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DoriAnneVeils - Where Every Bride is the Star!


HISTORY OF THE BRIDAL GOWN

Wedding gowns have not always been elaborate, as many are today. In the eighteenth century, poor brides dressed in simple robes. This symbolized to her future husband that she brought nothing with her into the marriage and would therefore not burden him with any debt. It wasn't until the mid nineteenth century that the all-white wedding dress became fashionable. Up until then a bride simply wore her best dress, regardless of its color. In 1840, Queen Victoria's pure white wedding gown started the trend that many women follow today.

Throughout history, women have tried to make their wedding dress special, to suit the festive occasion, to make the beautiful bride more beautiful and the not so beautiful at least splendid to look at.

Royal princesses have always tried to be most princess-like on their wedding days. In medieval times, when royal marriages were of great political importance and used to seal alliances between two countries, it was also necessary for the young bride to look magnificent to uphold the prestige of her country, to impress the bridegroom's country with her own nation's apparent wealth and, if possible outdo anything they could have afforded.

Of course, not many brides were princesses and most could not afford such expense. But, in order to look special, a bride would usually try to copy the wedding dress of a woman of a higher social class than herself. A noblewoman would do her best with gems and fur trimmings. A well-to-do middle class woman would aspire to velvet or silk fabrics, and because she could not usually afford mink or sable, she would wear fox, or rabbit fur to impress her friends. The poor bride's wedding dress would be of linen, or fine wool, instead of the usual coarse homespun, and she would use as much fabric as she could. For an everyday girl, clothes would normally be as sparingly cut as was decent, so a wedding gown with flowing sleeves or a train was a big status symbol. In modern times with factory made materials, the symbol of the bride in her train has lost its original meaning, but become a tradition.

An ordinary girl, who could not afford very much in the way of decoration or trimming on her wedding dress, which would have to become her Sunday best frock immediately afterwards, and maybe serve for many years as part of her everyday wardrobe, still wanted the excitement of a special dress. She could have it by adhering to the rules and traditions of a wedding gown.

Many superstitions grew up around weddings, to bring about a girl's happiness in her new home and of course to guarantee her fertility. The color of the wedding gown was a popular source of luck.

White, or a variation of white, was of course always a favorite and symbolized a girl's virginity and innocence in the face of her imminent change of state. But it was not a practical shade for most purposes and it was not always the favorite choice. Blue, with its associations with the Virgin Mary, was another a strong symbol of purity, which also traditionally symbolized fidelity and eternal love. Brides who wore blue believed their husbands would always be true to them, so even if their wedding gown itself was not blue, they would be sure to wear something blue about their person. This is another tradition that has survived to this day.

Those forced by economics into wearing a wedding dress that would soon become regular daily wear, would adorn it for the day with temporary decorations. Up until the nineteenth century ribbons would be tied into bows, or "love knots" and loosely attached to the dress. These "bride laces" would be pulled off by the guests during the post ceremony festivities, and kept as wedding favors, or souvenirs. This custom gradually died out, being replaced by flowers instead.

The "traditional" wedding gown as we know it today first appeared in the late eighteenth century. With the introduction of machine made fabrics and cheap muslins imported from India, and styles inspired by the classical world, by 1800 the white wedding dress with a veil was definitely the one to wear. As usual with fashion, it began in London, spread to other cities and towns and eventually to country areas. In 1840 Queen Victoria chose white silk and Honiton lace for her own wedding gown, and made it the virtual rule.The Queen was the first royal bride to have bridesmaids to carry her train too, which also set a fashion.

In the nineteenth century, even a bride who wore white would expect to wear her dress again. For the season of her "bride visits" when she would do the rounds of family, friends and acquaintances as a newly married woman, she would wear her bridal gown, with the train and flowers removed. A higher class bride would then adapt the bodice of the outfit (which was often made separately) and retrim it for evening wear for another season. Queen Victoria herself removed the lace overskirt from her dress and frequently used it again - she wore it over a black silk gown for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations over 50 years later.

