The evolution of fashion is one of the most interesting topics throughout history, yet it is rarely revealed in textbooks. From the deep purple or colorless neutrals of the satin, the intricacy of the lace patterns or beaded designs, the overabundance of cotton or silk in everyday fashion, the bias cut or the corseted waist, the bonnet or the feather headdress, from the mink stole or the tweed overcoat, we can tell so much. We can tell whether there was a cotton boll weevil infestation that year, or whether tyrian purple sye from sea snails was still a luxurious commodity. We can tell whether the women’s suffrage movement and less-confining, common clothing had hit Paris yet. Whether the person who owned the garment was rich or poor, had been fitted for the dress in an atelier or had sewn it at home on a crank-driven Singer. There is so much history behind fashion, why not spend some time exploring it? And what a more fun (and appropriate for wedding season) way to do it than through bridal gowns?
Queen Victoria’s wedding paved the way for the modern white wedding dress. Prior to 1840, white had been reserved for those of the wealthier class. Fabric was expensive and pure white, with all of its staining and impracticability, just wasn’t seen as reusable. So, in a way, Queen Victoria also solidified the notion that a wedding dress is only worn once. With the Gilded Age, we also saw the exclusion of the bustle, as dresses, tightly fitted over the bodice, fell more naturally over the hips.
With 1900 and the beginning of the Edwardian era, came straighter lines, a flatter bust, and narrower hips.
The distinction between the Edwardian era and the Roaring Twenties essentially lied in much straighter lines, the bias technique (perfected by Madeleine Vionnet), and art deco adornment.
WWII brought fabric rationing and thus, most of the extravagant, highly-detailed designs of the late 1800s and early 1900s fell by the wayside. Simpler fabrics were used, with just hints of decorative lace or flowered bias fabric.
The ’50s, oh the ’50s. The end of the war and Dior’s ‘New Look’ brought tight, nipped bodices, full skirts, and the necessity for petticoats and crinolines.
Bohemian and the 1960’s/1970’s women’s rights movement let fashion in on flowing fabrics and silhouettes, the A-line shape, bell sleeves, and paisley scarves.
From there, came the ’80s and ’90s and the rise of haute couture and all that is big, flamboyant, and sparkly. And not really in the vintage category for me. Too soon, too soon.
*All images of vintage wedding gowns taken from The Frock.
**For vintage ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s wedding gowns that Anjou has for viewing/sale, check out my Etsy Shop
toujours. always. xo.