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How To: Spot a Bona Fide Vintage Wedding Dress


Each decade has a signature style that it’s most recognised for, and it mirrors the fashion that was popular at that time. We have a look at dresses from the 1920s to the 1970s, to give you some vintage inspiration for your wedding.

The 1920s

The Roaring Twenties were a decade of androgynous style, where women cut their hair short and rebelled against tight corsets and full skirts, in favour of baggy bodices and sleek, straight dresses. The most recognisable feature of this era is the dropped waist, and together with a loose-fitting bodice, it made women look flat-chested, hipless and quite boxy. Gowns were often sleeveless, necklines were a simple scoop or slight V, and hemlines crept up to the knee and then back down to mid-calf by the end of the decade. This shorter length was considered quite risqué, so many brides compromised by having an angular hem; short at the front and long at the back. 

Wedding dresses from the twenties were usually beige, cream or ivory – not white - and they frequently incorporated geometric designs that were typical of the Art Deco movement. Although women chose to wear more masculine-inspired clothing, they embellished their outfits with delicate lace, detailed beading and flapper dress fringing, which gave their gowns an ethereal quality. If you’re inspired by this decade, don’t forget finger waves, T-bar shoes, a cloche hat and wine red lips.

Trend: Simple style with an athletic, boyish look.
Defining features: Dropped waist, straight lines and rising hem.
Fabric: Silk, cotton, linen, wool (usually mixed with cotton or silk), chiffon, jersey, georgette – with geometric Art Deco patterns.
Embellishments: Furs, feathers, fringing and beading.

The 1930s

Hollywood had a huge influence on fashion in the thirties, and brides looked to movie stars for inspiration. Gone were the tomboy shapes of the twenties – the female form was once again celebrated. The poor bust (which had been strapped flat for the past 10 years!) was now emphasised, and dresses became more feminine and sensual.

Aside from poofy sleeves everything else was fitted, from the bodice to the skirt, making slinky, sheath-style silhouettes the most common bridal choice, as it showed off a woman’s curves. The waistline moved back up, while the hemline headed south. 

The Great Depression had a significant effect on the wedding industry, as lavish materials were too expensive for most people to buy. This is when rayon shot to fame, as it was a more affordable option. To emulate Old Hollywood opulence, wear faux fur, kitten heels, flamboyant veils or hats and of course, the visual cherry-on-top, bright crimson lips.

Trend: Modest Hollywood glamour and Parisian couture.
Defining features: Broad shoulders, cinched waist, bias cut skirt and often backless dress.
Fabric: Rayon, wool, velvet, cotton, satin, chiffon, crepe, silk - usually in floral or Art Deco prints.
Embellishments: Fabric or beaded flowers around the neckline and bows on the waist.