Throughout the ages wedding dresses have been influenced by popular culture with designers,
celebrities, editors and glamorous fashion-forward individuals all operating at the centre of the whirl
Noble women displayed their wealth and designer instinct in Middle Age weddings by wearing
dresses made from rich, textured and heavily coloured materials that exuded luxury and opulence.
Forget white – which was not the symbol of purity back then that it is today – because blue was the
colour of choice. Many couples wore blue ribbons when they wed, an act that would eventually lead
to the ‘something blue’ tradition that brides still follow today.
Dress trains and the garter-toss tradition developed during the Renaissance period, and some trend setting brides made guests gasp by wearing elaborate pink gowns and other bold creations during this time.
One of the biggest trend setters by far when it comes to wedding dresses is Queen Victoria, who
wore a white bridal gown at her wedding to Prince Albert. The world went into a frenzy and every
major source of information declared the white wedding dress a hit, which has led to a trend that’s
lasted since. She was also the first bride to have her bridesmaids carry her long train.
Up until the 20’s, Victorian-style wedding dresses with high necklines and long sleeves ruled the
scene, but during this period women liberated themselves from long hemlines and shapeless sacks – suddenly skirts were shorter. Sometimes, even shoulders were shown.
During the 30’s wedding dresses oozed glamorous appeal with figure-flattering styles, feathers, pearls and other accessories all taking centre stage thanks to designers taking an interest in wedding dresses. It’s said that the term ‘bridal gown’ was coined during this era.
In the 1940’s gowns took on boxier, sharper shapes that were military inspired and very regal. Puffed up shoulder pads, frills and sleek, long veils and trains became hugely popular.
In the 50’s designers and brides started experimenting far more with fabric, and that’s when lace
started to take centre stage.
In the 60’s all the rules changed with many brides opting for gender-bending pant suits and groovy
mini dresses instead of traditional, feminine gowns. The wedding dress evolved hugely over the next few years, with Princess Diana-inspired poufy sleeved dresses taking centre stage in the 80’s and ultra glamorous Vera Wang gowns taking the world by storm in the 90’s.
Wedding dresses today are so varied and versatile that they no longer simply fall into the traditional ‘wedding dress’ mould we had years ago. Today the sky is the limit – colour pallets have
changed, dress styles can be anything from bohemian chic to wild glamour girl – with any accessories you can think of. Today more than ever, women celebrate their individuality.
Shireen Louw is an award winning wedding photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She has travelled the world to photograph weddings. Check out herfor more information.