When I became engaged, basically the only thing I knew about my wedding-to-be was that I wanted to wear a vintage 1930’s wedding gown. This was an easy decision that I had been clinging onto since I was a little girl, when my parents would show me 1930’s romantic comedies in which stars like Jean Harlow and Norma Shearer wore stunning bias-cut wedding gowns with endless veils. To me, these were the most beautiful brides, and since watching those movies as a child, I have been determined to emulate this style for my own wedding.
But when I started looking at dresses, something crushed my spirit fairly quickly: wedding dresses are expensive. I had been prepared to spend a few hundred dollars, but quickly discovered that to own an original 1930’s wedding gown to my liking that was in wearable condition, I’d have to spend at least $1,000. After a couple tears I spent about a month of my life on the internet, searching for a reasonable substitute, that had all those irresistible features of 1930’s bridal fashion, but with a price tag that I could handle.
As is the case with most fashion eras, 1930’s bridal fashions largely mimicked the evening fashions of the day. After the crash of 1929, society as a whole took on a more somber and mature tone, and gone were the flapper fashions with their child-like silhouettes and legs and chests on almost full display. In 1930, the placement of a dress’ waist changed basically overnight from where it had sat at the hips in the 20’s, to back to its natural position. Hems were once again long in the early 30’s, rarely going above the lower calf, and frequently floor-length. Floor-length hems were once again the standard for all evening wear across the board.
With this return to long flowing lines came the bias cut, a method in which fabric is cut on the diagonal, resulting in material that clings to the body in a seductive yet elegant and feminine way.
If we look at some examples of early 30’s wedding attire, we see that the gowns are very modest compared to those of only ten years ago. The necklines, in general, were higher, long sleeves were in vogue, and the lengths of the gowns were the longest they’d been since World War One. The veils, to match the sweeping lengths of the gowns, cascaded longer than the gowns themselves. Juliet caps were in, adding an extra level of feminine romance to the entire ensemble.
So for my 1930’s-obsessed fellow brides to be out there, I have compiled a short list of bridal gowns and accessories under $500 that will capture the look of this incredible era. Allow me to note that these are not couture pieces, and therefore the fabrics will generally be fairly cheaper than that of wedding gowns that cost $1000 plus, but if you’re like me, you don’t really care.
The long lines, billowing sleeves and off-the-shoulder neckline give this dress an ultra-dramatic deco feel which reminds me of a gown worn by Kay Francis in the Jewel Robbery.
The sophisticated structure and the unique sleeves give this dress an early 1930’s feel. The buttons down the back are reminiscent of 1930’s detailing.
Paired with a vintage satin camisole, this skirt has all the elegant yet dramatic elements of 1930’s bridal fashion.
Just because 30’s fashion was sophisticated doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. This dress makes me think of Schiaparelli’s early 30’s designs, teetering perfectly on the balance of whimsical and incredibly feminine.
These two capelets from Bhldn are pure deco goodness. Wear these over any simple sleeveless wedding gown and give yourself an instant boost of 1930’s glamour.
An iconic detail of 1930’s bridal fashion, this veil is the perfect finishing touch to your bridal ensemble.