Wedding Dress Fashion: Through the Ages

5 min read

“I chose my wife as she did her wedding gown, for qualities that would wear her well.”

– Oliver Goldsmith

Through the years, wedding dresses have made statements—and headlines—and have even been considered timeless. Think Princess Diana, Grace Kelly, Jacquie Kennedy, Kate Middleton, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor…

Today, wedding dresses have become such a staple piece to weddings, they even have their own TV show (Say Yes to the Dress)! This was not always the case. Roaring back to the 1920s, women would wear plain skirt suits or loose white frocks with dropped waists to marry their grooms. Through the 1930s to the 1960s, brides typically dressed in an unembellished, sleeved white dress (the skirt-length and sleeves got shorter as time went on). Pearls, beading, lace, chiffon? Nope. Everything was plain, plain, plain (with the rare exception).

Fast-forward to what I like to call “The Wedding Dress Era.” This is when women started to care about the aesthetics of the dress they’d wear on the most special day of their lives.

The 1970s – Era of the Puffy Sleeves  

old wedding style vintage wedding dresses


–       Short dresses
–       Silk and satin material
–       Pearls, beading and nylon were introduced (and I don’t mean stockings—nylon was actually used to make sheer necklines and trains)
–       High necklines
–       Puffy sleeves (along with puffy hair)
–       Minimal jewelry
–       Long veils

 The 1980s – Era of the Shoulder Pads

princess diana in her wedding dress 1980 wedding dress style


–       Box-shaped dresses
–       The birth of shoulder pads
–       Introduction of lace, sheer and chiffon
–       Romantic style dresses
–       Necklines were filled with lace
–       Details (beading, pearls, waistlines)
–       Formfitting bodices
–       Large dresses—think Diana

*These dresses should look familiar to present brides—many of their parents were married in this decade!

The 1990s – Era of the Designers

victoria beckham in her wedding dress wedding dress style with gloves


–       In this decade, designers began to make wedding dresses for the first time (Vera Wang, for example, was one of the first and most popular–check out the one she did for Victoria Beckham! )
–       Dresses were designed in Paris and New York, as opposed to your local boutique
–       Bridal magazines were developed
–       The death of shoulder pads
–       Introduction of the “pick-up” skirt (this soon would transition into bustling)
–       Long lace sleeves and a lot of lace accents
–       Off-the-shoulder dresses
–       Silk and form-fitting were combined (this developed into the mermaid-style dress)

The 2000s – Era of High Fashion

sarah jessica parker in a wedding dress jessica simpson in her wedding dress with nick lachey


princess kate in her wedding dress walking into her royal wedding

–       Lace, lace and more lace
–       Sweetheart necklines
–       Personality and fashion over traditional dresses
–       Wedding dresses in alternate colors—including black
–       Form fitting (this might be why gym memberships have increased over the last decade!)
–       Elegance (Roman-Era dresses)
–       Neutral silk and satin partnered with chiffon, feathers, lace, taffeta, etc.
–       Bling (for anyone that’s been living under a rock, that means shiny and sparkly stuff)
–       Brides are ditching the veils
–       Accessories

So as you can see, the wedding dress has come a long way. It is an essential piece to every bride’s big day and it will continue to evolve as the wedding-fashion focal point for decades to come—and if history is any indicator, some “outdated” styles will rise again! Personally, though, I really hope we don’t see shoulder pads ever again!



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