Prior to her wedding dresses were a variety of colours (black was a popular colour in Scandinavia) and were often dresses that were worn again. The 20th Century saw a vast change in wedding fashion, dresses became one off specially worn pieces that often reflected the fashions of the day. In this blog post we look at some of the defining decades of wedding fashion in the 20th Century.

1920s A typical 1920s wedding dress with Juliet cap.
Image via joelandsonfabrics.com

1920s - 1930s

The 1920s and 1930s saw two stems in wedding fashion. The 1920s saw a rise in daring wedding dresses that emulated the short 'flapper' everyday style of the decade. Dropped waists teamed with raised hemlines meant that baring ankles went from being a shocking taboo to an everyday wedding fashion. These shorter dresses were often teamed with the popular Juliet cap veil that replicated the cloche hat style that dominated fashions in the 1920s.

Alongside this rise in daring wedding fashion stemmed a more 'traditional' branch of wedding attire from those that deemed baring ankles inappropriate for church services. Satin dresses with long trains and veils became increasingly popular towards the end of the 1920s and throughout the 1930s.

The rise of the media and society weddings becoming big news also had an effect with spectators often lining the streets to see a bride in her wedding dress and photos appearing in newspapers across the world. The trend for extravagant show stopping dresses grew as a result. One dress that defines the rise of these show stopping wedding dresses of the 1930s was the one worn by Margaret Whigham (later Duchess of Argyll) for her wedding in 1933, it was designed by Norman Hartnell and took 30 seamstresses six weeks to make. Such was the publicity surrounding the dress that the traffic in Knightsbridge was blocked for three hours by the amount of spectators clamouring to see the bride and dress.

Mary Whigham Mary Whigham in her extravagant 1930s wedding dress.
Image via express.co.uk

1940s

Rationing and World War II had a huge effect on fashion and wedding attire during the 1940s. The 'Make Do & Mend' campaign by the government led to a flourish of creativity by the fashion conscious women effected by the rationing. When it came to weddings women often made their own dresses using fabric not subject to rationing or easily available fabric like parachute silk, re-worked old dresses, pooled coupons with other women and even wore dresses previously worn by others (one dress in the upcoming Fashion on the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum was worn by 15 different brides).

A typical war wedding - Master Sgt. George and Margaret Hire on their World War II wedding day. Image via donmooreswartales.files.wordpress.com A typical war wedding - Master Sgt. George and Margaret Hire on their World War II wedding day.
Image via donmooreswartales.files.wordpress.com

Simple dress designs and skirt and jacket outfits also became popular as weddings became low-key affairs, often hastily arranged when soldiers were on leave, servicewoman during this time often married in their uniform. This is not to say that there weren't examples of beautiful dresses produced during this decade.

Queen Elizabeth Queen Elizabeth on her wedding day in 1947.
Image via mydaily.co.uk

The dresses created by women effected by rationing showed some exemplary sewing and design skills whilst later in the decade the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip in 1947 and the 'new look' celebrating the hourglass figure created by Christian Dior in the same year brought back the fashion for lace and long sleeved dresses with full skirts and clinched in waists as the decade headed towards the 1950s.

1960s

The influence of Grace Kelly's stunning 1950s wedding dress on the wedding fashion scene was still being felt in the early 1960s, despite the wedding taking place in 1957. Clinched in waists with billowing skirts were worn by those brides seeking a 'traditional' and romantic element to their wedding yet as the decade progressed and the effects of Mary Quant's mini skirts and the dramatic 60s fashions were felt, wedding fashion began to change. Up until this point no decade had quite so varied wedding fashions as the 1960s did.

Yoko Ono wearing a 60s mini to her wedding with John Lennon in 1969. Image via vintageweddingfair.co.uk Yoko Ono wearing a 60s mini to her wedding with John Lennon in 1969.
Image via vintageweddingfair.co.uk

Britt Ekland wearing a babydoll style wedding dress to her wedding to Peter Sellers in 1969. Image via gq-magazine.co.uk Britt Ekland wearing a babydoll style wedding dress to her wedding to Peter Sellers in 1969.
Image via gq-magazine.co.uk

As the mid sixties approached more women desired a fashion dress in order to keep up with the high fashions of the time these included mod themed dresses, A-line shaped dresses, 'Babydoll' esque dresses based on the fashions worn by Twiggy that highlighted the bust as opposed to the waist and even the 'mini' became a wedding choice, most famously worn by Yoko Ono for her wedding to John Lennon in 1969.

1980s

Since the 1930s, famous weddings continue to cause hysteria across the world, Hollywood weddings and Royal weddings cause the most sensation with the wedding dress often being the main talking point. The images of the wedding of the 'People's Princess' Diana to Prince Charles in 1981 are some of the most famous wedding photos ever taken. There has been no other wedding dress that has had quite as much influence over wedding fashions than the show stopping big sleeved, big skirted silk dress designed by BLAH with a 26 foot train that Diana wore.

Diana Princess Diana on her wedding day in 1981.
Image via styleite.com

Mandy Smith Mandy Smith married Bill Wyman in the 1980s, carrying on the theme for extravagant wedding attire
Image via bridesmagazine.co.uk

The 1980s led to a decade of 'big' weddings and even bigger wedding dresses, gone were the simple flowing designs of the 1970s and instead everything became very 'exaggerated', brides wanted to emulate the Princess with extravagant dresses boasting large sleeves, trains, skirts and even large bouquets! Wedding fashion will always follow the influence of fashion trends of the time yet as the 20th Century has shown, traditional elements still stand strong amongst the changing trends of the time.

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