Even though the world was in turmoil in the 1940s, people still fell in love and got married. In fact, as with any time of uncertainty, people were more likely to throw caution to the wind and get hitched as the post-war baby boom shows. 1940s weddings were less formal than previous and following decades however, with most held during the 10am and 1pm brunch time with a light meal and cake served to guests after the church ceremony. As with most events, 1940s wedding clothing varied from business dress to very formal attire.
1940s wedding and bridesmaid dresses
Often the bride, groom and the wedding party would all wear their best suits and dresses. Some brides chose to make a dress for the occasion but chose a colour and design which meant they could wear it again after the wedding. Rose pink was a very popular choice for brides and bridesmaids and while silk and satin was unavailable due to the war, lace and tulle wasn’t rationed although it was still very expensive.
Silk parachute wedding dress in the 1940s
In the USA, rayon, crepe, taffeta and satin were available for sale as a way to boost morale during the tough times. After the war, silk parachutes were released for sale back to the public and quickly became the choice material for 1940s wedding dresses and lingerie, with many brides using the same parachute as her RAF beau.
Wearing their mother’s, close friend or other relatives dress was another popular option. In the UK, the wedding dress shortages were acutely felt, so it wasn’t uncommon for dresses to be brought in from USA and worn by at least a dozen friends to get married in over the course of the year.
If the bride to be was a uniformed servicewoman, she would not have had civilian rationing stamps to purchase her wedding clothes. In that instance, she would probably have worn her best uniform.
1940s wedding dress style
For those who could afford a wedding dress the styles were very similar to the day dresses of the time. They would always have long sleeves and full skirts, but the full princess look wasn’t achievable with the fabric restrictions in place.
Dresses would usually have a sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice with sleeves that were gathered or puffed at the shoulder and fitted to the rest of the arm. From the waist, the full circle skirt would fall to the floor. Long trains were a waste of fabric and not allowed, but shorter trains were.
Dresses were also pretty plain and usually didn’t have embroidery or embellishments – they did sometimes have ruching though.
1940s Veils, headpieces and accessories
All decoration that was missing on the dress would go onto the veil and headpiece. Brides would always wore a long single layer net veil which was usually attached to the head using a small pillbox hat. A headband of seasonal flowers was another popular piece, with or without a veil.
Headband flowers matched the very large bouquet and brides and grooms corsage. Common flowers were pink or white carnations, gladiolas, roses and real or fake greenery. Orchids were also very popular corsage flowers. A white Pearl necklace was the sole piece of jewellery worn by almost all brides in the 1940s.
How to choose a 1940s style wedding dress
- Sweetheart neckline dress that has a fitted bodice and a full skirt
- Usually made with silk or rayon
- No lace, embroidery or Pearl embellishments
- Full length fitted sleeves ending in a point at the hand that are gathered or puffed at the shoulder
- Emphasis on the waist, often with a “v” shape
- Usually white, ivory, cream or Rose pink
- A simple, full-length veil with a flower headband to match your bouquet.
Would you choose a 1940s wedding theme? I know many would – it’s the glamour of the time period.