The evolution of the 20th century wedding dress

March 31, 2015

When choosing a wedding dress, styles can vary so widely than you may feel a little overwhelmed by all the incredible options. While getting a second opinion from family and friends can be helpful, some brides like to draw inspiration from a bygone era. 

Whether it's the sleek designs of the flapper years, or the cinched waist of the 1950s, many modern wedding dress designs take their lead from heritage silhouettes. Whatever style you've been searching for, make sure you come and see us at Eternal Weddings.


The 1900s were typical for nipped-in waists – often accentuated with a corset – as well as frills spilling over onto the upper half of the bodice to further enhance the shape of the waist and a high neck. While Queen Victoria had begun the long-lasting trend of wearing a white dress years ago, coloured dresses were still an option for blushing brides at the turn of the century

Wedding style in the 1920s.Dapper wedding style in the 1920s has inspired modern designs .


As the age of the corset began to fade, modern, streamlined designs which skimmed over the contours of a woman's figure became de rigueur. Inspired by the gamine style of Coco Chanel, the 1920s saw couture influencing wedding gowns with beaded embellishment and dropped waists, a style reinvigourated by The Great Gatsby film adaptation in 2013. 


Brides who were to be wed in the Depression era often turned to less expensive fabrics for their gown. It wasn't unusual for some women to wear their Sunday best, or indeed to dye their wedding dress and reuse it. 

The war years 

Over the course of the war, sweethearts wanting to tie the knot didn't necessarily have the advance notice they needed to plan a big ceremony. Weddings were usually arranged in haste when soldiers came home for a few precious days, and those short of funds needed to think creatively to find substitutes for usual wedding touches. 


With Grace Kelly's marriage to Prince Albert of Monaco, all the world became enchanted by the allure of a formal white wedding. Elbow length gloves became chic, as did lace sleeve detailing and full skirts flaring out from the waist. After the stark practicality of the war years, it wasn't unusual to see hemlines raised slightly, to reveal the bridal shoes. 


With the arrival of the 1960s, women's fashion went through a metamorphosis once again, and wedding dresses changed to suit the bride of the decade. Sleeves were often capped or cropped, and flowers, synonymous with the 1960s worked their way into veils and hair accessories


Fast forward to the 1980s, and bridal attire saw a throwback to the elaborate, embellished bodices and necklines from earlier that century. Princess Diana, one of the most famous brides of the era, epitomised the vintage style with an overflowing taffeta skirt and puffed sleeves.

The 1990s in contrast saw style toned down from the previous decade, as well as a flurry of wedding-themed movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Father of the Bride. Shoulder and necklines were simplified but skirts remained flowing and full. 


The new millennium has seen the popularity of the strapless dress explode onto the wedding scene. Themed weddings aren't uncommon, as well as the play on tradition and modernism, where brides don sneakers and cowboy boots under their skirts, or opt for a fluttering sun dress at a beach wedding. Recently, one manufacturing company has even managed to produce a 3D printed wedding dress for an exhibition!

The sculpted waist principles of old are once again in the spotlight, with flared skirts and body conscious tailoring which accentuate a bride's curves, such as the mermaid style. Whatever style you lean towards, wedding dresses today draw inspiration from the past – tweaking designs for the bride of 2015 so that you can find a dress which works to celebrate your shape.