Vintage Wedding Dresses

Written by    Last updated: March 10, 2015

It is without a doubt that vintage has been one of the most popular wedding trends for the last few years. Whilst fashion throughout the ages has always been used as inspiration for current day trends, it was the Duchess of Cambridge who wowed us with her Alexander McQueen gown in 2011, re-fueling our obsession for vintage wedding dresses.

Kate Middleton and Grace Kelly Wedding Dresses

Kate Middleton (Photo credit: The Telegraph) | Grace Kelly (Photo credit: Pinterest)

Although Kate Middleton’s bridal gown touched on Victorian style elements such as the bodice structure, the semi bustle and the 19th century inspired lace on the bodice, it was the similarity to Grace Kelly’s bridal gown from 1956 that got the most reference. Both gowns featured stunning lace bodices with long sleeves, a nipped in waist and full skirt.

Here we have a look at vintage wedding dresses from the 1920s – 1960s and how they have inspired current day bridal trends.

1920's Vintage Wedding Dress

Mary Pickford (Photo credit: BuzzFeed) | Flapper style vintage dress by Madeleine Vionnet (Photo credit: Pinterest) | Beaded wedding dresses by Justin Alexander | Lace bridal gown by Pronovias

1920s

The Roaring 20s was a period of economic growth and liberation and this was reflected in the fashions of the time – full of opulence and glamour! Flappers were the trend setters for the generation with their iconic bobbed hair, heavily made up faces and shortened skirts. Despite the scandal this new wave of liberated young women created, a toned down version of their style was emulated by respectable mature women and bridal wear.

The release of The Great Gatsby film in 2013 bought ‘Flapper fashion’ to the forefront and within months this trend was gracing the collections of all the most fashion forward bridal wear designers. This is still one of the strongest vintage bridal looks at the moment.

Key features

  • Short front, longer back
  • Dropped waist
  • Unshaped bodice
  • Lace and bead embelishment
  • Feather accessories
  • Styled with long cloche style veils and dramatic bouquets
1930's Vintage Wedding Dress

1920s bride (Photo credit: Pinterest) | Bridal gown by Justin Alexander

1930s

Things were very different in the thirties with the Great Depression consuming the majority of the decade. People turned to the escapism of movies and Hollywood and this in turn influenced the fashions of the era. Rayon was introduced during this period, as a more affordable alternative to silk and designs became more simplistic. Whilst Queen Victoria started the trend for white wedding dresses, it wasn’t really until now that the trend really took off and bridal gowns were specifically made for a bride.

For a bride that loves the 20s look, but wants something more subtle, 30s style gowns are the a great alternative. The elegance and simplicity of these bias cut gowns offers a less is more option. For accessories true to the era, add some bling to your gown in the way of a dress clip or sparkly broach.

Key Features

  • Simple and elegant
  • Rayon (artificial silk)
  • Defined waist
  • Emphasis of the figure
  • Bias cut
  • Full length dresses
Lou Lou Bridal

1940s bride and groom (Photo credit: Pinterest) | Vintage inspired bridal gown by LouLou Bridal | Original 1940s bridal gown (Photo credit: Pinterest)

 1940s

The bridal fashions of the 40s were divided. Although the Great Depression ended towards the end of the 1930s, it was replaced with World War 2 which introduced a clothes and fabric ration in the early 40s. With the ‘mend and make do’ attitude of the time, many brides borrowed wedding dresses or just wore their uniform when they got married. For this reason outfits were simple and the white wedding dress almost disappeared during the war.

However post war, when the rationing was lifted, Christian Dior introduced the ‘New Look’. Celebrating luxury fabric and femininity, he created a silhouette with a nipped in waist, full skirts and cute matching jackets.

1940s tea length dresses tend to be slightly less formal, so work particularly well if you are looking to have a low key wedding or a second dress for the evening. Order it in a different colour, in true war time bride style, and you have a dress you can wear again!

Key Features

  • Simplicity
  • Coloured jacket and dress/suit combinations
  • Nipped in waist
  • Full tea length skirt
  • Flower corsages pinned in jackets
  • Little hats with flowers and tulle
  • Modest bouquets
1950's Vintage Wedding Dress

Lace tea length bridal gown by Justin Alexander | Audrey Hepburn in the film Funny Face (Photo credit: BuzzFeed)

1950s

The trends of the late 40s trickled into the 50s and the ultra feminine, yet modest ballerina style dresses remained a strong trend. Stiff petticoats were used to create a fuller skirt and with the lace restriction finally lifted, lace became the fabric of choice.

Who doesn’t love 50s fashion?! Super cute and feminine with its full circle skirts and it’s tight fitting waist, this style suits almost everyone! It’s no wonder that this vintage look has been popular for so long. With the shorter skirt length, take advantage of treating yourself to a snazzy pair of shoes and dance the night away with ease.

Key Features

  • Circular skirts lifted with petticoats
  • Tea length/ballerina style dresses
  • Boleros worn over strapless dresses
  • Lots of lace!
  • Short veils
  • Gloves
1960's Vintage Wedding Dresses

Raquel Welch & Patrick Curtis’s wedding in 1967 (Photo credit: Pinterest) | Short wedding dress from David’s Bridal | 1960s brides (Photo credit: Pinterest) | Bridal gown by Pronovias

1960s

The 1960s saw a massive change in fashion. Whilst there was lots of variety in shapes and styles, it was the ‘Mod’ look that really stood at the forefront. Fashion moved away from the restricting and tight fitting cuts of the 50s  and was replaced by unfitted, simplistic clean lines and a boxier look.

This fresh and modern look hasn’t yet saturated the bridal wear market so is a great option for a modern day bride that wants to do vintage with a twist. Keep the look simple with a short veil or no veil at all and a flick of black liquid eyeliner!

Key Features

  • Shift dresses
  • Empire lines
  • Hems above the knee
  • Boat neck necklines
  • Boxy cuts

Check out our bridal wear directory to find your vintage inspired wedding dress!

This article was written by

Lucy Leaper
Lucy Leaper is our inspiration and bridalwear specialist! She has a degree in fashion design and 12 years experience in the fashion industry, including 3 and a half years as the manager of a bridal boutique. Lucy loves to hear every little detail about a bride's wedding plans and it is no surprise that the first thing she wants to know is what they're wearing!

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