Wednesday, 13 November 2013

#44 fashion and design 20th century wedding dresses and Flowers

The 1960s The early sixties showed little change on the bridal front. Girls still wore circular skirts, sometimes supported by crinolines, tight sleeves and short veils. The only real change was that the veils became more bouffant, to match the back-combed hairstyles then in vogue. A popular alternative to the coronet was a large single rose, worn high on the forehead, to which the veil was gathered. In contrast, bouquets shrank, and tight little posies were prefered over the large, loose bouquets previously carried. Commentators professed to be surprised by the lack of embroidery or ornamentation on Princess Margaret's wedding dress (right) in 1960, but it was quintessentially of its era.        


The only difference was that hers lengthened into a train at the back, with a matching long veil. By the middle years of the decade, however, the influence of the "Swinging Sixties" designs of Mary Quant and co were beginning to alter even the bridal profile, and waistlines first dropped, as worn by Eileen Bessant to her wedding in 1965 to Steven Bessant (left) and then straight, shift-style dresses began to be seen, like that of Eileen's cousin Christine Holmes, who married Paul Heron the same year. Along with the narrower line, returned the train and the "cathedral" veil, so named because only brides married in cathedrals had previosly worn them! The shift soon proved too shapeless for wedding fashion, and it quickly evolved into the empire line, with the waist tight under the bust. Influenced by mainstream design, some girls abandoned veils in favour of floral bonnets, or floppy hats. This development continued into the next decade, when hoods attached to the dress, and Juliet caps worn with or without a veil, also became popular headgear.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The 1970s   Sleeves were the big feature of seventies dresses.After twenty years of tight sleeves cut to a point over the hand, Princess Anne led the way with her extravagant Tudor sleeved wedding gown, and the brides of this decade followed suit with sleeve styles culled from every era. The shape of the dress itself moved gradually from the narrow, high-waisted empire line of the late 1960s to the more flared princess line, with little or no train, and the waist gradually fell to its natural position by 1980. Pinafore styles were very popular, whether actually two layered, or just giving the effect with a contrasting sleeve and bib front.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

These two brides are both wearing gowns typical of the mid-seventies, made from the same Simplicity Pattern 6940. When Trudy Pope (left) married Stephen Hutchings in May 1976, she added a scooped neckline and bishop sleeves to the slightly high-waisted princess line gown. She carried white tulips. When Elizabeth Locking (right) married Edward Davies in December of the same year, she also made the dress up in satin, bought from Hart's of Wigan for £6.40, but chose the high neckline and the multi-caped sleeves. She carried bronze chrysanthemums in imitation of her grandmother Elsie Pennell fifty years before, and attached to her Juliet cap wore a hand crocheted veil made by Elsie                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The 1980s  If Princess Anne's wedding dress influenced the seventies bride, the Princess of Wales' extravagant skirt and huge sleeves proved the style icon of the 1980's. After the restrained outlines of the previous decade, every bride now wanted a fairytale crinoline and tiara. Waistlines had already returned to their natural position. When Glynnis Davies (right) married Thomas Barnes in 1979, skirts had already begun to get fuller, but this was still flare, not gather. Glynnis's gown was of nylon ribbon lace, and had a wide spreading train. Her veil was attached to the back of her matching headband, and she carried yellow roses.After Diana's dress, everyone had full skirts gathered to the waist, and big sleeves to the elbow, with flounces and bows and lace embellishments. There was a surge in popularity for taffeta and silk. Her flowers also signalled a return of the big bouquet, with trailing greenery. However, it soon became clear that what looked wonderful on a 5'10" slender princess, did not always suit short miss average. So when Sarah Ferguson modified the look to suit her fuller figure, with a low waistline, pointed at front and back, and flare as well as gather in her satin skirts, other brides soon followed her, and set the style that was to prevail for the next few years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

The 1990s   Applied embroidery and beading, on a fairly stiffly sculpted satin corsetted bodice, with important sleeves, had become very much the norm. A variation was introduced with off the shoulder designs derived from mid or late victorian evening wear, such as that worn by Nicola Holmes (left) in 1990. As the decade progressed, a variety of skirt choices became available. The wide skirt stayed popular, but then a variant which had a very dropped waist, to below the hip, and then flared, was often seen.Gradually more fluid materials  began to appear alongside the stiffly appliqued fabrics, and narrower profiles returned, as worn by Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones when she married Daniel Chatto in 1994, wearing draped georgette under a ruched corset. As the nineties progressed, shift dresses were introduced in day wear fashions, often made by layering a fine fabric over a lining for an ethereal effect, and this trend soon appeared on the bridal scene too. This was the look epitomised by Sophie Rhys-Jones when she married Prince Edward in 1999, wearing a floating organza coat, edged with a deep pearl and glass beaded border, over a body-skimming silk crepe dress.                                                                                                                                                                    


                    We have now reached a new century, and no doubt the wedding gown will carry on changing in fabric and altering in form. But there is equally no doubt that it will remain with us. Since the civil wedding laws were relaxed in the 1990s, allowing marriages to be conducted almost anywhere, even those with no religious convictions can have a beautiful setting for a full-rig "do". As wedding fashion continues to evolve separately from the general vogue, people have felt freer to allow full rein for their imaginations, and some wedding parties are not so much in "best" dress as fancy dress, as themed and fantasy costumes are the order of the day. Which all goes to prove that everyone likes to dress up now and again, and every girl wants her day in the sun.


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