In 1840, Queen Victoria got married wearing a white wedding gown. In those days, many women chose the color blue for their wedding dresses because it was a symbol of purity. White, on the other hand, symbolized wealth. Victoria chose white since it was the perfect color to highlight her extraordinary gown made in handmade lace. Even though there are other examples of women wearing white before her, Queen Victoria made the white wedding dress very popular.
The white color became the norm for wedding dresses in the West, and the styles will change through the years.
Royalty and those with a high social standing always dressed at the height of fashion, sparing no expense. Those who had limited means still treated a wedding as a special occasion and dressed as formally as their budgets allowed, picking the best dress on their wardrobes. By the turn of the century, the Industrial Revolution made it possible for more brides to buy a new dress for their wedding.
1910 – 1920 : Lace and loose dresses.
During the 1910s, brides began wearing looser dress styles. Dancing at weddings became popular during this time period, and corsets became less common. Dresses were not as lavish, though they often featured the lace, ruffles, and high collars of the Edwardian Era.
Bridal fashion was hugely influenced by the flapper style of dress in the 1920s. Many brides opted for a dress with high scoop neckline, straight and slim fit, and a low waist. Always with a romantic veil in lace.
1930 – 1940: A simpler style.
During the depression, wedding dress styles were more form-fitting, simple, and modest. The popularisation of man-made fibres meant that clothes were made out of fabrics like rayon (since it was cheaper than silk).
The 1940s took the idea of outfit repeating to the extreme. Wedding dresses were considered a luxury for most brides as the western world was struggling to deal with the effects of the war. Dresses were handmade and worn more than once, often by sisters and friends. The style remained fairly unchanged from the previous decade, apart from the popularisation of V-necklines.
(Read the article: “Vintage clothing: definition and history throughout the years.”)
1950: The voluminous skirt and tiny waist.
Ballgowns with huge skirts dominated bridal fashion in the ’50s, as well as strapless and sweetheart necklines. The dress of the American actress, Grace Kelly, worn during her wedding on April 1956, is cited as one of the most elegant and best-remembered bridal gowns of all time. The dress featured a high neckline, multiple petticoats, antique Brussels lace, and hundreds of tiny pearls.
1960: Bolder fashion.
The traditional wedding dress in the 60s was reinvented to reflect modern times. Hemlines receded past the knee and necklines became higher. Floral and metallic details on dresses became really popular and veils were often short. Brides even begin to wear colorful dresses.
1970: Fluidity and bohemian spirit.
A bohemian look was a big part of the wedding dress evolution in the 1970s. Common details included square necklines, loose or batwing sleeves, and ruffles skirt hems. Lace or chiffon maxi dresses were often worn. The finishing touch for any bride of those years was a wide-brim hat used as a veil.
1980: Extravagance and XL cut.
The excess of the 1980s found its way into wedding dresses, with princess style gowns featuring large puffed sleeves. Lace and tulle layers were popular, and dresses were often made of taffeta. The gown worn by Princess Diana was the perfect example: an Alexander McQueen ivory taffeta dress embroidered with sequins, frilled lace, and 10,000 pearls.
1990: Return to simplicity and minimalism.
Far from the extravagant dresses of the past decade, the 1990s took a simpler approach to bridal fashion. It was all about sleek, crisp, white dresses. This is the era where the formfitting dresses we know and love today began to blossom. Carolyn Bessette is widely acknowledged as setting this trend at her wedding to JFK Jr. wearing a simple silk sheath design by Narciso Rodriguez.
2000 – 2010: A large number of choices and beautiful silhouettes.
In the 2000s, many dress options were seen, but the A-line style gown was the desired look. Strapless gowns also increased in popularity.
The mermaid silhouette has proven to be one of the most popular choices in 2010. Asymmetrical designs and textured details are common features. Veils that draped over the face became trendy again once Kate Middleton stepped down the aisle to Prince William in a long and lacy veil.
Brides continue to personalize their wedding dresses, and although white remains the prevalent gown color, there are more variations. Trends have included colored accents on dresses, blush color wedding dresses, and solid-color or patterned styles.
Here is our selection of wedding dresses: