a controlling tradition of a young lady.

Yes for non-traditional. Yes for challenging the norm.


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