1980s Wedding Dress Styling

We ended last week with a look back to the 1970s, and today we resume our Henry Roth fashion review with a kickback to the hedonistic 1980s that were fueled by punks, yuppies and the “new wave” movement.

The 1980’s began the era we now know as the “yuppy” years, which gave women a desire to fuse themselves into a predominantly male corporate arena. This high-achieving mindset led way to a generation of “Power dressing” aesthetics and designers looking to cut and boxed traditional business attire with generous shoulder proportions, which gave what is known as a reverse triangle shape to the female form, somewhat similar to a man’s physique. Indeed, the Reagan 80s marked a period reminiscent of the roaring twenties; a sort of no-holds barred opportunity for people to push outside of the box. This was the Yuppie of the 80s, which shared hard angles with the Punk, Retro and New Wave Schools.

Wedding fashion, however, remained soft and flowing at the start of the decade, keeping the natural curves of the female form sacred. Princess Diana’s choice for her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles was to portend the times. designed by husband-and-wife team, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the sleeve on her ivory silk taffeta gown was as large as her head–a style that had first been memorable in the year 1896. Eventually through the decade, the shoulder pad softened into a rounded, rather than squared silhouette, but was still dramatically enhanced, sometimes with an open keyhole back that closed with pearl strands and lengthy drop dangles.


Princess Diana’s wedding gown for her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles defined a decade of bridal dressing

The late 1970s infusion of Victorian revival kick-started the decade with the softly romantic gowns in diaphanous chiffon. Most of the early 1980s gowns were without structural support ad boasted an abundance of petticoats and skirts, which fell freely around the feet. Sheer fabrics facilitated the romantic styles, embellished with embroidered organza and three dimensional Venetian laces.


Sarah Ferguson’s wedding gown for her 1986 nuptials to Prince Andrew

Victorian revival gowns popularized high necklines, some of which opened up into Queen Anne keyholes. Laura Ashley opened up the neckline to a squared English country look with peau de soie lined in muslin and screen printed cotton, and Bridallure invested in country charm with matching gloves and picture hats, but the attention was short lived. By mid-decade the wedding gown soon turned to sparkle and glitz–pearl beaded cut-work sleeves and cathedral length cut-work window trains were hand sewn with sparkling sequins. Embroidered organza, embellished hemlines with silky rayon thread and hand sewn beadwork were all the order of the day. However, by the end of the decade, body hugging glamour was in and ads featured a highly sexualized and supremely sexy sheath styled wedding gown.

For some brides, the decade was supremely feminine and some designers held back and simplified, allowing for a return to unstructured, easy glamour. What was consistent, however was that fashion in the eighties was about being conspicuous and ostentatious, with the end result becoming almost theatrical; particularly for brides. Madonn’a gown for her 1985 wedding to Sean Penn perfectly summarized the era–while her dress was surprisingly traditional and feminine, her headpiece was a masculine brimmed hat.


Madonna’s bridal look perfectly summarized a decade’s aesthetic

Fashion in the eighties was about being conspicuous and ostentatious, with the end result becoming almost theatrical. 1980s accessories coordinate for an unforgettable look.

The focus of the late 1980s went to the headpiece in grand style. For eighties rock n’ roll brides, the pouf veil effectively complimented the crimped big hair (think roll and roll dreams). Sequined hakus and pearl drop headbands accented the forehead and new flashy metallic tulles made their debut with names like “glamour dust” and “meteorite.” Hair was teased and backcombed, and earrings were simple pearl posts or short drops.

A large fad for the late 1980s was the creation of wreath style headbands, shaped like leaves in a spray. The widow’s peak headband was made from wire and buckram, covered with fabric and embellished with sequins. Pearl drops added detail.

Henry Roth’s future vintage aesthetic and styling often incorporates elements of bridal fashions that were made popular in the 1980s. Though voluminous sleeves are no longer the order of the day, with the majority of rides opting for strapless or a capped, off-the-shoulder sleeve, the ball gown bridal silhouette has the 1980s to thank for it’s popularity. For a 2012 take on the ball gown, look to Kay, Nicole & Ireland. Meanwhile, for a modern take on the glamour of popular 1980s television shows, such as Dallas and Dynasty, the look has got to be Nevada, which features glamorous draped dropped waist gown, spills into layers of soft organza, tiered ruffles, with satin bias detailing, for a look that Joan, Linda and the gang would covet.

Famous Weddings of the 1980s:-

1981: Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles

1985: Madonna and Sean Penn

1986: Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew

1986: Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger

1986: Paula Yates and Bob Geldof

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