Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wedding Gowns from the 1940's and 1950's


Vintage wedding gowns from the 1940's WWII era through the late 1950's show a remarkable diversity.  From simple, smooth silhouettes to textured laces and ruffles, wedding during the second half of the 20th century reflected current fashion, the bride's personal style and budget.  The dresses shown here were part of an exhibition in 2013 of gowns worn by local women and shown at the Pasadena Historical Museum, Pasadena, CA.


The satin gown above was designed and sewn in 1944 by Seamstress Auntie Nui of slipper satin. It was worn by Chiyoi Marumoto Ogawa, one of the young women who were married in the WWII Japanese concentration camps in California during the war. This dressmaker went on to provide many more gowns for the brides in the camp, as well as in Pasadena after the war. Like many wedding dresses worn during the war era, it is a simple dress with long sleeves and flattering shirred bodice that was typical of the draping from the 1940's.


The post war years saw an explosion in marriages as the GIs returned home again. While the expense of a wedding gown was often beyond the budget of many young couples, wedding gowns grew in importance. Often one gown would be shared by many brides. From 1948, this gown by bridal designer William Cahill of Beverly Hills shows what the best in wedding gowns looked like. Of shiny slipper satin, the neckline is framed in a lace bertha collar. Like most gowns of this time, it has modest long sleeves suitable for wearing in church. This dress was worn by bride Jane Campbell Wells of Pasadena.

Of special local interest, this gown was the first bridal ensemble sold at Bullock's department store in Pasadena when it opened in 1948.




This curvy 1952 Cahill gown of nylon lace and tulle was paired with a small, fitted lace skull cap that had a veil attached. It has many features similar to crinoline gowns of the mid-1800's. The silhouette has a dramatic shirred "V" neckline and the classic "New Look" hourglass full skirt. The ensemble was worn by bride Marilyn Hubbard Roberts.




In 1955, the Governor of California's daughter Carolyn Knight Weedman wore this William Cahill gown for her wedding in the governor's mansion, Sacramento. It shows alencon lace, satin, and silk chiffon. The lace bodice with Elizabethan collar is fitted, with long sleeves and an hourglass silhouette that has a dropped waistline with a slight curve in front. To create the ballerina length skirt (which Cahill was famous for designing), there were four layers of fabric: silk chiffon with decorative stitching (top layer), nylon netting nylon bobbin net, and ribbed acetate (slip layer).






This dramatic debutant dress from 1958 has a draped skirt and textured bodice.  Designed by Cahill, it shows how far formal gowns evolved in just a few years. The gown of silk taffeta has a draped bubble skirt with train in back. The bodice is textured with layers of fabric flower petals and dips low in the back. It was worn by Janet Curci who wore a silk and tulle, beaded gown for her wedding later in 1962.

Throwback Thursday: this article was originally posted on Sept. 11, 2013.


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