A History Of Wedding Fashion

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In the last 100 years, fashion has seen countless changes in Australia, with wedding attire no exception. Sophie Hull gets inspired by the enduring fashions and learns from the fads in this retrospective.


1907

A glimpse into such a different time, when it was unfashionable to fl ash a grin in photos, when heavy hats were the height of style, and puffed sleeves simply a must. Pictured is the marriage of George R Jeffrey and Lilian EE Stewart, in Tenterfi eld, Qld, in 1907. The photo was taken at the back of the Royal Hotel where the reception was held. The bride wore a white crêpe de Chine over a satin swathed bodice, with open yoke of chiffon and silver braid, finished with drapings of lace and orange blossoms. Her embroidered veil was topped with an orange blossom wreath.


The “train bearer” (pageboy) is dressed in the suit of a courtier of Louis XIV: white satin coat and knee breeches with a blue brocade vest, front and sleeves finished with white laces and gold buttons with white stockings, buckled shoes and a three-cornered hat of black velvet. I can’t imagine the bribery involved in order to keep this grand gear white throughout the day! After the reception, the adventurous newlyweds got the train to Brisbane before sailing to China and Japan for their honeymoon.


Update: Although full veils are no longer common, hair wreaths have definitely made a comeback. Think simple and fresh, rather than floral overload.

1922


Two decades later, you can see a massive shift in fashion. This 1920s bride, Rosamund Lumsdaine, wore a draped gown of cream georgette and a lace veil, held in place by a wreath of orange blossom. Her buntinglike jagged hem is certainly very fashionforward. The groom, Allan Spowers, looks dapper in pin stripe pants, a tailed coat and top hat. The look would not be complete without his elegant and dashing cane accessory. The bridal party was pictured at St. Mark’s Church, Darling Point, in 1922.


Update: There’s a small part of me that wants grooms to return to this immaculate style. Top hat anyone?


1928

Bridesmaids never knew what the lovely bride was going to make them wear. Given that this couple were society favourites, it’s likely these bridesmaids are wearing the height of 1920s Australian fashion. They were at the wedding of Mona Brady and Captain WR Broadhurst, chamberlain to His Excellency the Governor General (Lord Stonehaven) in 1928.


They wear frocks of pale-pink chiffon with plain bodices, double-tiered skirts and picture hats. They carried garlands of roses which trailed over their arms to the ground and no doubt were generally difficult to manage! 

Update: Sensible shoes. Those heels are low, perfect for a bridesmaid who invariably runs around assisting the bride throughout the day.

1930

This couple became a public spectacle, celebrity style. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Unusual public interest was aroused by the wedding ... A large crowd of sightseers gathered at the church long before the time appointed for the wedding, and a cordon of police was needed to clear a track for the bride on her way to and from the church.” The popular newlyweds were Betty Willsallen and WL Baillieu, photographed in the fine gardens of Retford Hall with their wedding party.

The bride wore an ivory satin gown with a long skirt forming an impressive train. Her gown was enveloped with a veil of cut tulle, which fell from a coronet of natural lily-of-the-valley. The bridesmaids wore lily-of-the-valley leaf green chiffon, made with long, tight-fitting sleeves ending in flared cuffs. For the reception, the bride wore a gown of bottle green lace and a velvet toque of the same shade, trimmed with camellias. The reception was decorated with bowls and baskets of rhododendrons, hippeastrums and lilac.

Update: We’ve seen many a dog involved in a wedding. We’re not sure about the wisdom of having it sit on your gown’s train, but otherwise go for it!


1933

We are sure that behind those flowers there’s a wedding party ... oh yes — there they are! The bride is wearing a gown of creamy white bridal satin, cut on princess lines, and the skirt ends in a train six yards long. No wonder the bride had two “train bearers” and four bridesmaids. The picture was taken at the wedding of Pauline McDonald and Richard Allen in spring, 1933, at St. Mark’s, Darling Point. The church was decorated in two shades of pink. Garlands of pale-pink stock and peach blossom were arranged on each pew, and tall pedestal baskets of flowers in the same tones adorned the altar.


Update: The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there was a host of spring weddings in the same week, including this one. Spring is still the most popular time for weddings, no doubt due to the promise of good weather and connotations of fresh new beginnings.


1943

The effects of clothes rationing (introduced in Australia in June, 1942) on wedding finery can be seen here in the choice of street dresses as special-occasion wear. Mrs Wood, seated, and her bridesmaid look fantastically elegant despite the measures, with white gloves, jaunty hats and beaded accents on their frocks. 

Update: We love the open-meshed veil trim on the bride’s hat. This subtle style of veil can be seen on modern-day headpieces and fascinators.

1955

We have a smile! Leone Farrington had a reason to be happy: she was the winner of the 1955 Sekers Bride of the Year Competition. According to Australian Bride, her prize was a wedding gown by Hardy Amies of London, made in the palest of pink Sekers rayon brocade, a model headdress by Vernier of Paris, and a set of travelling cases from Pullman Travel Goods of Sydney.


Now: As the bride, make time for individual photos of yourself early on in the celebrations. After all of your prep and carefully chosen gown, make the most of it!


1987

Look carefully. Behind that mass of pure silk ivory taffeta gown is none other than a young Naomi Watts. See, even celebrities have questionable photos in their past. Watts is modelling for Mode Bride in 1987, the era of royal brides. Princess Di and Sarah, Duchess of York, led the sartorial way, resulting in this 19th century-style wedding dress with elbow-length renaissance-style balloon sleeves, a boned bodice, and pointed waistline above a bell-shaped, bowbedecked looped overskirt revealing a petticoat trimmed with tiered flounces of cotton lace at the wide hem. It is paired with a dried-flower headdress and matching bouquet.


Now: Trends can be taken too far. There are many good arguments (such as sleeves larger than the bride) for going for a classic gown.


2001

As far as soapie weddings go it wasn’t quite the Neighbours wedding of Scott and Charlene (Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan), but we still can’t forget the Home & Away wedding of Leah Poulos (Ada Nicodemou) and Vinnie Patterson (Ryan Kwanten). Personalised Weddings designed Ada’s princess-style wedding gown in elegant duchess silk and a bodice bejewelled with Swarovski crystals. Ada walked down the aisle to marry her kilt-clad co-star in a Greek Orthodox ceremony. 

Now: Beading is now a common detail in modern wedding gowns. As beading is often painstakingly hand-sewn on, it is one of the custom features you’re likely to enjoy only on your wedding day.

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