Timeline of Wedding Dress in The 20th Century
Wedding dress fashion through the twentieth century has evolved immensely and left legacies of style and history. Length, fits, accessories, and fabric have changed over the decades but looking beautiful on one’s wedding day has remained constant. Look back at the history of the wedding gown and see how it transformed through time.
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1907: White Wedding Dresses
The wedding dress was meant to be the depiction of religion, culture, nobility, and social status of the family she belonged to. The color white was considered as a symbol of purity, and because of that, a great number of brides opted to wear white wedding gowns. Elite class brides were often seen in gowns made up of exclusive fabrics like silk, satin, fur, lace and velvet in bold colors. On the contrary, brides of poor families would wear their finest church dress.
As per the traditions, wedding dresses came with S-shaped corset, frilled bodice and gigot puffy sleeves. While white was the priority for most of the brides, other colors like pale pink, beige, ivory, mauve, and azure were common too. Also, veiled hats, long trains, high collars, high waists, and long gloves were in vogue.
There were often small, but unmistakable differences in bridal dresses, wedding bouquet styles, and veils/hats/head dresses throughout the immigrant population. As they brought and carried forward their traditions, a new wedding style emerged.By 1910, popular ateliers like the Fontana sisters of Italy had bought revolutionary changes in the world of fashion. When they started exporting their fashion to US, famous Hollywood stars became their fan. It was only a few days before their gowns of silk and satin were the number one choice of elite class brides. Paul Poiret, Madeleine Cheruit, and Jeanne Paquin were among the grand couturiers of that time including the Fontana sisters.
Did you know that the bridal party wore short dresses in 1927?
Bridesmaids wore matching headbands. Matron of honor (maid of honor) distinguished herself by wearing a contrast color dress with the ornate bridal headband. The bridal hair bands or brow bands (drops) were in fashion. Female guests wore flapper style dropped waist skirts and dresses. They accessorized with pearls or floral corsage pinned to the front/side of their dresses.
Coco Chanel was one of the most popular fashion designers in the 20th century. Chanel introduced short wedding dresses with necklines (high, ruffled, and lace) and dropped waistlines. The wedding dresses were kept short on the front side and carried a Watteau style long train designed on the backside of the dresses/gowns. The length of the dress varied from above the knee to tea length.
The fabrics preferred by most of the brides were satin, chiffon, and silk georgette. Pearl detailing, embroidery, and ornate beading were common. The wedding dress was usually kept simple while the long train had pearl-trimmed edges. The colors of dresses were inspired from the shades of pale pink and cream.
The long train tradition comes from the Middle Ages. It’s a fancy detailing for formal dressing and a symbol of power. The longer the train, the superior is the status of bride in the society. Furthermore, it was much of a bride’s own preference, whether she wanted to add the unique and beautiful accent to her wedding dress or not, for it looked beautiful in portraits.
The short wedding dresses were revealing, easy to wear, and comfortable. The brides could walk around in ease with the crinoline. Since dancing had already became a part of wedding celebrations, short dresses made dancing much easier.
Wedding Dresses: 1937, 1947
In the depression-era of 1930s, rayon was used to make the wedding gowns instead of silk and satin; the rayon fabric was more affordable. Economic hardships were on peak upon ateliers. Many brides opted for the nicest dress/gown they already owned instead of purchasing one that is tailored for their wedding ceremonies and parties. Very few brides opted to get new dresses in the color white. The brides and grooms may dye their wedding attire to a new color and wear it for other private or special events. Usually a calf-length floral patterned dress was the trend.
In place of traditional veils, accessories like headpieces were introduced and worn by many brides. This sense of style was greatly influenced by Casablanca fashion. Skirt suits, solemn gowns, and opulent hats made their way into the couture.
Before and after the Second World War, the short wedding dress fashion came to an end. In late 1940s, full-skirted designs came back into fashion. Edward Molyneux and Christian Dior revived the hooped crinoline design in gowns. The style featured mid-calf length full skirts and brides would wear this style to look attractive and patriotic. This was expected to leave the soldiers in a more positive outlook towards what is to follow.
The bell-shaped crinolines became popular due to the fact that Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown was inspired by crinoline and provided a signature look.
1957, 1977: Time of White Gloves
This is the time when gloves became a must wear for the bride. The short gloves were used to be beautifully designed with fingerless style, using satin, and lace or tulle material. More attention was given to the bride’s footwear; this is why shorter hemlines became a standard. To complement shorter hems, the veils length was cut short as well.
During the 1950’s vogue, fashion designers came up with the idea of strapless gowns highlighting sweetheart necklines that coordinated with bolero jackets. Many brides used to utilize their strapless gowns as an evening dress after their wedding. Moreover, luxurious skirts took a dominant position in clothing line of wedding dress.
From Cannes to Hollywood, the film industry changed the trends of glamour. Hollywood brought the 1953’s Mermaid dress, very tight fitting and deliciously impractical. Mostly worn by actresses and celebrities, for special occasions in the fifties, the Mermaid shaped wedding dress came in a variety of sizes & styles, hugging the body through to hips, making for an instant hourglass shape.
Soon after flair, Victorian fashion influenced the look of wedding gowns. Many brides loved to get the Victorian PaperDoll look on their wedding. The skirts comprised of flouncy frills and lacy tiers. To get the complete fancy attire, crinoline petticoats full of tulle and ruffle layers were needed to be worn.
Contrary to previous epochs, the 1970’s trend did not cast a spell on the fashion lovers. From princess gowns of fantasy fairy tales to hippie frocks, wedding dresses never stood out. The old 30’s and 40’s rag was revived.
Flares, platforms, and hippie-chic prints made the wedding scene in the late 1970s. Cathedral trains, lace-edged frills, full-length veils, and oversized bouquets made a comeback during the ’80s. Princess Diana of Wales wore the most iconic wedding dress of the decade in 1981.
What followed next made the era and carried legendary films to this date such as the “Runaway Bride”. The wedding gowns were tailored to carry enormous puffed sleeves, cinched waist, and dramatic trains. The return of formality in weddings also brought back the traditional morning suit.
As the ornate wedding gowns of the ’80s faded, a more minimalistic style gained momentum: a slim sheath dress hit the wedding scene fueled one more time by the Hollywood movies and by the popularity of weddings in pop culture. The color white became popularized in Western custom when Queen Victoria wed in 1840. White, and shade variations, is still the most popular color chosen for wedding dresses; however, brides are now selecting their dresses based upon looking and feeling stunning on their big day.