As with any fashion of any kind, as the years pass, styles come and go, and what’s deemed traditional changes. Nowhere else has this been more apparent than in the bridal industry. Realistically, until Queen Victoria got married, it wasn’t even traditional to wear white on your wedding day and now it’s often unusual if you wear anything else.
Time changes, style changes, but with the rise of vintage fashion and era-inspired weddings, it’s pretty common to find modern day brides drawing on the past for their wedding dresses. From entire looks to accessories, to family heirlooms, to make-up and hair designs, there are plenty of ways to bring vintage bridal fashion into your wedding.
This being said, we’re dealing with almost 200 years of white dress traditions, so we’ve come a long way, with a lot of different options and styles coming and going through the years. Many brides want to relive those days in their wedding ceremonies.
Wedding reception venues in Edinburgh for example, are places where traditions and styles through the ages can really shine and give incredible inspiration! So, let’s see where you can make an impact and where you can really bring the past into your special wedding day.
When it comes to fashion history, and specifically bridal fashion history, the quickest way to see what was going on and when is through the silhouettes of the dresses. If we look back to the early 1900s, the majority of women's fashion and bridalwear was restricted, with a lot of corsetry and heavy skirts – not a vibe that a lot of women would want to go back to in a hurry.
Flash forward to the 1920s and we’ve got a much more freeing silhouette with sheath and columns that are completely flowing. The joie de vivre of the 20s meant that women wanted to have the freedom of movement to dance and party, which made the loose silhouette a winner. We adore the dress 20s dress in the images here!
Following the war, the 40s brought a more demure and classic look that reworked old dresses of the day as well as covering up a bit more. After all, this wasn’t necessarily a time for extravagant parties like in the 20s. Moving to the 60s, the dresses got either tighter and shorter with the fun and flirty decade, or embrace the flower power, hippy vibes of the era with floaty, lace-covered gowns.
Now, the modern eras are more of a spectacle, with brides drawing upon different eras and bringing them together to create a one of a kind dress that really sings. It’s this freedom to choose that is crucial for modern brides, giving them the opportunity to dance the night away, glide effortlessly down the aisle, or pose the house down in wedding photos.
As with silhouettes, the lengths of wedding dresses have massively changed throughout the years. From longer trains to cathedral veils to ankle grazing column dresses and mini Vegas style dresses, the length of a gown says a lot about the formality of the wedding and what kind of bride you want to be.
Generally, throughout history the more party-centric and happy a decade has been, the shorter the wedding dresses have been. For example, the 1920s and the 1960s both saw a rise in hemlines and a drop in formality level. If you’re looking for more of a laid-back party vibe to your wedding, consider upping the hemline and dropping restrictive corset or boning elements.
Another key indicator of bridal fashion through the ages is the headwear. From the intricate lace caps that were popular during the turn of the century to longer cathedral veils in the more austere, dramatic times, to flower garlands and small netted fascinators, there have been plenty of options for modern brides to look towards when seeking inspiration for their own more modern upcoming nuptials.
If wedding headpieces and veils aren’t really your kind of thing, perhaps look to the wedding hairstyles of the 1940s and 1960s. Here, big hair with backcombing and bouffant styles made a statement all of their own – no headwear or extra accessories necessary!
If you want to look at the trends in wedding dresses throughout the years, you have to look at the level of embellishment that brides were wearing on their big day. If you look at the 1920s styles of wedding gowns, they were highly embellished with beadwork, sequins and lace details, mostly due to the style of the day being so upbeat and the dress itself having quite a low key silhouette.
As we journey further on in time, we see a shift towards more classic and clean looks. As more tailored looks came into play, the dresses spoke for themselves and didn’t need extra embellishment, or were jazzed up with a beaded belt or external accessories like jewellery. Today, we see a variety of takes – some that combine this high level of embellishment with tailored silhouettes, some that have a plainer, more classic look with a looser silhouette and everything in between.
Tips for your era-inspired dress
To finish off, let’s wrap up with some era-inspired wedding dress tips that you can carry with you into your next bridal consultation.
Make sure you factor in your makeup and hair vision when you’re trying on dresses. If you’ve got your heart set on having your hair down, don’t pick a dress with loads of intricate detailing on the back, no one is really going to see it.
Try to find at least one place to have a modern twist on your vintage look. Whether that’s with your wedding makeup, with your accessories, or with your shoes, find something that ties you to the present and stops the look reading as a costume. After all, no one wants a wedding that looks like a fancy dress party!
Go into your wedding dress appointment with some solid reference photos of what you want to look like on your big day. Not every consultant is going to be familiar with every vintage style, so it’s best to come prepared. Otherwise you might be in for a frustrating appointment.
A Celebration of Bridal Fashion Through the Decades
Today’s shoot from Jodi McDonald Photography is simply outstanding! With six bridal gowns and all the styling elements and accessories to match, it spans decades of wedding dress styles from the 1920s to the present-day. Each look captures the spirit and essence of the years it represents perfection.
This first wedding dress from MXM Couture embodies the 1920s and it does a fantastic job of capturing the glamour of this era. Think: Art Deco and The Great Gatsby when you glance back at this gown.
The style during this time was lavish and ornamental in reaction to the deprivation during WWI and daring women the world over to embrace the roaring twenties by showing more skin while wearing gowns with a relaxed and free-spirited “flapper” attitude. The beauty and magnetism of this wedding dress along with the bobbed hairstyle and smoky eyes reflect this decade flawlessly!
The 1940s brought an era of austerity as WWII was being fought and a more demure look crept into fashion. Women reworked their dresses from previous years and utility were key.
As ladies entered the workforce due to the absence of men they gave up unnecessary undergarments like girdles and opted for more comfortable fits. The gorgeous wedding dress above from the Judy Copley Couture captures this decade with its blouse-like top and uncomplicated but chic lines.
After a decade of role reversal women in the 1950s embraced a tailored, feminine look. Full skirts, small waists, and thoughtful details dominated this era of fashion. Jennifer Gifford’s spectacular wedding dress represents it well and I love the addition of the gold belt for a little added definition to the waistline.
The 1960s mod look is incorporated into this shoot with a great black and white colour blocked look pulled together by pairing a flirty short dress by Silver Sixpence with gloves. Trish of FT Makeup did a fabulous job recreating that defined and doll-like look on the eyes with mascara and eyeliner. It’s Twiggy to a T!
Another 1960s era look that has a major resurgence today is that of the peace-loving and free-spirited flower child. This bohemian styled gown from Judy Copley Couture paired with fishtail braids and a freshly picked flower crown does justice to the legendary Summer of Love.
And that brings us to modern times. While styles from decades past (minus the 1980s) are still being embraced, today’s brides are looking evermore to designers to create one-of-a-kind looks for their wedding day.
Brides want their personal beauty and style to shine through and the above gown from MXM Couture was created especially for this shoot to capture that sentiment!
Which decade do you love most?
I’d like to give a big Mahalo to Jodi for sharing this fabulous shoot. I’ve never had so much fun writing about history!
Credits: Photography: Jodi McDonald // Floral Design: A Sculpted Leaf // Cake: Sunny Girl Cakes // Hair: Coastal Style Mobil Hairdressing // Makeup: TF Makeup // Decor & Design: Love Bird Weddings // Venue: Spicers Clovelly Estate QLD, Australia // 1920s: MXM Couture // 1940s: Judy Copley Couture // 1950s: Jennifer Gifford // 1960s: Silver Sixpence // Bohemian: Judy Copley Couture // Present Day: MXM Couture.