Many people find it hard to distinguish 1930s night gowns from evening gowns. How about evening gowns vs. wedding gowns from this era? Seems easy enough... if it's white or cream, it must be a wedding gown, right? Well, if we go only by the majority of colour illustrations of deco brides seen in magazines or on pattern covers for wedding gowns from the early to mid parts of this era, the ideal 30s bride did, indeed, wear white, while colourful wedding wear was left for the bridesmaids. But...wait!
While curating the exhibit, "Wedded Perfection, Cynthia Amnéus discovered "suggestions and ads for pastel colored wedding gowns [appear] in the earliest issues of Bride’s Magazine. Starting in the . . . 1930s and going right into the 1950s, the magazine suggested ice blue, shell pink, and pale yellow as very fashionable wedding gowns right along with white gowns." This fact is reinforced by the provenance of the pale blue wedding gown included in the CMA's exhibit.
On my own internet travels, I also came across evidence that some 30s brides wore even darker colours, like black and dark brown. The earlier to mid 30s wedding photo below suggests some depression era brides forewent the white wedding in favour of outfits that modern vintage collectors might easily (mis)take for evening wear.
This brown gown set below, which was once the wearer's nana's wedding set, gives us another striking example of non-white 30s wedding wear! Very cool how a blog post about a handed down wedding gown gives us interested in wedding fashion history a crucial (and colorful) peek into the era that black and white photos can't always capture!
I've always been a believer that colorful wedding gowns are more fun! But then I did get married in an ultra modern blue and tan Wai Ching dress.... These are some great examples of vintage wedding gowns. I really love the pastel blue dress, absolutely stunning!
Very interesting! I've always felt it was more unique when brides picked unusual colors or styles for their gowns or wedding parties, chose a ring other than a diamond solitaire, or otherwise added a bit of non-tradition to their tradition. I particularly love seeing that carried out in decades past!
Thanks for the brilliant post.
As a child growing up in the late 50s / early 60s I had a lot of paper doll sets; one favorite set was a wedding party whose artwork was clearly pre-war, but still in production (or reissued) at the time. The bridal gown and veil were pale pink, and it was memorable.
Another aspect to this we shouldn't forget is the economic situation of the 30s. How much more sensible to have a wearable, more practical gown, in something other than white. One could even wear something right from their closet.
Thanks again-- I love your blog.
Ah, lovely. For my 15 year wedding anniversary next year, I want to renew my vows and wear something vintage and classic. Keep the ideas coming!
Your hat ( and a little surprise ) is on its way to you !!!!
Also here in the UK at the time there were Debutante balls and the gowns were white....
good point, Miss M! The white gowns may have been for other occasions than weddings!
Brenda: also a really important point!! While some brides likely chose non-white to be "different," many women went for more practical, wearable, reusable outfits for weddings--both in the 30s and in earlier and later times as well. This was true of my great-grandmother, who wore a very beautiful and durable two piece dress set (and I am certain she wore it again) and my grandmother wore a beautiful skirt suit for her wedding in the early 40s.
Tasha, iliveinmylab: yes, I think so, too! I saw your wedding gown, iliveinmylab, and it was AMAZING. So memorable!
Patricia Lynn: thanks for the comment. congrats on your upcoming anniversary. A vintage outfit may be just the thing!
Frollein: thank you! your parcel's going out today, too. xoxo
very interesting,i always loved non-white wedding gowns,even if it's not vintage the best examples to me are indian bridal gown ,they're so colourful
I love your blog! Just found it and i'll be back for sure: so many interesting things!!
Here's some info from my new friend, Simone:
"Just a note to add to your blog post on non-white wedding dresses. No-one has mentioned yet that many brides dyed their dresses to be worn afterwards as evening dresses. My Nana did this in the 30s (married March 1937) and also another lady I have spoken to did as well, although she might have been just into the War, I can't quite recall.
Sadly I don't know what colour my Nana dyed hers, but I know she cut the train off. The other lady dyed hers black, but said she wished she hadn't! :)"
And to add to the confusion, white was a popular colour for evening dresses in the early 30s!
The most famous example of a coloured 30s wedding dress is, of course, Wallis Simpson's 1936 'Wallis blue' wedding dress, which sparked a huge fad for that colour and style. Interestingly, I can't find anything from the era that mentions that it was more appropriate that she didn't wear white, as she had been married twice before - this seems to be a much more recent construct.
Wedding dress report from the UK: They didn't have any pastel colours in the wedding gowns on display at Bath's Fashion Museum, all were white/ivory/cream/light beige.
It was indeed a lovely day out, but not as fabulous as you're magical evening out!!
Miss P xx
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