Vintage wedding dresses through the ages, with beautiful pictures from the team at the Zoe Lem Vintage Wedding Fair

For those of you who missed our exciting announcement yesterday, we’ll be lending our vintage expertise to the fabulous Zoe Lem Vintage Wedding Fair on Sunday the 14th of April. All the details are in this post, but we have an extra treat for you today from Zoe and her team.

Zoe (an expert on vintage bridal fashion) takes us through different looks from different eras in pictures, from the 1920s to the 1960s. This fabulous shoot really captures the essence of each decade, and I’ve added some of my own fun facts and tips about fashion through the various eras under her photos. All images in this post are copyright of Paul White Weddings.

1920s

The roaring twenties make for a fantastic wedding inspiration pool. Filled with fabulous and ornate headdresses, flapper dresses with low waistlines (most suited to straight up-and-down type figures) and feathers, the twenties can be a hard era to emulate, but when you get it right, it’s just so right! Another hallmark of 1920s wedding were beautiful Juliet cap veils, many of which have been restored by vintage shops.

1930s

By the 1930s, waistlines were brought back up, with an abrupt change of silhouette owing to a demand in fashion for a more “womanly” shape and a focus on athletic figures while accentuating the bust. Longer skirts were back in style, as were figure-hugging designs and backless gowns, giving wedding dresses a more romantic feel. Towards the end of the 1930s, puffy, organza dresses had begun to make their mark on fashion, but just as the world was recovering from the First World War, the forties brought a whole new age of austerity…

1940s

Wartime austerity had a huge impact on the 1940s. With materials less readily available, designers focused on clean and simple lines with modest embellishments. Towards the end of the 1940s, designers like Christian Dior had truly developed the hourglass figure, with evening and wedding gowns accentuating the feminine silhouette. Bolero-style jackets and shrugs were often used to tone down outfits (in terms of modesty) and to add a flattering touch of glamour. High necklines with small rhinestone, fur or Peter Pan collar embellishments were also very popular, and Peter Pan collars are making a huge comeback in wedding fashion right now.

1950s 

The fabulous Fifties ushered in a whole new era of freedom when it came to fashion, and changed the way Hollywood actresses and celebrities influenced bridal fashion. Hairstyles became more varied, from cropped pixie cuts, to the poodle cut, to longer, wavy styles. Clothing in general became more casual and colour started to appear across the fashion spectrum and soft pastel shades (which still influence bridal fashion today) were used in high fashion, eveningwear and sometimes bridalwear. Dior’s creation of “New Look” in the late 1940s heavily influenced the highly corseted and exaggerated silhouettes of the 1950s, with an emphasis on pinched waists and pointed chests. Strapless dresses were popular, and tea-length (or ballerina-length) hemlines, which spawned the creation of the long-sleeved bolero for church ceremonies and, of course, nylon petticoats we still love and wear today. As the lace industry began to thrive (and lace was again made popular by Hollywood starlets) Belgian and French lace were strong features of 1950s bridal fashion.

1960s

With the Kennedys in the Whitehouse, Jacqueline Kennedy became the nation’s (and subsequently the world’s) darling when it came to fashion. As women’s idols were opting for form-fitting dresses, the full silhouettes of the 1950s lost favour. Bridal designers started to be a bit braver when it came to modesty, and the cap sleeve was created as a compromise between strapless dresses and the formality expected in church. By the mid sixties, women (led by popular glamorous ladies of the time, such as Twiggy) were throwing out the rulebook and liberating themselves. Mini skirts crept into bridal fashion, pinched waistlines were ditched in favour of A-line gowns and, of course, hair became big, bouncy and beautiful, with the bouffant style still popping in and out of fashion today.

So there’s my take on vintage wedding fashion, illustrated beautifully by Zoe’s photoshoot. For a real chat with an expert, pop along to the fair on Sunday 14th at the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London and talk to Zoe one-on-one about your wedding look. 

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