BRIDAL DESIGNS: 1960-1969
We’re on a journey of Bridal Fashions through the ages… we absolutely loved the gorgeous collection of Wedding Dresses, spanning 300 Years of Bridal Fashions at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) last year, did you go and see it? If you didn’t, we’re taking you through the years, in a series called Through the Ages… A Designer Showcase. Read all about the 1700 to 1790, 1790 to 1840, 1840 to 1914, 1914 to 1945 and 1946 to 1959 if you missed them.
With the help of the V&A and Edwina Ehrman’s Book ‘The Wedding Dress, 300 Years of Bridal Fashions’, let us take you through the ages. Don’t forget to purchase her book, its fabulous…Today, were concentrating on the sixties… the swinging sixties!
On 6th May 1960 Princess Margaret married the photography Antony Armstong-Jones at Westminster Abbey. Did you know it was the first British Royal Wedding service to be televised and broadcast live across Europe. A brand new zoom lens made it all possible by enabling millions of people to see the Royal couple up close. Princess Margaret wore a Norman Hartnell simple white organza wedding dress. As she has a petite figure, the dress enhanced her presence without overwhelming her and believe it or not it became Norman Hartnell’s most successful wedding dresses.
Young Designers in the 1960’s wanted to design bridal wear that acknowledged the solemnity of the wedding but was youthful. When Mary Quant was asked to create a pattern for Woman’s Journal for February 1960, she offered a white sleeveless dress with a slim-fitting bodice and a stiff mid-calf length, bell-shaped skirt. A large tailored bow decorated the waist and a similar bow held the model’s short tulle veil in place. Mary Quant was a member of the ‘Chelsea Set’ who studied at London’s Goldsmiths College of Art. She certainly helped to change the way fashion was designed and sold. Although self-taught as a Designer, realised that the future of fashion lay in innovate ready to wear, sold in less formal, more stimulating retail spaces.
Millinery was an alternative to traditional veil and wreath in the 1960’s. In Autumn 1961 the cover of Brides Magazine featured a made to measure satin pillbox hat trimmed with a puff of ostrich feathers. The Designer was Belinda Bellville. By the early 1960’s they accounted for at least a quarter of their business.
More traditional full-length wedding dresses remained popular. Their silhouette had evolved from the late 1950’s to become quite flat and rigid at the front with the volume and drapery behind, so from side to side the dress resembled a triangle.
During the 1960’s the institution of marriage was questioned in progressive circles. It was argued that marriage could not sustain love. Advice was given that Brides should aim for a look that was totally traditional, absolutely pretty, the maximum in flattering as it was how they were going to be remembered for years to come. They should play it safe.
In 1966 hemlines for day wear were well above the knee. While the 1960’s witnessed rapid social change and increasing economic, political and sexual freedom for women, most bridal wear, whatever the height of the hemline, retained a degree of formality. Dresses with co-ordinating coats became fashionable. At this time men had opportunities for really dressing up. An array of styles, colours and fabrics came onto the market including motley vintage, ethnic and tailored. Pop interpretations of nineteenth century styles and fabrics were a feature of the late 1960’s. They reflected a subversive if romantic engagement with British heritage, which manifested itself in an element of fancy dress in serious clothes.
In the late 1960’s maxi coats were fashionable and designers offered them as bridal wear. Popstar Lulu chose a long white mink-trimmed coat to wear over her white silk mini-dress and boots when she married the musician Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees at St James’s Church in Gerrards Cross in February 1969.
By the end of the 1960’s wedding dresses, like fashion in general, tended to be girlish and pretty and a renewed interest in historical styles manifested itself in lace, tucks, frills and flounces. What do you think to the 1960’s era, was it mis-match of styles and designs going from the traditional to the outrageous… would you get married in a very short mini wedding dress or a long coat dress?
Our thanks go to the V&A Museum and to Edwina Ehrman for their wonderful insight into the world of Bridal Fashions in the 1960’s. Don’t forget to go and buy the book, its amazing! We’ll continue with the 1970’s very soon…