Until the 1920's wedding dresses were always in the style of the moment, if more elaborately decorated than usual, and more modest than the most daring fashion. In that decade however, there was a revolution in women's clothing, and hemlines for ordinary wear rose from the shoe to well above the knee. At first wedding gowns followed suit, and brides showed their ankles, but as skirts grew ever more abbreviated, it was felt by some to be unsuitable for a church service, and many brides preferred full-length wedding gowns. This choice of following the fashion of the season or reverting to a long dress with a train led in the twentieth century to the development of a separate style in bridal wear which echoed, but often diverged from mainstream fashion.

This was emphasized by the hiatus caused by the Second World War, when clothes were rationed, uniforms were ubiquitous, and frivolity was frowned upon. When fashion came back, everyone was keen to wear long gowns in luxurious fabrics on their wedding day, regardless of the ever increasing popularity of casual, easy wear clothing and trousers for women in daily life. As fashion has become more relaxed and sporty, so wedding styles have diverged more, so that although each decade's brides are easily distinguished by the styles then in vogue, it is not because of that style's resemblance to general fashion.



Wedding gown history  Dori Anne Veils
1920's Wedding Gown and Veil

The 1920's

When Lady Elizabeth Bowes- Lyon married HRH the Duke of York in 1923, the ceremony took place in Westminster Abbey, and the bridal gown was the traditional full length, with a court train behind. Current fashion was followed in the dropped waist and generally unshaped bodice, and in the way the headdress was worn low over the brow, clasping the veil to the bride's head in a way that echoed the cloche hat every woman was wearing then. The style was described in the contemporary press as "medieval", but was really very trendy, except for the length. Elsie Pennell married Charles Locking in Cleethorpes, Lincs, in 1925. Thinking herself at the ripe old age of 26, a bit old for virginal white wedding gown, she chose a wedding dress she could wear again to dances, of beige lace over old gold silk. The style was pure flapper, with shapeless bodice, dropped waist and short skirt. Her big extravagance (she made the dress herself) was the picture hat, of brown and cream velvet.

The 1930's

After the "Roaring Twenties" came the depression of the thirties, and the times were characterized by a change in fashion. Waistlines returned to their natural position, and became more defined. Hemlines dropped back below the knee, though they were never to reach the floor again for day wear. Instead of the boyish look, women emphasized their shape again. This was more pronounced as the decade wore on, with the introduction of bias cut wedding gowns that hugged the female figure.

The 1940's

The white wedding dress virtually disappeared during the war years. Clothes rationing was introduced in 1941, when fashion almost ceased to exist. A few made brave efforts with parachute silk, whilst others wore wedding gowns borrowed from relatives, but most brides wore uniform.



Wedding gown history  Dori Anne Veils
1950's Wedding Gown and Veil

The 1950's

Brocade and lace gradually superceded satin almost universally for wedding gowns. To counterbalance the bouffant skirts, veils, which had previously been usually square, worn folded diagonally with the point at the back and sides, now became circular and waist-length, usually attached to a coronet style headdress.



Wedding gown history  Dori Anne Veils
1960's Wedding Gown and Veil

The 1960's

The early sixties showed little change on the bridal front. Girls still wore circular skirts, sometimes supported by crinolines, tight sleeves and short veils. Commentators professed to be surprised by the lack of embroidery or ornamentation on Princess Margaret's wedding dress.

Wedding gown history  Dori Anne Veils
1970's Wedding Gown and Veil

The 1970's

Sleeves were the big feature of seventies wedding 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 wedding 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.



Wedding gown history Dori Anne Veils
1980's Wedding Gown and Wedding Hat with Veil

The 1980's

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. After Diana's wedding 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.

The 1990's

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. 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 to the wedding gown.

The New Century

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 gowns 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.

Need a gown in a hurry? Call Debra for a personal bridal gown | wedding dress appointment. Let Dori Anne Veils help you make your bridal vision a reality, and be sure to check out the great veils too!

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Dori Anne Veils
4270 Seven Hills Road
Castro Valley, California 94546
PHONE: (510) 690-0100
FAX: (510) 723-0307

E-mail us: info@DoriAnneVeils.com
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