Wedding gowns often reflect the fashions of their era and so photos from the 1920s can be dated by various clues such as sleeve style, neck line and dress length. Some brides did choose to wear their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown which can be misleading. However if the bride wore an older style dress she often updated her hair style and veil. In group wedding photos the attire of the bridesmaids and wedding guests can also provide useful information as to the date.
1920s Bridal Head-dress
At the beginning of the Twentieth century Bridal Head-gear was worn much higher than later the in the 1920s.
In the 1920s Mob caps were fashionable as bridal headdresses. A mob cap was a large cap or bonnet covering much of the hair, typically of light cotton with a frilled edge. Sometimes it was tied under the chin with ribbon and was worn indoors by women in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the Victorian period, mob caps had become the head covering of servants and nurses. However the 1920s saw a resurgence of the mob cap in bridal wear.
1921 Dorothy Greaves – Mob Cap style headdress and veil
Later in the 1920s brides favoured lace cloche headdresses, some of which would be encircled with flowers. Veils were usually made of silk materials and decorated with flowers and leaves. Orange Blossom was often used to decorate the head-dress.
Tiaras, veils and headbands were all worn low over the forehead in the 1920s.
1922 Double Wedding with veils worn low over the forehead.
A Juliet cap was a small open-work crocheted or mesh cap, often decorated with pearls or beads and worn with evening gowns and bridal wear. The cap was named after the heroine of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and was often worn with a long cathedral-length veil in the 1920’s.
1929 People’s Home Journal
Western Morning News – Monday 10 December 1928
1928 Juliet Cap of lace and pearls
In the 1920s White Russian emigres fleeing revolution and civil war influenced the fashion scene. Thousands of Russians fled to escape the Bolshevik revolution and many immigrant women found work in French couture houses using their skills in embroidery and knowledge of traditional Russian patterns. Designs influenced by Russian peasant costumes became popular. One fashionable design was based on a Russian girl’s headdress called a kokoshnik.
In 1922 the heiress Edwina Ashley married Lord Louis Mountbatten and wore a Russian inspired pointed coronet.
Miss Irene Hill was noted as having a `fashionable wedding’ in India and wore a Russian coronet of orange-blossom.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Tuesday 25 August 1925
I am fascinated by this wonderful photo taken of Helen Fry Kingston wearing a most impressive Russian kokoshnik style headdress at her wedding in Queensland, Australia in 1929.
1929 Helen Fry Kingston and Francis J Perrett
At another 1929 wedding Minnie East has a much simpler headdress. However it is still worn low down 1920s style.
1929 Minnie East
Western Morning News – Friday 01 April 1927
Alternatively a hat was worn by the bride and or bridesmaids. We often see wide-brimmed picture hats until mid decade when the neat cloche became the most fashionable style.
Larger picture-hats were often called vagabond style.
Dundee Evening Telegraph – Wednesday 12 October 1927
Chelmsford Chronicle – Friday 20 August 1920
1922 Wedding party with wide-brimmed Picture hats
1923 Picture hats
At this wedding reported in 1929 the bride wore a black velvet picture hat and the bridesmaid wore the newer style cloche hat.
The cloche hat or simply cloche was a fitted, bell-shaped hat for women that was invented in 1908 by milliner Caroline Reboux. They became popular from about 1922 to 1933. The name is derived from cloche, the French word for “bell”. A Cloche hat had a basic bell contour with a bulbous crown which if correctly designed could add inches to the height of the wearer. The hat had to be all but pulled over the eyes, making the wearer have to lift up the head, whilst peering snootily down the nose. Brims became smaller as the decade progressed.
I have found references to not only ivory and black coloured cloche hats worn by brides and bridesmaids, but also a lot of colour.
1925 Edith Punchard wore an ivory lace cloche with clusters of pale yellow flowers
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Thursday 21 May 1925
1925 Bride Hilda Webber wore a blue & silver shot cloche hat trimmed with forget-me-nots.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Tuesday 28 April 1925
1924 small blue cloche hat trimmed with tuft of paradise feathers.
North Devon Journal – Thursday 12 June 1924
Blue seemed to be a popular colour choice influenced by the royal weddings in the early 1920s. Princess Mary chose blue as the colour for her bridesmaid dresses and the colour became known as Princess Mary blue.
Grantham Journal – Saturday 25 February 1922
Many brides wore a veil for the marriage ceremony, but chose to wear a cloche hat to go on honeymoon.
Another interesting feature of 1920s weddings is that bridesmaids sometimes wore veils! This can make it difficult to distinguish the bride in photos.
1922 Princess Mary’s bridesmaid veils
Nancy Davidson chose veils of primrose-coloured net for her bridesmaids to tone with their primrose coloured chiffon dresses fastened with blue sashes. They carried bouquets of blue delphiniums. I was delighted to have found these descriptions. Black and White photos look so drab and give no impression of the colours.
Sheffield Independent – Thursday 20 June 1929
Winifred Griffiths also favoured blue as a colour. Her bridesmaids wore blue satin dresses with head dresses of blue net fastened with wreaths of forget me nots.
Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press – Saturday 25 May 1929
In the 1920s bridesmaids did sometimes wear white veils which were very similar to the bride. While in modern times a bridesmaid is expected to assist the bride, her duties were regarded as of a more serious nature in earlier days. A custom once existed where maidens dressed similarly to the bride would accompany her as her protectors on her way to the groom’s village. This would deflect spurned suitors from kidnapping the bride or from stealing her dowry. Roman law once required witnesses to come to weddings in order to confuse evil spirits as to the identity of the bride and groom. This meant that female wedding attendants came to a marriage ceremony in garments very similar to the bride’s, This supposedly threw off bad luck that could be directed towards an easily identifiable bride and groom. In the 1920s it seems to be more of a case of fashion being influenced by the past than superstition influencing fashion.
During the first half of the 1920s women wore decorative bands across the forehead with evening and party dresses and this head decoration was reflected in bridal headpieces. Bridal Fashion introduced Bandeau headdresses in the later 1920s.
Derby Daily Telegraph – Friday 07 December 1928
However clearly this Derbyshire vicar had strong views on `Modern Wedding Attire’. I’m therefore sure that Lady Edith would have kept her veil on for her wedding and not just worn a bandeau.
Flower girls – mob caps and dutch caps
There was also a fashion to have young flower girls in addition to bridesmaids. Little girls carrying flower baskets might wear puff-sleeved dresses and mob caps, emulating the historical Kate Greenaway style.
Western Daily Press – Monday 24 June 1929
1927 Wedding Louisa George
Not only the small flower girls, but also the chief bridesmaid is wearing a simple mob cap at this wedding. I must admit they look like shower caps to me!
Western Morning News – Wednesday 11 June 1924
1926 Edith Amelia Polglass Wedding
1925 I much prefer the flower girls bonnets chosen by Dorothy Jones
Another distinctive bridesmaids head wear was the wired cap with horizontal wings that resembled a Dutch head-dress. This style looks like a fashion faux pas to me. However Edwina Ashley chose Dutch caps for her bridesmaids dresses when she married Louis Mountbatten so maybe I’m missing something!
Western Morning News – Tuesday 18 July 1922
Western Morning News – Tuesday 13 December 1927
Hopefully I have given a few clues to identifying 1920s wedding photos from the headgear worn. Next time I will be looking at the dresses themselves.
1922 Double wedding of siblings William and Jane Pomfret