By Stefania Sainato for Bridal Guide
Blast from the past — retro-inspired wedding dresses are everywhere right now! Whether your vibe is glam '30s starlet, sweet and demure '50s or '90s sleek and chic, we've gathered some throwback options to represent the past nine decades.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Robbins
Lavish Art Deco embellishments, tubular dress shapes, dropped waistlines, and shorter hemlines epitomized the Roaring Twenties. (Fun fact: The term "flapper" originated from college girls who wore untied galoshes at the time, which flapped as they walked.) More modest brides wore a transparent overdress with decorative edges. The use of white, the veil, and the bouquet became pivotal wedding elements during this era.
The 1930s "boudoir bride" wore a form-fitting, bias-cut gown with long sweeping lines that often ended in a fluted fishtail. Shoulder-hanging trains and butterfly sleeves were also in vogue. Due to economic hardship, many couples deferred their wedding; brides who weren't well-to-do wore their best church dress or chose a practical style that they could wear again after the event.
The 1940s wartime bride dressed down for her big day in a borrowed gown with a long, narrow skirt and sleeves from the previous decade. Silk was banned for use in clothing since it was needed to make parachutes. According to Vintage Weddings: One Hundred Years of Bridal Fashion and Style, bridal dress suppliers opposed manufacturing restrictions, arguing "long white gowns were vital to uphold morals." Once the war ended, gowns with V-shaped illusion necklines and squared-off shoulders became trendy.
Christian Dior's "New Look" heralded the return of the hourglass silhouette, and Hollywood legends Elizabeth Taylor
and Grace Kelly
inspired brides with their romantic bridal looks. Crinoline skirts embroidered with lace, sweetheart necklines and corseted waists were in-demand. More modern brides opted for a bateau neckline or they shortened their skirt to ballerina-length.
Experimentation was a defining characteristic of the '60s, with brides eschewing traditional styles for simple shifts or mini dresses (even Jackie Kennedy
wore one for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis in 1968). Structured "Space Age" styles evolved into a softer, more feminine silhouette known as the babydoll. Smock tops with puffy sleeves and Peter Pan collars also became popular later in the decade.
Boho-chic brides during the seventies donned free-flowing dresses and leg-of-mutton sleeves, which had full gathers and buttoned cuffs. Sleeveless wedding gowns also became more mainstream during this time. Cutting-edge brides and grooms wore matching ensembles (think Mick Jagger and his wife, Bianca
at their wedding in St. Tropez). Couples accessorized with platform shoes and chokers, and turbans and hats with veils came back in style, too.
The 1980s were all about glitz and glamour: over-the-top ruffles, rosettes, and extreme sleeves were all in high demand. Princess Diana's wedding
in 1981 set the tone for opulence, and long trains became a status symbol. Another member of the royal family, Sarah Ferguson
, also influenced bridal attire by wearing a Basque waistline (a dropped V-shaped, fitted waist) at her wedding in 1986. Due to the strength of the American dollar, couples had a surfeit of disposable income and weddings became commoditized.
After the excess of the '80s, '90s brides embraced minimalistic wedding-day styles. Carolyn Bessette's iconic slip dress
designed by Narciso Rodriguez for her marriage to John F. Kennedy was the epitome of pared-down simplicity. Vera Wang also made a splash with her striking gowns, and she was the first American bridal designer to influence European style as well. Strapless gowns, plunging necklines, and lower backs became more acceptable thanks to the fact that more ceremonies took place in wedding venues as opposed to churches, and even in destinations abroad.
Scroll through the slideshow below for options inspired by each decade: