How did the average couple dress for weddings?

Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by The Good, Sep 28, 2012.

  1. The Good

    The Good Call Me a Cab

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    This is a history question. From around the 1920s to the 1950s in America and Europe, how did the average couple tend to dress for their weddings? Were they wearing dinner jackets and white wedding dresses as it is common now, or did they just wear their nicest suits and dresses that they could have worn with more regularity? Also, how did each decade tend to differ?
     
  2. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    I have only seen a wedding photograph for one set of my grandparents. They wore their own Sunday best when they got married right after the war ended in 45. I gather this was common among the non-rich of the day. People nowadays seem to have much more disposable income, and be much more ready to blow it on inconsequentials.
     
  3. Big Bertie

    Big Bertie Familiar Face

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    I would agree with Edward, speaking of the UK. Most working and middle-class grooms would wear their best formal suit; brides would often but not always wear a white wedding dress. Men of the upper classes (a very small fraction of the population) would almost invariably wear morning dress for weddings (still do). Dinner jackets would not be worn to weddings and even now could be thought rather unusual. I believe they are worn to weddings on the continent nowadays but I cannot speak for the period you mention. From 1939 until the early 1950s clothing was rationed in the UK.

    I should add - but perhaps it goes without saying - if serving in the forces, then it is usual to wear uniform, and in the 1940s this would have applied for many weddings.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2012
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  4. kiwilrdg

    kiwilrdg A-List Customer

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    I know there was lots of variation in the US due to the economic and political conditions as well as individual variations due to the family's country of origin. I have seen pictures of my relatives in white dresses and the men in suits some of which appear to be tweed but in the ones during the 1940s the women wore regular dresses and the whole thing appeared to be done just using what they had on hand due to wartime shortages.

    In my wife's family the women usually wore Slovanian dresses that were passed down in the family. My wife has one in silk with bobbin lace panels. It is very thin and was worn over another dress. Many of the descriptions and stories I have heard about weddings seem to involve cultural differences between the families.
     
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  5. I Adore Film Noir

    I Adore Film Noir A-List Customer

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    I know my paternal grandmother wore a gold and blue brocade dress in the early 1900's (I'm guessing 1910-1915) because I have a piece of her wedding dress. I assume her bridegroom wore a regular suit.

    My maternal grandparents wore their Sunday best when they were married, also in the early 1900's.
     
  6. Bluebird Marsha

    Bluebird Marsha A-List Customer

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    My great uncle and aunt married in 48. Somewhere I have a picture, but their wedding notice was posted in his hometown with a description. She wore a grey silk suit, and a matching hat with a half veil. I'm pretty sure he would have worn his Air Force uniform. The simplicity of everything was probably as much a result of the location as anything.

    They were married at the American Embassy in Peru, where she worked, and he was stationed. If they had been at her family's home in California, it probably would have been a more elaborate affair.
     
  7. Dinerman

    Dinerman Super Moderator Bartender

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    My maternal grandparents. Early 1950s.
    [​IMG]

    Paternal grandparents. Early 1950s.
    [​IMG]

    1920s. One of those unlabeled shots that invariably shows up in old family albums where the names and relations of everyone involved are lost to history.
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. Yeps

    Yeps Call Me a Cab

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    My grandfathers both got married in uniform.

    (grandmothers in white)
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  9. lolly_loisides

    lolly_loisides One Too Many

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    My maternal grandparents were married in 1934. They were definitely working class (Nan was a cook & Pop was a fitter & turner), but my Great Grandfather was a successful small businessman & Mary was his only daughter, so she got the good dress & the nice wedding.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  10. Atomic Age

    Atomic Age Practically Family

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    My parents were married in 1951. My father a wore navy blue wool double breasted suit with a red silk tie with feathers printed on it. (I still own the suit and tie) My mom wore a cream white wedding dress that my grandmother and she made together.

    Doug
     
  11. Rathdown

    Rathdown Practically Family

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    My parents were married in 1946; my father, then a Captain in the Army Air Corps, wore his uniform and my Mother a white dress made from my father's parachute which was damaged by flack over Austria.
     
