100 Years of Saying Yes to the Dress!
Throughout the years, bridal attire has fluctuated between waves of modern and conservative trends, alongside the transitions between simplicity and extravagance that gave every decade its own unique set of styles and trends. The traditional white wedding dress has undergone endless adaptations and modifications since its debut as Queen Victoria’s wedding dress in 1840, with unique adornments and accessories ushering in new eras of style and fashion throughout the 1900s. A bride’s wedding dress is perhaps one of the most significant pieces of attire she will wear throughout the course of her life, and there is limitless inspiration to be found within the timeline of bridal attire from the last century.
Bridal dresses of the 1910s featured a combination of modesty and flair. High-collar necklines were a staple of many wedding dresses, highlighted by lace embellishments throughout the piece. Dresses in this decade were often knee- or floor-length in order to maintain a certain level of simplicity and modesty, while the focus on lace added an extra flair to the bride’s overall attire.
The roaring 20s ushered in a new, more modern era of bridal attire, marked by the increasing popularity of looser dresses in honor of the popular “flapper” dresses of this decade. The trend of lace and detailed fabric patterns continued into the 1920s and the addition of silk to many dresses emphasized the luxury and sophistication of the new era. Tying together the entire look was the common scoop neckline that gave the dress a distinct risqué touch.
A defining feature of 1930s bridal attire was that of a long train, a testament to the grace and elegance of the decade surrounding the economic troubles of the 30s. Silk, rayon and lace made appearances in many bridal dresses during this decade in particular, as brides sought to enjoy the glamour and mystique of their special day. This decade also incorporated the form-flattering silhouette style gown trend that was popular in many earlier decades, creating a mix of modern and historical.
The 40s marked a movement towards practicality and simplicity, with a heavy emphasis on the flair and style brought by the addition of sleeves. Detailed embroidery and lace were prominent features of 1940s dresses, though many at the time were still focused on achieving a more understated look. Minimal amounts of jewelry and other plain accessories added a bit of decoration to the outfit, but the main purpose of the dress was its ability to highlight the bride and her features.
Perhaps the most significant feature of 1950s wedding dresses was the tea-length skirt, allowing for versatility between a more casual garden wedding and a more formal indoor wedding. Tea-length dresses also highlighted the bride’s curves and overall form in an enduringly flattering way. Dresses from this decade were often fashioned out of silk or satin, with the option to pull the look together with ¾ length sleeves for those looking to embellish their look a bit more.
In contrast to earlier decades, wedding attire from the 60s tended to lean more towards the conservative side, with understated looks and simple dresses marking this decade. A common feature of 60s dresses was the inclusion of an A-line silhouette, which drew attention to the bride’s body shape and her best features. Dresses in this era were oftentimes scarcely accented with jewelry or bold embellishments, with the classic 60s dress serving the main purpose of displaying the bride’s preference for conservatism and modesty.
The 70s brought with it the trend of mutton sleeves, a style in which the dress featured longer-length sleeves that puffed out at the elbows rather than maintaining a form-fitting shape as in years past. Dresses of this time period also featured a high neckline, representing a subtle nod to the modesty of bridal attire in decades past. The underlying theme of many 70s dresses was “bohemian” and brides-to-be were on the hunt for the perfect Stevie-Nicks-type dress for their special day.
Big shoulders and even bigger bows and sashes were all the rage in the 1980s, combining the best of a simplicity and boldness into one dream dress. Lace and detailed decorations were a significant focus of this time, and many dresses born of this decade were inspired by Victorian and “old-timey” trends of centuries past. The daring, flashy adornments and thoughtful ornamentation of 1980s dresses gave brides the perfect way to set themselves apart and express their individuality.
Lace and low necklines continued to make a statement of elegance and poise at the dawn of the 90s, with lavish designs and embroidery tying the entire look together. The 1990s marked the return of longer, ankle- or floor-length skirts, while sleeves (both lace and solid fabric) made a prominent comeback. “Understated chic” was the style of choice for many brides of this era, with the fusion of glamour and class highlighting the transition into the new millennium.
The turn of the century brought wedding dresses that made the switch from a traditional veil to more decorative, personalized head complements, such as intricate flowers or tiaras that marked a more refined and extravagant style of accessorization. Throughout the 2000s, dresses have maintained a focus on minimalism and grace, with various combinations of stretch lace and fabrics meshing together to contour and emphasize the feminine figure. Celebrities like Kate Moss and Meghan Markle have opted for the sleek stylishness of a simple, yet graceful wedding dress.
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