Something that has become increasingly apparent to me during this study is the effect societal change on fashion during the last century. Commencing around the same time as the electric light and ending with the dot-com boom, change was significant and rapid. Fashion frequently contradicted itself from decade to decade as new styles were created and new boundaries crossed. One minute waists are in, the next it was mini-skirts. The wedding dress naturally always signified the sentiments of each period.
Come the end of WWII, the Western world charged into the safety of the 1950’s era of the family. Men went back to work, women went back to the home and we had the baby boom as people settled into domestic bliss. The 1950’s were a period of affluence, of home appliances and perfectly manicured lawns. After the frugalness required during the war, this was the era that brought us materialism and the television. And lace! French and Belgium lace were immensely popular signifying wealth and luxury after manufacturing companies had paused during the war. Dior's 'New Look', which arrived in 1947 as a contrast to the practical clothing women had worn whilst working, typified the 50's feel of feminine curves and shapes. The triangle shaped torso, pointed breast (ever wondered where that unnatural shape came from?) and sweeping skirts were hallmark features of the bridal gown.
It was the dress below which started this study off for me when I found it in a local thrift shop. It mimics lace via polyester, which was the 1950's contribution to artificial fabrics. I don't know much about this dress but I suspect it is fashioned after Grace Kelly's 1956 wedding dress. Even into 1950's Australia, fabric was still relatively scarce and dresses were still frequently borrowed, so despite the economical choice of fabric it still tells me the original owner had a little more money than most. Thank you to Karen Willis Holmes for loaning me the beautiful headpiece.
A Little Bit of Trivia
The phrase ‘And something Blue’ is thought to originally stem from ancient times as blue was a symbol of faithfulness, purity and loyalty. If a bride had some blue on her wedding day it was believed her husband would be faithful to her.
By the end of the 1950’s change was in the air again. Britain and America had experienced a period of boom and with it had come materialism and indulgence. As the 1960’s rolled around people began to challenge the ideals of post-war conservatism. In America John F. Kennedy was elected to office in 1961 and in Britain it was the Mod movement that began to take place.
The 1960’s brought us Jackie Kennedy’s distinctive style. Although she was a bride of the 50’s complete with 50 yards of ivory taffeta, it was her sleeveless sheath with a bare neckline and opera length gloves worn at White House dinners, which caused a sensation. Prior to this sleeveless garments were considered too informal. She made famous the Pill Box hat, which became her signature head wear for many years.
Over in London the backlash to post-war conservatism and strict discipline appeared in what became known as the Mod movement. Evolving via the ‘fashion worshipping working class teen’, it produced Twiggy. With her classic mod eyes and slender frame, she was the antithesis of curvature. The simplicity of A-line gowns contrasted to the tightly girdled hourglass shape and extravagant trimmings of the 50’s. By 1965, even the mini-skirt had become popular enough to be considered acceptable for bridal wear.
Both the dresses below were loaned to me from Preloved Bridal. They were given to the owner, Glynis, by the husband of its original owner after she'd passed away. It had been made by a local woman who had individually stitched the pin tucked details around the bodice and sleeves by hand.
The 1970’s brought the end to the Vietnam War along with conscription, but only after years of ongoing protest within the US and Australia as society had started to question traditional values during the 60’s. It was during the 60’s and 70’s that women were experiencing the second wave of the feminist movement, increasing their ground since having achieved the right to vote in the first part of the century. No longer did people conform to a set of ideas handed down from above, but instead embraced the individual. Author Tom Wolf called the 1970s the Me Decade, here we are starting to see greater additions to diversity of culture and ideas that would shape the remainder of the century.
Bridal styling was also individualistic as bridal magazines started to gain popularity. Women had let go of the conservatism of the first half of the century and had begun to push the boundaries of what was suitable and fashionable for a wedding. Although ‘Vintage’ is popular now, it was during the 70’s that the concept of reinterpreting earlier styles first started to become popular. Western society also looked beyond its borders for fashion influences drawing from ethnic cultures. In the 70’s bridal wear could consist of anything from a medieval inspired dress to the white Yves Saint Laurent suit worn by Bianca Jagger in 1971. Over all though, the 70’s wedding dress was fond of lace, loose fitting fabrics or polyester. Designs were fluid, drape-able and sexy.
Dress and accessory providers
Hair and Make-up - Nicola Gangemi
Models - Lara Crompton, Emma Dorwood and Heloise Ruinard
Flowers - Emma Blak
Sylist - Ateca Roberte
Second Shooter - Jane Osborne
Assistant - Mike Wallace