  12. scottyrocks

    scottyrocks I'll Lock Up

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    My parents were married in 1956, and both sets of grandparents in the late '20's/early '30's. All the families were working class, and all wore wedding dresses. My mom's was just below the knee, while both my grandmothers wore to-the-floor gowns.
     
  13. Isis

    Isis One of the Regulars

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    A Swedish point of view: My paternal grandparents who were firmly middle class got married in 1938. I have, for some reason, only seen pictures of my grandmother from the wedding and she wore white, with a veil and small crown. I assume my grandfather dressed to suit her.

    My maternal grandparents who were just stepping into the middle classes (farmer's son and workman's daughter) got married in 1942 and wore their sunday best. However, my grandmother only wore her wedding dress that day, and was saved. I have it now and it is still in pristine shape.
     
  14. Dawna

    Dawna New in Town

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    My grandparents were married in late 1946. I've seen their photos although I don't have them to hand now. As I recall, my grandfather was in uniform (he served in Halifax during the war) though I'm not positive it wasn't a regular suit. My grandmother was definitely wearing a long, white wedding gown. This was in Canada so clothing rationing wasn't in effect as it was in the UK.

    Someone mentioned earlier in this thread that people back then were less likely to spend disposable income on a one-time item like a wedding dress. I know that when my mum (a total hippie) got married in the eighties, she wore something like a 15-dollar dress from Zellers that her mother picked out for her as she couldn't be bothered. I guess it just goes to show, there always have and always will be people that just don't care about the dress! ;)
     
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  15. vintageTink

    vintageTink One Too Many

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    I have my paternal grandparents wedding photo from around 1953. Grandma wore a hat, veil, skirt and jacket, Grandpa wore a black double breasted suit and tie.
     
  16. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

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    My parents were married in 1948 - classic white dinner jacket and white dress:

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Mabel

    Mabel New in Town

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    It really varied according to the couple's social class, personal preferences, and even world events as to whether they wore official 'wedding clothes' or just their Sunday best. But there were a few trends in those decades I can point out to you. I am speaking of American trends here...European trends might have been a bit different.

    1920's brides often had flapper-influenced dresses that were shorter in front and longer in back. They also often wore cloche-style wedding veils. Of course, this was if the couple were doing the big traditional wedding. The twenties were all about nonconformity, so eloping, or getting married in unusual places---like atop a flagpole---was not uncommon, and couples engaging in these behaviors might purposely wear something to scandalize the older generation, like black velvet. Grooms, if they were very, very fashionable, might wear a pair of knickers, or if they were military their dress uniform. But otherwise, typical groom's clothing would be a 3-piece with a cutaway coat. Here's a classic 20's bride and groom, she with a short-fronted dress and cloche veil, and he in white tie with a cutaway coat:

    [​IMG]


    1930's brides were more likely to wear their Sunday best, because of monetary constraints. Or they might make a simple white dress, then later dye it another color to wear as a day dress, so it wouldn't sit in the closet unused. If the bride had money, she'd buy a dress in typical thirties style: white satin bias cut, for instance. For grooms: tuxedos first became popular for weddings during the 30's, but it was a somewhat fashion-forward choice. More traditional men still wore a 3-piece with a cutaway coat, if they could afford. Otherwise, their best suit. Below is a great example of a depression era wedding: her dress looks to be cotton or linen, very simple, probably homemade. It could be easily repurposed into an everyday dress and worn for years. The men are all wearing simple sack suits. This was a wedding done on a very small budget.

    [​IMG]


    In 1937, Wallis Simpson married the Duke of Windsor. Wallis was known for decades as one of the best dressed women in the world, and her unusual light-blue wedding dress was shown in newspapers all over the US. Her dress was admired by many women for its elegance and simplicity, and became widely copied.

    [​IMG]


    Forties brides had to deal with fabric rationing, so long, flowing wedding dresses went out of fashion for a few years. Many war brides just wore their best dress, or repurposed an older wedding dress from a relative. Many women also made or bought a wedding suit instead of a dress, because A) a tight fitting suit matched the clothing restrictions of the time, and B) they looked good next to a man's military uniform. Since all able-bodied men were in uniform during the war, most got married in it. Otherwise, a groom would wear a tuxedo or his best suit. Waistcoats went out of fashion because of fabric rationing during this time, and unless you were wealthy, cutaway coats were seen as wasteful and extravagant for working or middle class people. Here is a great example of a wartime wedding, groom in military uniform and bride in a wedding suit.

    [​IMG]

    When the fifties came around, fabric restrictions were lifting everywhere, and designers had begun designing again. Christian Dior created the New Look and women went nuts copying it, for wedding dresses and everyday wear. It was during this era that the wedding industry took off, and encouraged women to wear huge princessy dresses and have elaborate weddings. Men still wore tuxedos or their best suit. In this 50's wedding, all the females are wearing New Look styles. The two younger men have on double-breasted suits, and the older gent has on a single-breasted suit, all in a classic 1950's cut.

    [​IMG]

    I hope this helps. I have done a bit of research in 20th century fashions, including wedding attire, and I'd love to answer any other questions you've got. :)
     
  18. Two Types

    Two Types I'll Lock Up

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    Both sets of my grandparents got married in the late 1920s. In both cases they were in rather a hurry to get married: so I assume the brides just wore something that covered up the baby bump!
     
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  19. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    This is the only thread that I can find relating to wedding dresses that isn't in The Powder Room. For the benefit of new members, The Powder Room is for the ladies only, and my wife absolutely will not join this, or any other forum, she's not one for social media and I'm not one for rocking the matrimonial boat.

    Perhaps one of the ladies might like to cut and paste from here to one of the wedding dress threads, or just post a link to here.

    Tina, my wife, has been asked to make a dear friend's wedding dress. It's a second wedding but it's still going to be traditional. What I am going to do is put up the progress of the dress as she makes it, then when it's all done you will see a photo of the bride at the ceremony next February. (2020)

    The only image of the dress that my wife has seen is a photo, cut out of a magazine, and only the front at that. So, what Tina will have to do is to measure the lady, then drawing on inspiration from the photo, make a toile. (that's a French word pronounced twahl)
    The toile is a mock up of the dress but without the adornments, just the outline shape. Once made, the bride to be will come to our place for a fitting. Then she and Tina will discuss fine details, once they have been decided and the toile fits perfectly, Tina will start on the dress. She has a lot to do, I do hope that you enjoy the progress.

    A toile is usually made of a material that's easy to shape, Tina has chosen muslin. Muslin or Mousseline, is a cotton fabric of plain weave. It is made in a wide range of weights from delicate sheers to coarse sheeting. She has made a start on the bodice, the bodice is the section of the dress, that covers the body from the neck to the waist. Remember, this is just the toile, she will have to do it all again later.

    wedding dress 005.JPG wedding dress 006.JPG

    Now that has been done, photographed and texted or e-mailed to the bride, a few adjustments were made, the second photo is how the finished bodice will look.

    Tina has now started on full length skirt, she's pinned it to the bodice, lined up the pleat positions and temporary pinned the hemline. A photo of that work too has now been sent to the bride, whom I must say, is highly delighted. So tonight Tina will be adjusting the hem length to just above the shoes, there will be a flare to the skirt, the hemline and flare are to allow the bride to dance. Every bride likes to dance at their reception.
    wedding dress 007.JPG wedding dress 008.JPG
    I shall look forward to seeing Tina's progress and to keeping you up to date. It won't all be photos, and if you understand the technical terms in dress making, be patient when I describe them, others don't but it's still fascinating watching the dress slowly come together.
     
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  20. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

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    My missus was up until the small hours working on the dress. The sides of the bodice and round to the back have been completed, the left side is pleated the right left plain. This will give the bride a choice, it will be interesting to see which she chooses. The bodice now has shoulder straps, delicately pleated to blend in with the bodice.

    You can see with all the variations why making the toile is so necessary, it allows for experimentation, ideas and it forgives mistakes. The muslin material is also ideal to work with. Here's her progress so far.

    wedding dress 001.JPG wedding dress 002.JPG wedding dress 003.JPG wedding dress 004.JPG
     
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