The wedding dress is an important asset in a museum
collection for it provides a wealth of reliable information on when, why and by
whom it was worn; it also relates the prevalent fashion of its time and it is
usually supported by photographs. As it is worn on a special occasion it
reflects customs and habits within societies.
Wedding dresses of this period could be of any colour and were altered as gowns after. The white wedding dress, the veil and the wreath of orange blossoms became the norm in the 1840s, when Queen Victoria had wanted to demonstrate the collection of her precious white lace on her wedding day to Prince Albert of Saxony. The wedding's enormous publicity set the trend of the white gown which eventually became symbolic of purity.
The period between the end of the 19th c. to the beginning of World War I is known as “La Belle Époque”, with luxury and beauty prevailing in garments. The body is gradually freed from corsets, as the French couturier Paul Poiret (1879-1944) creates the new line. The wedding gown, made of expensive materials such as silk, satin, lace etc., cannot but follow the fashion trends. The bridal dresses in Greece cannot but follow the fashion trends, which in several places, even villages, go on to replace local costumes.
The 1930s is marked by aesthetic quality at its peak. Fashion is strongly influenced by the looks of the Hollywood stars. Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1979), one of the most important names of the French couture, introduced the bias cut and the long “mermaid” tail that became prevalent features in wedding dresses. At the same time, new materials such as rayon break through. In Greece, this particular period is known as the “golden era of haute couture”, yet to be dethroned by prêt-à-porter and boutiques.
World War II was the basic factor in the shaping of fashion during the 1940s. Wedding gowns, if worn at all, are usually borrowed and they are short, simple, with pronounced shoulders.
In 1947, upon the end of the war, Christian Dior launches the “New Look” in Paris, with a feminine, elegant and very expensive silhouette. The New Look contrasted the conservative fashion of the war years and set the basis for the fashion trends of the next decade.
Dior’s “New Look” sets the tone in clothes, whilst Grace Kelly’s wedding gown by Helen Rose – bodice, sweetheart neckline and full long skirt – sets the trend for the bridal gowns of the time.
The 1950s start the reconstruction of Greece. Among other things, haute couture houses appear with new designers having worked next to the great couturiers of Parisian fashion houses. In Greece, several brides receive their wedding dresses from relatives who had immigrated to the USA.
During the 1960s, young people were searching and adopting anything new without reservation. For the first time fashion includes clothes designed also by young people. This, alongside the space race, sexual liberation, music and the hippies brought the revolution in fashion. Magazines and the TV afforded fashion its greatest power ever. Within the same decade, the English designer’s Mary Quant miniskirt became a defining fashion.
Bridal gowns are aligned with various trends from the “Empire” and “A-line” in mini dresses and the “Space Age”.
In 1970s there was a wider variety of wedding fashions and several diverse looks emerged from the hippie style to the milkmaid look and the barefoot bride. The A-line “Princess” and the floor-length dresses in a variety of colour and fabrics make their appearance.
The fashion in Greece is marked by folklore, with designers incorporating features from local costumes.
The wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles influenced the style of wedding dresses for the decade to come. The exceptional creation of David Emanuel with the cathedral train, the veil and the diamond tiara were all reinstated as the focal point of the wedding.White was considered the conventional colour for a wedding dress. Brides, therefore, could choose anything from a long, romantic trained dress to a sophisticated suit in any fabric from silk to poor wool.
As the ornate wedding gowns of the '80s faded, a more minimalistic style gained momentum.
It became increasingly acceptable to display more flesh, resulting in a vogue for strapless gowns which remains one of the most significant trends in wedding dress design. Sexuality is now more overt; where once bridal attire represented virginity and purity, now more and more brides are favoring curve-hugging gowns - the mermaid is one of the hottest silhouettes.