So the question (and the champagne cork) has been popped, and you’re now down to the nitty gritty of getting your big day planned.
More important than your handsome Mr-to-be, hair ‘do or hen ‘do? The dress, of course! Damsel in a Dress duo Amanda Seobourne and Alison Mansell have designed gorgeous wedding dresses and bridesmaids’ dresses this season, inspired by classic gowns and contemporary styles.
And, if you’re currently looking for a gown to make your wedding party go ‘Wow’, you might be interested in the traditions that influenced wedding dresses over the years: after all, in a moment that defines your future, it’s only appropriate you should have something borrowed from the past!
Below is a quick rundown of the veils, trimming and trends that prevailed over the last two centuries. Warning: may contain frequent references to Royalty…
Before Queen Vic walked down the aisle in the mid-19th century, white wasn’t a colour particularly associated with weddings (so you can put aside the idea that it was traditional to represent the bride’s ‘purity’). The reigning monarch chose white, apparently, because she had a favourite piece of expensive lace she wanted to incorporate into her garb.
It’s also interesting that up until around the Victorian era, bridesmaids would often be dressed in a very similar fashion to the bride: it’s thought that this tradition dated back to Roman times, when witnesses were garbed in bridal gear (and ladies all in matching elaborate red veils) to outwit evil spirits who might want to place a curse on the happy couple.
An age of austerity meant less fabric to go around, and Coco Chanel took advantage of this in typically groundbreaking style. Her functional fashion house was famous for making comfortable, practical clothing and a knee-length wedding gown with a long train was elegant but easy-to-wear for flappers who fancied something different.
Influenced by the Royal bride and film star Grace Kelly, fitted gowns with lace overlays become favoured by fashionable brides-to-be. Long, silky and with an Edwardian bust were de rigueur, while trendy young things wore mini dresses with yellow-toned and floral detailing to say their vows. Even though free love reigned, bridal modesty was kept sacrosanct with high necks and long flared sleeves.
For a Royal example, see Queen Sofia of Spain’s lovely, lacy gown from 1962; she and King Juan Carlos celebrate their 50th wedding this year, and she’s still one of the chicest ladies in Europe.
Influenced by Princess Diana’s large gown, the 80s continued a trend started at the end of the 70s: big skirts, lots of guaze and puffed sleeves. As the decade progressed, strapless gowns become more popular; not only are they easier for dressmakers to fit, they allow brides to bare a bit of skin without sacrificing the voluminous skirt and train.
Katherine Middleton may not rule the country just yet, but she certainly rules the roost when it comes to wedding inspiration. Her sleek dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen hearkened back to a 1960s style: modest around the bust, fitted around the waist, a train but no big puffy skirt. The lace around the neck was pure Grace Kelly, and the dress itself pure, timeless class.
Take a look at Damsel in a Dress’s gorgeous line for more inspiration!