Monthly Archives: July 2011

125 Years of Wedding Gowns

On Wed. June 22 we took a little jaunt over to Ilderton, Ontario, for a wedding gown fashion show, covering 125 years of nuptial couture.

The set-up was more intimate and relaxed than what I’m used to for fashion shows; but, this allowed the Ilderton Agricultural Society to position the catwalk such that the audience had the opportunity to see the fine detail of the dresses. Additionally, the evening’s entertainment was enhanced by the accompaniment of several musical numbers appropriate for the occasion, such as ‘Chapel of Love’.

1890, courtesy Fanshawe Pioneer Village

While the collection consisted mainly of dresses worn by Ilderton brides, some of the earliest dresses in the collection (1890-1910) also came from London: a few of which were on loan from Fanshawe Pioneer Village. These museum pieces didn’t grace the runway with their presence, but instead were lovingly displayed both at the entrance and beside the piano at the Ilderton Community Centre where the fashion show was held. These antiques were my particular favourites. The darker dress because of the obvious bustle in the back, and the more delicate white high collared wedding dress, which was likely for a summer bride.

The other gown that is pictured here echoes current trends toward accompanying jackets or bolero and the use of lace, emulating the styles from the beginning of the last century.




Here are the highlights from the show, starting with the very earliest gowns.

1905 - Blue gown with full length skirt, fitted waist. Lace accents adorned the cuffs, waist and bottom of skirt. Blue or green were originally the colours used for wedding gowns, it was only until Queen Victoria's daughters were married that white became so popular, so this dress was quite fitting to start the fashion show.

1917 - White gown, with 'Wedding points' and tassels. Lace work in the back included tiny buttons at the hips along the sides and in the front
























Looser fitting dresses, no corsets were required and no buttons or hooks. The dress simply slips over the head. The length of the skirt is shorter, showing the ankles. During this era there was a de-emphasis on the bust, hips and waist. Typical bouquet would have been peonies or roses.

1920 - The dress is also accented with lacework and beading with a ribbon tie in the back. Popular headresses of the time were the cloche hat. This dress had a cotton veil with black beaded headpiece.

1937 - Very unique dress. White flowing gown with overcoat of white netting with gold accent pattern of cobwebs. 1930s dresses were simple and more figure hugging.


















Most gowns had a military  silhouette – broad shoulders, small waist, tapered sleeves. Pompadour hairstyles. During wartime lace production was halted. Sweetheart necklines were popular as was beading at the waist. Headdresses were beaded or made with pearls. Veils were made of silk. When war was over there was an abundance of satin. Five dresses could be made from the same amount of satin normally used for parachutes.

1940 - Paneled skirt with netting and lace inserts, accented with a fitted bodice.

1940s - Long trained skirt, long sleeves, sweetheart neckline, fitted waist. Lace chapel length veil.



1949 – Satin, fitted long sleeved dress with a drop waist. Sleeves are also pointed. Further detailing includes rusched satin piping. Large bouquet is reminiscent of those carried in 1920's & 30s

1949 reverse - Ribbon tie in back with large bow and long tails plus 39 buttons down the back!






1953 - Satin skirt with long train, lace overcoat, long pointed collar and long pointed sleeves. Also includes Angora shawl. Headpiece is a skullcap made from satin and lace. The shawl was worn not during the ceremony but to and from the church.

Years of growth, and tv is popular and heavily influences fashion. Aspired measurements were 34-26-34. Lace become popular again as constraints lifted on rationing…french chantily lace specifically. High heels were popular, as were overcoats/bolero or collars. Some of these were the ‘peter pan’ or ‘gothic style’ inspired by Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, as well as long pointed collars. Short gloves were worn – called shorties. Hemlines shortened and ankles were revealed.

1956 – Satin under skirt, lots of tulle, crinoline, chantilly lace over coat, fitted lace bodice, long lace sleeves, strapless underdress, rhinestones at the front.

1957 – Boat neckline was popular. Fitted bodice, hips are emphasized by crinoline at the hips in the underskirt. Headpiece is a skull-cap or Juliette cap.


















Boat neckline and dresses came in heavier or stiffer fabrics. Long gloves were also popular. Later in the sixties the waistline moved up. The ‘Juliette skull cap’ was still worn, but pillbox hats and beehive hairstyles with hats perched on top became a big trend. Carnations and baby’s breath were very popular in bouquets. Some brides also carried a horseshoe for good luck as a tradition.

1962 - This dress has a very wide skirt, with brocade fabric in a daisy pattern. The dress has V neck at back, boat neckline in front and long sleeves. Matching crown-like headpiece and fingertip veil.

1967 – White floor length dress with empire waistline. Lace appliques on skirt in a rose pattern. Matching chiffon veil.

Late 1960s - 1970 - This dress has simple straight lines with a sheer overlay and empire waist. Embroidered appliques with daisy pattern and lattice-work design accent the dress with daisies on the bodice and on the long train. The bride also wore a matching headpiece with blusher veil.






















Sleeves become wider, more romantic with Camelot and Bishop sleeves.

More nylon, soft cotton fabrics and double-knit polyester were used. More ruffles were used at the hemline, called a dust ruffle.

1972 – Satin gown with train. Lace sleeves and bodice as well as a lace hood. Bead work at bust line. Margaret Trudeau also wore a hood when she married Pierre Trudeau.

1978 – Double knit polyester. Fitted with gentle soft folded vertical folds over the bodice and wide sleeves. Three layered tiered skirt with mock turtle neck. Head piece with veil. No lace!





















Pinafore style, lace at the cuffs and neckline and still some 70’s inspired styles with dust ruffles etc. Big was in… bigger sleeves, bigger shoulders and hair. Lots of ornamentation either lace or bead work. Other mid 1980’s wedding dresses included big headpieces with lots of tulle, as well as seed pearls and beading with large bow details.

1981 – dress has semi sheer sleeves, lace apliques in v shape at neck and along cuffs and dust ruffle.

1982 - Dust ruffle, lots of layers and lace. Hats were very popular. This one has added lace and tulle to mimic a veil at the back.

1980's version of a flapper dress. Lots of beading and embroidery. Lace and drop waist with raised skirt in front and long train. Shoes were also covered in lace. And it wouldn't have been an 80's dress without the shoulder pads!





























Big sleeves and lots of ornamentation went until 1996-1997. Long trains and lace were also still popular. Off the shoulder was a popular look for the neckline and waists were very fitted.

Towards the end of the 90’s dresses had less ornamentation, and had spaggetti straps or were strapless.


















Dresses had less ornamentation and strapless became very popular.

Pick-up skirts and full skirts were often seen along with long trains and corseted backs.

Instead of head pieces, tiaras were popular.



New dress provided by local bridal shop. This strapless dress featured lots of lace, crystals and bead work. The long train was also overlaid in lace, like the skirt and the look was finished off with a lace bolero jacket.


As an alternate to the tiara or veil, hair fascinators are the next trend with feathers, flowers, beading or netting as an option worn in the hair.

Other current trends not seen in this fashion show include the recent throwback to the boat-neck necklines of the 60s as well as the newer trend of shorter dresses, such as tea-length or just below the knee. Destination dresses have also become very popular, whether a shorter style as mentioned, or a more flowing style with a lighter material and minimal adornments.




Hair fascinators will continue to be popular, adding a touch of flare and fun to the bridal look.

Future trends…

With the royal wedding of Will and Kate we will likely to see much more of lace, lace overlays, lace sleeves, perhaps long sleeves or bolero, and lace on veils. Bubble skirts and pick-up skirts will also continue to be popular, as will the ruching at the ribcage and bust line.

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