1940s Bridal Party


Although the world was in turmoil during the ‘40s, people did still get married! In fact, so many people did that the Baby Boom exploded after the war. However, 1940s weddings were not as formal as they were before or after a decade. Most weddings were during 10-1pm brunch time, with a light meal and cake served after the church ceremony. 1940s wedding dresses and groom attire varied from business dress to very formal attire.

Betty and Ray Bukovnik ‘s wedding day wearing their best suits- May 22, 1946

Quite often the bride, groom and wedding party would all simply wear their best suits and dresses. Some brides choose to make a new dress for the occasion with color and design that would make it wearable again after the wedding. Rose pink was a popular choice for both brides and bridesmaids. While silk and satin were unavailable during the war lace and tulle were not rationed, although still very expensive. In the USA  rayon satin, crepe and taffeta were made available for sale as a way to boost morale during the tough times. After the war white silk parachutes were released for sale back to the public and quickly became choice materials for 1940s wedding dresses and bridal lingerie.

1945 wedding wearing a dress worn in 1928! Groom in a morning suit.

Wearing their mother’s wedding dress or other close friend or family member was another popular option. Many used the old wedding dress to create a new design or if they liked it wore it as is. In some larger cities renting a wedding dress was an option too.  The shortage of wedding dresses was especially felt in the UK where it wasn’t uncommon for dresses to be brought over from the USA and then worn at least by a dozen bride friends during the year. If the bride was a uniformed servicewoman she would probably wear her best uniform since they were not given civilian rationing stamps to purchase wedding clothes.

For those who could afford to make or buy a 1940s wedding dress, the styles were similar to day dresses. They always had long sleeves and full skirts, but the ‘princess’ look was not achievable with the fabric restrictions. Dresses usually had a sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice with fitted sleeves that were gathered or puffed at the shoulder. From the waist, a circle skirt fell to the floor. Long trains were a waste of fabric but shorter trains were still allowed.  Dresses were also pretty plain, missing any intricate embroidery or beading.

The decoration went to the veil and headpiece. Brides always wore a long single layer net veil, often attached to a little pillbox hat pinned to the head.  A headband of seasonal flowers was another popular piece, with or without a veil. Headband flowers matched the bride and groom’s corsage and the bride’s very large bouquet. Common flowers were pink or white carnations, gladiolas, roses and real or fake greenery such as silk leaves. Orchids were popular corsage flowers.

A white pearl necklace was the sole piece of jewelry worn by nearly every bride in the 1940s.

American film star Carole Landis, 24, was married, to Captain Thomas C. Wallace, of the U.S. Army Air Force Eighth Fighter Command

A white pearl necklace was the sole piece of jewelry worn by nearly every bride in the 1940s.

Flower girls were an optional wedding party member. They too wore dresses similar to brides and bridesmaids with floor length puffy skirts. They did not always match the bridesmaids. Page boys were dressed like groomsmen- usually in formal suits or velvet knickers.

Shirley Temple and John Agar at their Wedding Reception, September 19th, 1945.