Modern Brides

Modern Brides
This is the eighth 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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Social upheaval in the 1960s permeated our entire culture, and some wedding gowns also felt the effects of change. For most of the decade, formal wedding gowns remained standard. But toward the end of the decade, mini skirts found their way into the bridal repertoire, although they were not considered the norm.

Free-sprited young couples opted to wed in casual, "hippie" attire, often outdoors and barefoot. Anti-war, pro-peace couples wanted to personalize their own ceremony. They prized freedom of expression, often writing their own vows or incorporating unconventional music into the ceremony. While over 80% of 1960s brides still chose traditional wedding attire, there were some unusual fashions in that decade, including ultra miniskirts!

A more relaxed style prevailed throughout the 1970s as well. The newly liberated woman chose from a variety of fashions, expressing the kind of bride she wanted to be. Styles ran the gamut from traditional ruffles and lace to pant suits and short skirts. The empire waist returned in the 1970s, accompanied by billowy sleeves tapered at the wrist.

Fairy tales again dominated bridal fashion in the 1980s. Princess Diana's over the top taffeta gown, trimmed in thousands of sequins and pearls and sporting a 25 foot train, epitomized the excess of the 1980s. Big, white, frilly wedding gowns returned -- and more was definitely better. Jeweled veils, layers and layers of fabric, and long trains emulated the Royal wedding.

Simplicity ruled at the end of the century, with 1990s brides option for sleek, modern lines. In direct reaction to the 1980s, classy 1990s brides chose unadorned, sophisticated styles. Carolyn Bessette introduced the world to the slip dress when she married John F. Kennedy, Jr. in September 1996.

Today strapless, spaghetti strap, and halter back wedding gowns are popular, with varying degrees of ornamentation. Blending old with the new, 21st century brides have more choices than ever before. Many modern gowns are accented with color embroidery, beading, and decorations, creating a brand new bridal look that harkens back to the days when not everyone wore white.


Princess Diana’s wedding gown is on display trough June 10, 2007 at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio in the traveling exhibition “Diana—A Celebration.” Previously, the exhibit traveled to Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio; the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida; and The Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas.

I was able to view the exhibition when it was in Dayton. Click on the links below for my review and for more information about the exhibition.

The last article in this series will focus on White House Weddings.

You Should Also Read:
Princess Diana’s Wedding Gown
EXHIBIT REVIEW: Diana, A Celebration
Brides in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s

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