The evolution of the wedding dress – a dress like no other

Posted on: 8th February, 2016

Category: Image

Contributor: Louise O'Dwyer

Do you ever wonder what your grandchildren will say when they look at your wedding pictures years from now? One thing for sure, wedding trends can change significantly with every decade and, of course, so does the centrepiece – the ‘wedding dress’! I believe that ‘style’ will always beat ‘fashion’ and this is so glaringly obvious when you have a look at wedding dresses down through the years.

I always thought that pictures of weddings from the late 1800s looked so very sad but thankfully we have come a long way when it comes to ‘smiling for the camera’, as most of those poor young couples looked like they were either facing a firing squad or heading to a funeral! When it comes to the type of dresses that they wore, I have to say a big ‘wow’ – a simple tight bodice with long sleeves and an elegant free-flowing skirt. These Victorian dresses are coming back into style today but with a more modern twist – less fuss seems to be the way to go.

The 1920s will always symbolise a decade of fashion when women chose to dress more comfortably, frequent jazz clubs and be seen out and about having a ‘full social life’. It makes sense that wedding dresses of that time mimicked the culture change, the bodice of the dress was no longer tight but more free-flowing, skimming the body from the neck down with some brides of the time wearing an ornate ‘flapper’ head-dress instead of a veil – the look was more feminine and less restricted than the previous decades. I must say that I could look at these dresses forever, there was something really special going on with ‘style’ way back then. Unfortunately the 1930s and ’40s were ‘stretched thin’ as a result of the war and ‘The Great Depression’ and the amount of available material for dressmaking was quite limited, so dresses became shorter, more fitted and a lot more casual. Although some wedding dresses resembled a good ‘day dress’, the photographs of weddings of that time were still however very beautiful, even if a tad serious.

It was really the 1950s where we regularly saw a wedding hat instead of a veil or sometimes an elaborate headpiece. Short curly hair was ‘huge’, everybody wanted to look like Jackie-O – but could you blame them – her wedding dress and ‘look’ could appear at a wedding tomorrow and still be every bit as stylish. This was the time when the sleeveless Princess-Line skirt came to the forefront – and stayed ‘forever’ for some.

The wedding photos of the 1960s screamed ‘fun’. Women’s fashion sense was leaping forward and very short wedding dresses were becoming more and more acceptable – it seemed to be all about the legs – and ‘hey, why not?’ – ‘especially if you had good ones!’ Wedding hair was huge, so big sometimes there wasn’t room for a veil or a headpiece and the photos always looked so ‘full of love and life’, as everyone was becoming less conscious and more comfortable in front of the camera. A lot of wedding dresses were worn time and time again – practical – I love it!

Skipping on to the 80s – but ‘oh God help us’ – what can I say? It was all about volume and shoulder-pads and more volume and more shoulder-pads and big hair and miles of dress material that brides got ‘one hell of a workout’ carrying around for the day. Puffy sleeves and did I say long veils that could have suffocated small animals and any small children trapped beneath it…never to be seen again! I’m just wondering if any bridesmaid dresses from the 80s ever got an ‘airing’ again or were they stuffed to the back of a wardrobe in mortification? The colours were bright and bold and most definitely ‘not flattering’ – or am I being too harsh here?

It was in the 1990s that the wedding dress became a ‘little sexier’. Gone were the long sleeves with the sweetheart strapless bodice winning almost every time. Long fitted wedding dresses made an appearance; I wore one at the tail end of the 90s, and because it was December and snowing in New York, the top of the bust was trimmed with fur and the temperatures dictated that I wore a fur cape too – not real of course! This era was the start of ‘glamour weddings yet’ again and the 2000s brought it into full swing. Creativity and personality became the centrepiece of every wedding with dresses ranging from elegantly formal for a church wedding to simple and sweet for nuptials on the beach, strapless, long-sleeved, capped sleeves, halter-neck, lace top – whatever your heart desired, you could get it and wear it and look amazing. Brides are no longer ‘going with the flow’, they are making their ‘big day’ an extension of themselves; the wedding dress is carefully mulled over for many an hour and no stone is left unturned to find the ‘one’. The wedding pictures are action-packed and full of life and love…but who knows what someone writing this same piece in 100 years will think…what will they say about the wedding dresses that walk down the aisle in this decade? I have a sneaky feeling that they will love them…

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