How has bridesmaid dress fashion changed over the years?

Just like wedding traditions and the very concept of the day itself, bridesmaid dress styles have evolved significantly over the years. It’s interesting to see how this type of fashion has changed from where the idea started to how it is perceived and used in modern day weddings. That’s why in this article we’ll be putting a together a timeline of bridesmaid dress fashions from their origin to now. Whether you’re drawn to a particular vintage style and theme for a traditional wedding or want fashion-forward dresses that work to a contemporary theme. There’s something for everyone at Maids to Measure. 

15th century 

When the idea of the bridal party was in still in its infancy it was common for them to dress exactly the same as the bride and groom. This was because people at the time believed that by doing so, evil spirits wouldn’t know which couple was getting married and the true marrying couple would be protected. 


In 1840, Queen Victoria got married to Prince Albert, popularising the tradition of wearing a white wedding dress which remains prominent in weddings today. Not only that, but she also introduced the idea of the bridesmaids wearing all-white too. The Queen designed all twelve of her bridesmaid dresses herself, giving them beautiful white silk with tulle skirts and white roses. All-white weddings became a trend after this. However, it quickly became a feature that all bridesmaids were required to be younger than the bride, not married, and their veils had to be shorter. 


As the 19th century started to come to an end, brides and their bridesmaids started experimenting with dresses in different colours. The all-white wedding concept was becoming less and less common as a result. Lilac, violet, and light grey bridesmaid dresses were the most popular colours that started to integrate into weddings of this time in England. 


With the rise of flapper culture during the 1920s, bridesmaid dresses with dropped waists became common. The all-white tradition was still present, and many brides followed that as well as some taking the more colourful approach that was making its way to the forefront. 


The 1930s was focused on glamour with a lot of dress designs featuring full, elaborate skirts as well as full sleeves and ruffles. Also, cowl necklines were starting to gain popularity along with the idea of the bridesmaids carrying large bouquets of roses. 


During WW2 bridesmaid dresses became much more modest as a result of strict rationing. The focus was on simple functionality and wear outfits that could be used again after the wedding. Most brides didn’t have their bridesmaids wearing white at this point. That trend had almost completely been phased out. 


Full skirts were back, often with nylon petticoats too. Cap sleeves and halter straps became very popular as well. These were some of the most common features you’d see on bridesmaids walking down the aisle during this time period. 


Short dresses were all the rage in the 1960s, paired with elegant gloves and tulle to make the skirt wide brimmed. 


Long length dresses were back in style, this time with high necklines and either puffed sleeves or long Tudor sleeves. The latter saw a quick rise to popularity after Princess Anne’s wedding day in 1973 with her wedding dress having these traditional long sleeves. 


The puffy sleeves were there to stay and got even puffier after bridal trends followed in the footsteps of Princess Diana and her bridesmaids. Taffeta was a commonly used material for making bridesmaid dresses and some brides began to experiment with bridesmaid dresses in different colours. 


Fashion in the 90s shifted towards minimalism after that loud, bold, extravagance of the 80s. Fitted bridesmaid dresses with simple styles and colours became the norm. Toned down colours like navy, black, and burgundy were being used more frequently. 


Strapless dresses were gaining momentum as more and more couples were choosing to have their weddings outside of the church. Also, satin was becoming a very popular material for bridesmaid dresses. Around the mid-2000s it became common place for the maid of honour to wear a different colour dress to the other bridesmaids.   


When Sarah Jessica Parker’s bridesmaids showed off their different haute couture gowns in different colours back in 2010, the mix and match trend took over the bridesmaid fashion scene. It’s a trend that is still popular for many brides and bridesmaids today who want to get creative and embrace their own unique styles and tastes. 


Bridesmaid dress styles have changed a lot over the years and will likely to continue to in the future. With so many different shapes, colours, and designs available from Maids to Measure you’re sure to the find the right dresses for your big day. Explore our stunning collection of bridesmaid dresses today and contact us if you have any questions.