Think about the 1960s and it’s hard not to think of music: The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Lulu… One other thing they had in common were their weddings, and iconic wedding dresses. There was no overriding style of fashion, and as a result there are plenty of different types of wedding gowns. Above all, the 60s were a decade of iconic wedding dresses.
Fashion of the 1960s
Instead of producing one uniform style, the ’60s brought a range of new trends set by “It Girls”. The likes of Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy wore baby doll dresses, off the shoulder tops and clashing prints. Most notably, Mary Quant made the mini skirt famous and soon women had more freedom to move.
Fashion become youthful, fun and daring, dresses were shorter, colours were bolder and mod prints were all the rage. In addition, oversized collars, bows, fringe and lace started to make an appearance. Women increasingly started to favour playful fashion.
It’s natural then that the ’60s ushered in a crucial change in bridal fashion with the appearance of the new trends. The tight-fitting hourglass gowns of the ’50s left, and in came super-short minis and high-waisted empire silhouettes.
By the mid-to-late ’60s, the miniskirt had become so popular that very short wedding dresses were perfectly acceptable and popular choices for brides. That is to say, there were no overarching rules from society about your style of wedding gown. As a result, the ’60s saw a very wide range of styles, exemplified by the iconic dresses of the day…
Princess Margaret, 1960
Queen Elizabeth II’s younger sister, Margaret, was the first royal to marry on television. However, this does not mean that she chose an overstated dress.
Margaret met photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1958. She had previously had a serious relationship with Peter Townsend, but the government strongly opposed their match. Antony, however, they approved of, and the couple had a whirlwind romance before marrying in 1960.
They married at on 6th May at Westminster Abbey, the same place her sister wed Prince Philip. With 300 million people watching across the world, her dress was everything that Princess Elizabeth’s had not been. She chose the same designer, Norman Hartnell, who made her a simple and sophisticated princess ball gown. An impressive 30 metres of organza went into making her A-line skirt and yet more went into her V-necked bodice. She also wore a waterfall veil and a grand tiara, the only part of her outfit that showed her royalty.
Mia Farrow, 1966
Frank Sinatra was a known womanizer and married four women during his life. The third of these was Mia Farrow, a 21-year-old model and actress. She had a recurring role in Peyton Place, a television show, which 50-year-old Sinatra convinced her to leave.
They eloped and married on 19th July 1966 at Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Frank had two children who were older than Mia and so did not want to cause scandal before their marriage. The whole ceremony, including cutting the cake, supposedly only lasted fifteen minutes.
Mia had recently adopted mod fashion and cut off her hair. As a result, she paired her new pixie crop with a matching mod style white skirt suit. The skirt had a bow around the waist and came to just below her knees, while the jacket was closely tailored, and decorated with two lines of buttons. She kept her makeup light and androgynous and wore only a simple chain bracelet around her wrist.
Priscilla Presley, 1967
We are lucky to have photographs of Priscilla in her wedding dress, as they married with just 14 guests! She first met Elvis in Germany, where she lived and he served in the army. He was already a big name in rock n roll at 24 years old; meanwhile, she was just a young 14 year old. Nevertheless, Elvis became awkward and embarrassed around her, and they started a relationship across the Atlantic after he went home.
Priscilla moved to Graceland in 1963 and Elvis proposed in 1966, seven years after their first meeting. The wedding ceremony, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas on 1st May 1967, lasted just eight minutes. After, the couple took part in a press conference before enjoying a reception with friends, family, and business associates. Then, they had a three day honeymoon in Palm Springs. Nine months later, Priscilla gave birth to daughter Lisa Marie.
Priscilla visited dress shops in disguise to find her dream wedding gown. She settled on an understated white wedding dress with long, lace sleeves and seed pearls. The rest of the dress was fashioned in organza and anything but figure hugging. While many brides now opt for tight dresses that accentuate curves, Priscilla kept her body hidden. Meanwhile, her hair was the centre of attention, as she dyed it black and styled it into a tall bouffant. She topped the ‘do with a rhinestone tiny tiara and a poufy tulle veil.
Cilla Black, 1969
Cilla Black was actually born Priscilla White, but a mistake from a news reporter gave her the famous name. Although she may be more famous to younger generations as a television host (notably “Blind Date”), she was a singer. She started her career as a cloakroom attendant at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, where The Beatles often performed. In fact, she often staged impromptu performances, much to the excitement of the Fab Four.
She met her future husband, Bobby Willis, as she worked in a coffee shop. He became her manager, after the death of Brian Epstein, and wrote many of her songs. They married the following year, on 25th January 1969, Bobby’s 27th birthday, in Marylebone. To this wedding she wore a short crimson velvet mini-dress with white tights and kitten heels.
They had a second, Anglican wedding in Liverpool in March. This time, she wore a short white belted mini-dress trimmed with ostrich feathers and long white boots. Both times, her recognisable red bobbed hair complemented the outfit perfectly.
If it is wedding mania when one major star marries, it is quite another when two celebrities marry each other! Although plans were secret, 1000 fans turned up to the Gerrards Cross church where Lulu married Maurice Gibb.
Lulu’s massive hit, “Shout”, and her film role in To Sir, with Love, meant she was selected to represent the UK in that year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Meanwhile, the Bee Gees took the world by storm with many popular hits, back when they favoured ballads to disco. They performed on Top of the Pops in 1967 and Maurice made his relationship with Lulu public soon afterwards.
The pair were just twenty years old when they walked down the aisle on 18th February 1969. As it was so cold, Lulu wore an ankle-length fur-trimmed coat topped with an exaggerated hood, and made fashion history. It had a large hood trimmed with mink fur and, underneath, she wore a white mini dress. The look certainly made an impact to everyone who saw her that day.
Yoko Ono, 1969
If anything defined the 1960s more than anything else, it would be The Beatles. Rock and pop music hit the airwaves, lending a real alternative to the jazz that many young people’s parents enjoyed. As Beatlemania struck the world, it is no surprise that John Lennon decided he wanted a low-key wedding ceremony.
Lennon met Yoko Ono at an art exhibition she was preparing in London. He was married to Cynthia at the time, and the two soon started an affair. Although the relationship started off as a meeting of minds, it quickly became more than that and Lennon divorced Cynthia.
Yoko and John married in a small ceremony in Gibraltar on 20th March 1969. Her dress and appearance resonated with the laid-back hippie vibe the couple was famous for. She chose a white crepe mini-dress with a ruffled skirt and elbow-length sleeves. With this, she wore an oversized floppy sunhat and large sunglasses, as well as tennis shoes and knee-high white socks.
After their wedding they had perhaps the most famous honeymoon of all time. They invited famous faces to join them for a “Bed-In for Peace” in Amsterdam and, later, Montreal.
To sum up, the ’60s saw plenty of famous couples tying the knot in very different styles of wedding dresses. Which is your favourite of these iconic wedding dresses?