The History of the Wedding Dress in Western Civilizations

The History of the Wedding Dress in Western Civilizations

Posted by Three Wishes on 2018-06-05 11:34:16

The wedding dress is symbolic of one of the most special days in anybody’s life in Western countries. Although that hasn’t changed, the wedding dress itself has gone through many incarnations.

Here’s a look at how the ever-present wedding dress has changed, or not, over the years.



In the early 1900s, white or pastel wedding dresses harked back to the 1800s when they used to suggest the wealth and social status of the bride. There was little suggestion of skin, however. Collars and sleeves ensured that flesh was covered. Make-up was minimal.

By the 20s, things had got more relaxed. The wedding dress evolved to allow women to enjoy dancing, music, and general levity.

While women fought for the right to vote, hemlines rose. And at the other end of the wedding dress, scooped necklines became more popular.

Women often wore jeweled headpieces to feminize non-conformist “gamine” looks, and they tended to wear more make-up to bring out their natural contours.

If you had an hourglass figure in 1940, you were now more likely to show it on your wedding day. Lack of materials during wartime, however, meant that you might have accessorized your fitted dress with items made from curtains, upholstery, and paper.

The wedding dress was not immune to the pull of the 60’s mini skirt and mini-dresses. The 60s were about many things, including fashion exploration and freedom.

Themes took center stage in the 70s. More and more women explored and indulged during their wedding planning, with aesthetics ranging from the traditional to the modern. Grooms got in on the act too, coordinating with colored tuxedos.

In wedding terms, the 80s could be described as the years of the fairytale princess. Weddings were recorded for the first time, so making a good impression became even more important.

Minimalism became increasingly popular, with a focus on clean, simple lines, destination weddings, and less formal or religious affairs. Even today, fewer than a quarter of couples choose to be married in a church or religious building.

By the turn of the millennium, the wedding was more personal and more personalized than ever. Increasingly, wedding dresses reflected the personality and tastes of the bride.

Sweetheart cut strapless gowns were the most common style, in satin, sateen, and taffeta. And the veil was almost completely replaced by the tiara, clips, and fascinators.

A Few Tips for Your Modern Day Wedding

Natural make-up continues to be a hit, with highlights of smoky eyes or bold lips.

Jewelry is a yes, with most women wearing something simple and matching.

About half of couples hire a musician or band. And four out of ten couples hire a photo booth. So you can go either way with these choices without rocking the boat.

If you want to stand out, consider purple as a wedding color. Today, white or ivory dresses remain the most popular.

And if you’re struggling to book a wedding venue (or you aim to be in the minority who receive fewer than 20 guests!), try booking your venue for a Monday. Saturday and Friday are the most popular days to get married. 

Bridal lingerie is a yes, for every couple after the wedding or under the dress.