Wedding Dress Styles In The 1970’s and 1980’s

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Wedding Dress Styles In The 1970’s and 1980’s

The wedding dress, along with the wedding gown, has gone through many changes over the years. As we go through the decades of the 1970’s and the 80’s, we see women’s fashions, both in her life and in her wedding, stay soft and feminine and then to the other extreme, sexy and glamorous.


As the decade of the 1960’s came to an end, the 1970’s began to take on a more individualistic approach to many aspects of life, and especially in the world of fashion. In fact, even author Tom Wolf referred to the 1970’s as the “Me Decade.”

For the first time, fashion came from all sorts of inspiration. More and more fashioned clothing took on ethnic styles, prints from East India, as well as embroidered dresses from Mexico. In addition to these, more and more new styles were being combined with old vintage clothing from our past and making them “retro.” The 70’s also saw more designs come from the streets and its amateurs and were no longer coming from top designers.

In addition to these sudden style changes, so came the acceptance of pant suits for women. Not only accepted, but accepted as stylish. So much so, women can be seen wearing these pant suits, such as the “bell bottoms” and “hip huggers” in the day time, as well as the evening. Going a step further, these styles even made their way into bridal wear. However, most wedding wear of the 70’s remained elegant and very romantic. European inspired, these dresses included dashes of lace to spruce up the dress.

The “dust ruffle” became a feature on most gowns by 1973. The ruffle was usually located about a foot above the bottom hemline and went all the way around the gown. To give the dress a country look to it, the ruffle would be matched with a ruffled “bib,” which is located on the chest region. This Southern Belle look only lasted about a year as new man-made materials were being introduced in 1974.

Then the decade went disco and took fashion with it. By 1976, structured gowns had gone from the stiff and structured, to a stretch polyester double knit. The hit movie Saturday Night Fever came out in 1977. The wardrobe in this movie blockbuster supported the new fabric with looks that were considered fluid and sexy. With that, manufacturers of wedding gowns jumped on board.

With its new found popularity, the double knit wedding gowns were by far the top choice for the modern day bride and were the look from 1977 and throughout the rest of the 70’s. These gowns included features of flowing drop back capelets, along with batwing sleeves and trains.

As the decade drew to a close, Americans found themselves going back towards top fashion designers for their evening wear, much like they did prior to the 1970’s.


After the 70’s came to an end, America had a need for change. Not only did America get a boost, but so did the American woman, as she found her way into corporate America. Being a working woman also meant new working fashions, and yes, that means the shoulder pads.

Thanks to the pads, the woman’s appearance gave them a more triangular shape, which gave the resemblance of a man’s physique. Hard angles in clothing were not new to mainstream America however. After all, the country was experiencing new wave, punk, retro and the yuppies. However, when it came to wedding gowns, the look stayed soft and flowing therefore, allowing the bride more natural curves versus the business triangle.

In the early part of the decade, many of the gowns did not have the structural support in the way of petticoats, therefore skirts found themselves falling freely down towards their feet. The romantic stylings of the wedding dress included sheer fabrics that were highlighted with embroidery and three dimensional Venetian lacing.

By the middle of the decade, wedding designs began to suffer growing pains. Pearl-beaded satins and sparkling sequins highlighted the gowns, while the profit margins of many American manufacturers grew rapidly. Unfortunately, profits grew more as the work got sent overseas to be made by hand and at cheaper pay.

As the 1980’s began to reach its end, the style that was “in” was that of the highly sexualized and very sexy, and that included those in the bridal magazines. In addition, with the success of such television dramas as Dynasty and Dallas, and their magnificent wardrobes, the new brides-to-be went with glamour.