The Prettiest Vintage-Inspired Wedding Dresses

By Stefania Sainato

Blast from the past: Retro-inspired wedding dresses are everywhere right now! Whether your vibe is glam '30s starlet, sweet and demure '50s, or '90s sleek and chic, we've gathered some throwback gowns from decades gone by. 

Related: The Ultimate Wedding Gown Glossary 


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Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Robbins.
Style Inspiration: The 1920s
Lavish Art Deco embellishments, tubular dress shapes, dropped waistlines, and shorter hemlines epitomized the Roaring '20s. More modest brides wore transparent overdresses with decorative edges. The use of white, the veil, and the bouquet became pivotal wedding elements during this era.

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Photo: Courtesy of Maggie Sottero.
Maggie Sottero
Shimmering embellishments in an intricate pattern and a V-neckline are modern updates on the coveted '20s look.
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Photo: Courtesy of Demetrios Couture.
Demetrios Couture
With its illusion neckline and form-fitting mermaid silhouette, this gown befits a glamorous black-tie affair.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ellis Bridals.
Ellis Bridals
For an ethereal take on the '20s, consider this elegant dress with flutter sleeves.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Packham.
Jenny Packham
Jenny Packham is a go-to designer for vintage-inspired creations; this bedazzled sheath is one of our all-time favorites.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Dixon.
Style Inspiration: The 1930s
The 1930s "boudoir bride" wore a form-fitting, bias-cut gown with long, sweeping lines that often ended in fluted fishtails. Shoulder-hanging trains and butterfly sleeves were also in vogue. Due to economic hardship, many couples deferred their weddings; brides who weren't well-to-do wore their best church dresses or chose practical styles that they could wear again after the event.

Related: The Biggest Gown Trends From The 2015 Bridal Runway Shows
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Photo: Courtesy of Jenny Packham.
Jenny Packham
Cover up in style with this chic capelet; plus, the waist-gathered brooch has undeniable vintage appeal.
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Photo: Courtesy of Justin Alexander.
Justin Alexander
If you prefer clean lines, try this curve-hugging Justin Alexander style with straps and just the right amount of sheen to add a little something extra.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gemy Maalouf.
Gemy Maalouf
A bias-cut gown was a hallmark '30s bridal style; it doesn't get any more gorgeous than this Gemy Maalouf rendition.
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Photo: Courtesy of Carolina Herrera.
Style Inspiration: The 1940s
The 1940s wartime bride dressed down for her big day in a borrowed gown with a long, narrow skirt and sleeves from the previous decade. Silk was banned for use in clothing, since it was needed to make parachutes. According to Vintage Weddings: One Hundred Years of Bridal Fashion and Style, bridal dress suppliers opposed manufacturing restrictions, arguing "long white gowns were vital to uphold morals." Once the war ended, gowns with V-shaped illusion necklines and squared-off shoulders became trendy. By the way, how dreamy are the iridescent sleeves on this Carolina Herrera sheath?
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Melissa Sweet for David's Bridal
Or, opt for illusion sleeves with strategically placed lace appliqués.
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Photo: Courtesy of Badgley Mischka Bride.
Badgley Mischka Bride
Feast your eyes on this unique tiered style with a sultry front slit.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ivy & Aster.
Ivy & Aster
Easy-breezy elegance is all yours in this flowy Ivy & Aster dress.
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Photo: Courtesy of Essense of Australia.
Style Inspiration: The 1950s
Christian Dior's "New Look" heralded the return of the hourglass silhouette, and Hollywood legends Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly inspired brides with their romantic looks. Crinoline skirts embroidered with lace, sweetheart necklines, and corseted waists were in demand. More modern brides opted for bateau necklines or shortened their skirts to ballerina-length. As for this look, the waist-cinching style is from Essense of Australia.

