Celebrating the end of WWII and rationing, the 1950s saw a significant new era of experimental and iconic bridal fashion. This decade is still a source of inspiration for dressmakers today.
Hooped skirts and corsets were popularised, creating exaggerated feminine waistlines and silhouettes. The shorter tea-length gown was introduced. Due to shorter dresses, glamorous footwear could be showcased. Let’s look at some of the truly iconic dresses (and there were many) of the 1950s…
Ava met Frank Sinatra shortly after marrying her first husband, Mickey Rooney. They started an affair in 1948, though they tried to keep it away from the newspapers. They married on 7th November 1951, just 72 hours after Frank divorced first wife Nancy.
She wore a white halter neck wedding dress with a blush pink skirt and chiffon sleeves, designed by Fontana. It featured a zig-zag neckline and an empire waistline. She completed the look with a pearl choker necklace and earrings with her signature red lips and dark, curly hair.
Unfortunately, all was not as it was meant to be, as they had numerous fights and affairs. As a result, they divorced in 1957 and, while Frank went on to marry again, Ava did not.
Brigitte Bardot, 1952 and 1959
The inventor of the off-the-shoulder neckline – now known as the Bardot neckline – Brigitte popularised some outrageous fashion trends. The choucroute (similar to the beehive hairstyle) was one of Bardot’s signature looks, along with bikinis and dark, winged eyeliner. Walking down the aisle four times personally and six times on screen, she has a number of famous bridal looks.
Brigitte met Roger Vadim, her first husband, when she was 15 years old. Her parents initially fought hard against the relationship but eventually relented and insisted the two marry when she turned 18. They married on 21st December 1952 in Paris and she wore a demure high collared, long sleeved, floor length gown. She chose the fabric and design for the dress, including a large bustle and rounded muff to warm her hands.
However, they both had numerous affairs and divorced five years later. In 1956, a director asked if she could have blonde hear. Instead of wearing a wig for the role she dyed her hair, and decided to keep the colour thereafter. She became a world-famous sex symbol and, in 1958, met actor Jacques Charrier. She became pregnant and they married on 18th June 1959 in Louveciennes, France.
The gown for her second marriage is iconic for its informality. Bardot wore a pink gingham A-line dress with a nipped in waist – a silhouette replicated for years to come.
Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953
Jacqueline Bouvier’s marriage to John F Kennedy was the social event of the season. More than 800 guests attended and 2000 fans stood outside hoping to catch a glimpse of the happy couple.
Jackie met the senator and future president at a dinner party two years earlier. They married on 12th September at St Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island. The dress she ended up wearing was iconic not only at the time, but even now.
Famously, Jackie’s original wedding dress was destroyed in a studio flood a week before the big day. As a result, her mother turned to her own wedding dress creator. The little-known African-American designer, Ann Lowe, produced Jackie’s gown for the small price of $500.
The New York-based designer created a bouffant-style ivory silk taffeta gown with a portrait neckline. The dress also featured tiny wax flowers embroidered throughout and an exaggerated skirt. The shape was popular for the time, although Jackie later admitted she wasn’t a fan of the traditional silhouette. Even if she would rather have had something more simple and slim line, you cannot deny the beauty of the iconic dress.
Nevertheless, even after her iconic design, Ann Lowe was never fully credited for the gown.
Marilyn Monroe, 1954
The blonde bombshell certainly had many lovers over the course of her life. She married her second husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, on 14th January 1954.
One year earlier, she stunned viewers in the closing scene of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, wearing a dazzling lace wedding gown. This had a high neck, bell sleeves and A-line tulle skirts.
However, the dress for her real-life marriage was a stark contrast from her onscreen image and usual style. She chose a chocolate brown skirt suit with a white fur Peter Pan collar and white buttons. She carried an understated bouquet of orchids. However, more recognisable was her signature hairstyle and scarlet lipstick, as well as her dazzling smile.
Audrey Hepburn, 1954
Audrey Hepburn was such a style icon that it is no wonder she makes it onto this list of iconic wedding dresses. In fact, this is now the first wedding dress she wore. Her dress in the film Funny Face, alongside Fred Astaire, was perhaps one of the era’s most iconic bridal looks.
However, three years before, this she married actor Mel Ferrer. The pair met at a cocktail party and subsequently starred in Ondine together. They married on 25th September 1954, and Hepburn wore her second iconic wedding gown.
Pierre Balmain designed her a statement ballerina-length gown, which set the trend for tea-length dresses around the globe. The demure yet playful dress featured balloon sleeves with elbow length gloves, and a unique stand up Peter Pan collar.
The gown’s teeny satin sash waist drew attention to Hepburn’s petite figure. It was the perfect choice of wedding gown for the innocent, doe-eyed movie star. Instead of a veil or tiara, she wore a gorgeous halo of fresh flowers in her hair.
Grace Kelly, 1956
When Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III, she wore one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time. Countless brides choose wedding dresses of a similar style, including Kate Middleton at her 2011 royal wedding to Prince William. Grace was already a successful actress, but this union made her even more loved. She married the Prince of Monaco on 19th April 1956.
Made from over 400 yards of fabric including silk taffeta, and antique rose-point, the dress took three dozen seamstresses six weeks to create. The dress was actually broken down into 10 intricate parts. It featured a tightly fitted bodice, ruched silk, and hundreds of tiny hand sewn seed pearls. Finally, as a celebrity actress, her bespoke circular veil ensured her face was as visible as possible.
The gown, designed by Helen Rose of MGM studios, the gown was a gift for the Hollywood star. Meanwhile, MGM also secured the rights to film the wedding as Grace broke her acting contract with her marriage.
We hope these iconic 1950s wedding dresses have sparked your imagination. If you are still searching for your dream bridal gown, take a look at your local bridal boutiques.