Turn of the Century and Flapper Brides

Turn of the Century and Flapper Brides
This is the sixth in a series of articles about the evolution of bridal fashion. We will begin with early brides and go up through the modern age. Each article will feature a museum that currently has wedding gowns on display to visit. Keep coming back to learn more!

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At the dawn of a new century, fashion took on a whole new look. The fair faced "Gibson girl" was the new ideal and is reflected in bridal gowns of the period. Victorian excess spilled into the new decade as well. "Simplicity...is not a feature of wedding dresses this year," noted the Delineator in 1900. " No fabric is considered too rich...whether it be cloth of silver or white velvet worked with seed pearls."

Although corsets were still worn in the first decade of the 20th century, by the 1910s, fashion had softened a bit and waistlines loosened up. Violence soon erupted overseas, and its influence seriously altered fashion of the day. It became appropriate for women to wear functional clothes that were not purely ornamental.

Hemlines rose to let the ankles peek out, and shoes were suddenly on display. After years of high collars, necklines finally returned to normal in the 1910s.


The Flappers completely revolutionized fashion in the 1920s, and bridal gowns changed just as drastically as everything else. (Incidentally, the term "Flapper" is said to have come from the noise made by the unbuckled galoshes young girls wore in the 1920s.)

Women were enjoying more freedoms than ever before, including the hard earned right to vote. Flappers were "footloose and fancy free," and their wedding attire exemplified the new liberated spirit of the age.

Hemlines rose higher than ever before, sometimes even gracing the knee! Elaborate trains were replaced by floor length veils flowing from a brimless cloche hat.

As a general rule, the shorter the dress, the longer the veil! This look was popular only in the 1920s and has not been seen again since.

As waistlines dropped to the hip, the ideal look became "boyish" -- curves were totally obscured. Well endowed women often taped their breasts down to achieve this look. After decades of elaborate hair styles, fashion-conscious ladies chopped their hair into "bobs."

Fashion maven Coco Chanel introduced the handkerchief hemline in the 1920s, which also found its way into bridal gowns.

Sheer, delicate fabrics also characterized this era. Boned linings and complicated hook and eye closures disappeared in favor of simpler designs.

From the 1920s on, with few exceptions, white became the color of choice for all brides.


From April 1 through mid-June, wedding gowns are displayed at the Patterson House Museum at Ardenwood Farm in Fremont, California.

The museum’s collection includes a c.1895 wedding dress from a local family, 1904 and 1940 wedding dresses from the family that lived in Patterson House, and a 1920s Flapper style dress. The museum has newspaper articles and photos relating to the dresses in their collection

According to Museum Manager Randy Hees, some of the gowns are rapidly deteriorating, so they may no longer be displayed annually. If you are in the area this spring, be sure to check them out!

The next article in this series will focus on brides in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

You Should Also Read:
Patterson House Museum
Late Victorian Brides
Brides in the Civil War Era

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