The Top Wedding Dress Trends Over the Past 25 Years
We've seen thousands of dresses in our 25 years of sitting in the front row at Bridal Fashion Week. Our biggest takeaway? Wedding attire has changed a lot in the last two-and-a-half decades. And while the days of cookie-cutter gowns and pure white palettes are long gone, scores of memorable looks have hit the runways in the meantime. Here, a look back at some of the most inconic wedding fashion trends, from 1996 to the present day.
In the early '90s, the maximalist aesthetic of the '80s (voluminous silhouettes, oversize ruffles, cathedral-length trains and lace-edged frills) lingered in the form of puff sleeves—the bigger, the better. Today, toned-down versions of this trend like bishop sleeves, Juliet sleeves and detachable puff sleeves are all the rage again.
Two words: Sleek and chic. Influenced by Carolyn Bessette Kennedy's iconic wedding style, late-1990s brides were all about the clean lines and curve-skimming cut of the sultry slip dress. This streamlined silhouette is currently experiencing a bridal fashion revival, both as an effortlessly polished wedding dress and a bridesmaid dress option.
Brides in the early aughts couldn't get enough of the dramatic mermaid gown. A departure from A-line and ball gowns, this silhouette is characterized by a body-hugging fit that flares out at the knee, forming a voluminous mermaid "tail." This more glamorous style became a favorite of brides looking for a more form fitting silhouette suitable for formal weddings. Another trend often paired with the mermaid gown? Lots of bling.
Strapless Ball Gowns
A timeless style that remains au courant, strapless ball gowns were everywhere in the early aughts through the 2010s. Iconic designer Vera Wang's strapless ball gowns became the must-have wedding dress of the time ("Bride Wars," anyone?). The elegant, shoulder-baring silhouette was worn by high profile brides like Victoria Beckam, Chelsea Clinton and Lala Anthony—and everyday brides alike.
Thanks to Kate Middleton's custom gown by Alexander McQueen, sleeves quickly caught on with royal watchers. Dresses with long and three-quarter length sleeves replaced strapless dresses as the "It" silhouette.
Think pink. White gowns dipped in popularity when blush took over as the go-to hue of the fashion set. Subdued but still nontraditional, this romantic, pastel shade of pink is now considered a wedding dress staple.
While bridal separates (read: a bridal skirt and blouse) were nothing new, two-piece gowns with crop tops were considered extremely bold—and even scandalous—when they hit the scene in the mid-2010s. This edgy, midriff-baring look became the preferred silhouette of boho brides looking to embrace a more carefree wedding aesthetic.
Dare to bare. Shortly after crop tops became the norm, sexy see-through dresses shook up the bridal fashion runways. Once considered far too risqué for wedding attire, lingerie-inspired, sheer gowns with strategically placed appliqués and nude illusion gowns (read: sheer dresses with nude lining that creates the illusion of baring it all) made their way into the mainstream.
No dress? No problem. Formal jumpsuits rose in popularity as both an alternative take on the classic bridal suit and an effortless option for wedding-related events. This comfortable, menswear-inspired silhouette remains a popular option for bachelorette, reception and after party attire today.
Dresses with removable skirts, trains, sleeves and toppers are the look of the moment in 2021. A huge plus of a convertible dress? You get one look for your ceremony and another for your reception—without the expense or logistical complications of a full wardrobe change.