Wedding Dresses by Era
It's been both vibrant and bright white. It has seen us through wars, depressions, revivals, and revolutions. The wedding dress: steeped in style history, subject of marvel and mystery (why do brides wear white? And what's with the train?) Today, we marry wedding dress history and helpful style advice.
Using our guide, pick an era that fits your personality and your body type. Find out if you're an Art Deco darling or a 70s sweetheart with our tips. The answer may surprise you.
The Era of the 'S' Curve (Victorian Era - 1910s)
It wasn't until a certain royal rebel changed everything that brides started wearing white. Before, brides preferred vibrant hues, such as green and blues and even black. In 1840, Queen Victoria sent style shockwaves 'round the world when she wore a shoulder-bearing white frock and orange blossom wreath. Fitted jackets, high necks and floor-length skirts characterize Victorian fashion. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, brides used the help of corsets and petticoats to flaunt an "S" curve and achieve that Gibson girl aesthetic.
High fashion came to a screeching halt once World War 1 started and for awhile it was all uniform.
What to look for: A high cinched waist and wide floor-length skirt. A caplet, muff, or mini-top hat provide ways to accessorize Victorian style.
Who wears it best: Hourglass with slender shoulders and a narrow waist.
Style icon of the era: Queen Victoria of course! Not only did she change the world with her trend-setting gown, she also proposed to her husband, which was unheard of as Royalty didn't usually marry for love.
Art Deco Roars into Town: The 1920s
Shimmy your wedding away in Art Deco. The 1920s were all about drop waists and body hugging sheaths - brides shed their purist petticoats and opted for comfortable, streamlined attire. Ladies who dared to share showed a sexy strip of ankle or maybe even more. Cap sleeves, cabaret, and lace roared in the 1920s. A cap veil perfectly topped off this smooth sophisticated style.
What to look for: A classic and simple dropped-waist sheath wedding dress with lace and floral embellishments.
Who wears it best: The tall and thin (you know - the lucky ones)
Style icon of the era: Vilma Banky
Hello Glamour: The 1930s
Just because it was a depression doesn't mean that brides had to trade in style for a potato sack. Late in the decade, the sparkly Hollywood storm rolled in and brought in a new silhouette. Waistlines got higher. Halter necklines and the bias cut flaunted feminine curves. Hello glamour.
What to look for: A dress that delicately drapes over curves, simple details
Who wears it best: The bias cut flatters most body types by pushing the fabric diagonally over curves.
Style icon of the era: Mae West
You Can't Ration Style: The 1940s
You can take a girl's diamonds. You can take a girl's shoes. But you can never take her fashion sense. War rationing may have limited the wedding trousseau but it didn't put a stop to style. Women barrowed their friends dresses or wore whatever dinner dress waited in their closets. Some frocks were even made from parachute material! Wealthy women donned gowns with V-shaped waists, sweetheart necklines, and long mutton sleeves. The streamlined, sensible military look was all over the place. And the silver screen remained a source of inspiration for wedding style.
What to look for: An off-shoulder gown with vintage-inspired crystal embellishments.
Who wears it best: Small waists, hourglass or pear-shaped ladies.
Style icon of the era: Lana Turner
Totally Tailored to Perfection: The 1950s
Like every era, the 1950s gave a few inspirations for brides. There was Marilyn. And then there was Audrey. And then there was Jackie. Marilyn: a blonde bombshell who exuded sexy with every step. And Audrey was almost the opposite - gorgeous in a gamine way. Jackie stood for grace and class in her ivory silk taffeta gown.
Whatever camp you're in, a well-fitted tailored dress is a must. A tea-length skirt says Audrey 1950s, while a halter neckline is more Marilyn. Dress it up with gloves and pearls!
What to look for: Think tea-length, taffeta and a-line.
Who wears it best: A-line is universally flattering on all body types. If you're curvaceous or hourglass, pick a figure hugging gown, but if you're more straight lined take a page from Audrey (start by watching Funny Face).
Style icon of the era: Take your pick. The 50s were a wedding fashion favorite. Marilyn, Grace, Jackie, and Audrey.
Wedding Wear Gets Wild: The Sexy 60s
In like a lamb and out like a lion best sums up the sexy 60s. Early 60's wedding gowns had a similar tea-length and taffeta as seen in the 50s. But in the late 60s, wedding wear went wild. Empire waists. Ball gowns. Bubble skirt sheaths. Even mini-skirt wedding dresses and wedding suits. Brides started expressing their personalities with their wedding wear. Trend-setting brides began to pilfer the leggy mod look from across the pond.
What to look for: A straight sheath with a shorter skirt.
Who wears it best: Empire waists complement most body types, but make sure the material below the waistline doesn't billow into an accidental baby bump. If you have a straight, boyish figure with small shoulders definitely consider a 60s mini-dress.
Style icon of the era: Twiggy
Nothing Sweeter than the 70s
Forget the flower girls. The 70s were all about the flower child. You've probably already seen (and maybe poked fun at) 70's wedding fashion. Bib collars, bohemian bell sleeves, high necks, and shawls. Mutton chops and mustaches on the men. Remember that 1940's V-waist? It's back. Shoes were out. Small ceremonies and weddings in the woods were in.
What to look for: A bib collar, sheer long or cap sleeves, and a high waist or wrap dress.
Who wears it best: Small busted, small waist or hourglass pulls off a 70s dress the best
Style icon of the era: Meryl Streep