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Photo: Courtesy of Casablanca Bridal.
Casablanca Bridal
With its full skirt and demure bodice, this gown has undeniable '50s charm.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ellis Bridals.
Ellis Bridals
Kick up your heels in this fun, short dress.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Dixon.
Style Inspiration: The 1960s
Experimentation was a defining characteristic of the '60s, with brides eschewing traditional styles for simple shifts or minidresses (even Jackie Kennedy wore one for her wedding to Aristotle Onassis in 1968). Structured "Space Age" styles evolved into the softer silhouette known as the babydoll. Smock tops with puffy sleeves and Peter Pan collars also became popular later in the decade.
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Photo: Courtesy of Marchesa.
Marchesa
This minidress toes the line between 1960s free-spiritedness and 2015 graphic lace.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Bride.
Houghton Bride
This sassy little number is reserved for the most daring of brides.

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Photo: Courtesy of Stone Fox Bride.
Stone Fox Bride
Daisies were a key motif of the 1960s, making this graphic skirt a must-have.

Related: Wedding Ideas That Scream "Spring Is Finally Here!"
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Photo: Courtesy of Angel Sanchez.
Angel Sanchez
Sheer netting gives this gown a psychedelic feel.
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Photo: Courtesy of DB Studio at David's Bridal.
DB Studio At David's Bridal
For an intimate City Hall wedding, opt for a short and chic style with an easy, modern shape.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Dixon.
Style Inspiration: The 1970s
Boho-chic brides during the '70s donned free-flowing dresses and leg-of-mutton sleeves, which had full gathers and buttoned cuffs. Sleeveless wedding gowns also became more mainstream during this time. Cutting-edge brides and grooms wore matching ensembles (think Mick Jagger and his wife Bianca at their wedding in St. Tropez). Couples accessorized with platform shoes and chokers. Turbans and hats with veils came back into style, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of Claire Pettibone.
Claire Pettibone
We love this super-pretty take on vintage-inspired bell sleeves.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Bride.
Houghton Bride
Embrace the laid-back elegance of the '70s in this plunging-neckline gown. Bonus: It actually looks comfortable.
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Photo: Courtesy of Oscar de la Renta.
Oscar De La Renta
This eclectic dress reflects the pastoral look that was in demand during the '70s.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Dixon.
Style Inspiration: The 1980s
The 1980s were all about glitz and glamour: over-the-top ruffles, rosettes, and extreme sleeves. Princess Diana's wedding in 1981 set the tone for opulence, and long trains became a status symbol. Another member of the royal family — Sarah Ferguson — also influenced bridal attire by wearing a Basque waistline (a dropped, V-shaped, fitted waist) at her wedding in 1986. Due to the strength of the American dollar, couples had more disposable income to spend on their weddings.

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Photo: Courtesy of Moonlight Collection.
Moonlight Collection
A frothy ball gown with petal-perfect accents would have fit right in during the '80s; bonus points if you add an eye-catching headpiece.

Related: Romantic Wedding Photos You Must Take (You'll Thank Us Later)
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Photo: Courtesy of Reem Acra.
Reem Acra
Float down the aisle in this exquisite tulle style.
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Photo: Courtesy of Legends by Romona Keveza.
Legends by Romona Keveza
Channel the decade when everything was bigger in this grand ball gown with a bateau neckline and bow belt.
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Photo: Courtesy of Trevor Dixon.
Style Inspiration: The 1990s
After the excess of the '80s, '90s brides embraced minimalist wedding-day styles. Carolyn Bessette's iconic slip dress, designed by Narciso Rodriguez, for her wedding to John F. Kennedy, Jr., was the epitome of pared-down simplicity. Vera Wang also made a splash with her striking gowns, and she was the first American bridal designer to influence European style. Strapless gowns, plunging necklines, and lower backs became more acceptable thanks to the fact that more ceremonies took place outside of houses of worship.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amsale.
Amsale
Amsale is the master of less-is-more sophistication: This refined gown fits like a glove.
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Photo: Courtesy of Vera Wang.
Vera Wang
Proof that you don't need all the bells and whistles to make a style statement.
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Photo: Courtesy of Naeem Khan.
Naeem Khan
Leave it to Naeem Khan to make spaghetti straps and megawatt shine on-trend again.
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Photo: Courtesy of Anna Maier ~ Ulla-Maija.
Anna Maier ~ Ulla-Maija
A trumpet gown with decorative exposed seams is a fantastic choice for a minimalist bride.

Next: How I Hacked $10,000 Off My Wedding Budget
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