Timeless—it’s a tricky word. If you go by the definition, timeless means “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.” But fashion, naturally, is always changing. And nowhere is that more clear than in the timeline of wedding dress fashion history.
Over the years, wedding gown silhouettes have evolved, fabrics have changed, accessories have been reshaped, and what’s “in” and “out” of vogue has been revamped. So, what endures and still looks elegant years after it was worn? Do fabrics like polyblends look good twenty years down the road? What about that dramatic belly button revealing deep-v neckline? Will you still be in love when you’re toasting to your 50th wedding anniversary?
Below, you’ll learn everything there is to know about elegant and timeless wedding dresses, and discover simple wedding dresses that will withstand the test of time.
Before looking at cuts and styles, educating yourself on wedding dress fabrics is the place to start. How a dress will fall on your frame is in large part due to the nature of the textile that it’s made from. What are the most classic wedding dress fabrics? Here’s a list:
No, we’re not talking about that delicious French pastry. Crepe is a kind of fabric, and it can be made of silk, wool, or synthetic fiber. It’s noted for its:
Organza is often described as being a voluminous fabric that isn’t too heavy. In other words, it’s ideal for providing wedding gown drama. You’ll often see it used in ball gown style dresses. It’s noted for being:
Chiffon is a versatile fabric that’s synonymous with glamor. It works well in multiple style iterations, but is popular with ballgown, A-line, and two-piece designs. It’s also acknowledged as being:
Typically, tulle isn’t used on its own. The sheer fabric is generally layered to produce a flowing effect, as it’s often seen in tutus. Some other attributes include:
Most people can easily identify lace. Estimated to have been created in the 1600s, lace is an open woven fabric with designs created by weaving fine netting. Lace is known for being:
Like its cousin lace, embroidery is woven detailing often used as embellishment. You’ll find embroidery most often on:
Though embroidery can take the star of the show, some modern wedding dresses are embroidered with flowers from top to bottom for a floral galore.
You’ve likely heard the word taffeta in regards to a vintage gown. It’s often seen as a regal fabric, and is most often used in wedding dresses and prom gowns. It’s defined by its:
There was a time when many women swore by sleeping on satin pillowcases, convinced that it would prevent their hair from tangling. Today you’re more likely to see satin in formal dresses. It’s an ideal bridal gown fabric because of its:
Based on the characteristics above, you can now reasonably select a fabric that will suit the season of your wedding and, therefore, present a timeless look. The key is to consider both the weather and the formality of your celebration.
If you’re having a winter wedding, a thin lace gown might leave you shivering through your reception. However, if you’re going to be a June bride, easy-breezy chiffon might be the best choice. If you’re doing a casual picnic gathering, maybe a simple sheath wedding dress would look best. A plated dinner with a live band? That’s another story. In that case, you might want to go full taffeta ballgown.
Once you have your fabric in mind, you can then move onto the silhouette. When choosing the best silhouette, here are a few tips:
Consider Your Height – As common advice goes, shorter brides might prefer structured shapes that don’t swallow their frame. Meanwhile, taller brides can benefit from long, satin gowns, though they have more leeway with voluminous textiles.
Bust Musts – To show a little decolletage, or not, is a very personal decision, but there are some things that every woman should consider when it comes to the top half of her wedding dress. Consider how comfortable you’ll feel for multiple hours in a certain neckline. Do you want to have a plunging neckline from the 2 p.m. ceremony to the 2 a.m. post-celebration? If so, great!
Foundation Garments – Equally important is the question of foundation garments, such as bustiers, strapless bras, bodices, and corsets. Will you need one or want one? Will it work with your dream dress? You may be surprised to discover that some fabrics—silk, for example—easily show what’s below, something you might find less appealing when walking down the aisle. If this is the case, don’t forget to plan in your foundational garment when choosing the perfect dress.
Now that you’ve got the fundamentals of wedding dress shopping out of the way, let’s talk design—the oh-so-important detail that will truly make a bride-to-be feel like the big day is more than just a dream.
What are the classic wedding dress shapes, the simple ones that are timeless and elegant?
A-Line wedding dresses can bring a truly classic look to any wedding. These gowns fit the body comfortably and then flow out to the ground in an almost unbroken line. These modern dresses come in many different materials. For example, this A-Line Wedding Dress by Cocomelody has organza, tulle, and lace elements, offering this translucent, simple dress a breathtaking illusory feel. This is the perfect dress for everything from black-tie weddings to backyard nuptials.
A classic cut, the ballgown features a fitted bodice with a large, full skirt that accentuates the waist. These are elegant across all venues and themes, as they’re a flattering timeless choice. To bring awe to your storybook wedding, consider the Catherine Off-the-Shoulder Wedding Dress by Kleinfeld.
Imagine an upside-down trumpet sitting on a table. Now picture that trumpet made out of luxurious tulle. Voila, you have a trumpet gown. This simple gown flares out at the hips and flows to the floor for an elegant shape. The Mac Duggal Ruffle One Shoulder Trumpet Gown is a show-stopping example of the possibilities of the trumpet gown.
Not to be confused with the trumpet gown, the mermaid wedding dress is much more fitted and is designed to highlight curves. Considered a more sensual classic, it’s best worn with confidence—the kind of confidence that you’ll feel on your wedding day.
Typically coming in an elongated design, the sheath hugs tight to the body and presents the best of every woman. Essentially a formal slip, it’s best to wear these dresses without foundation garments, as they can produce creases.
This bridal style gained popularity during the Regency era and continues to be a favorite with brides around the globe. The waistline is drawn up just below the bust, allowing the dress to flow down to the hem. Depending on the cut, it can draw attention to the neckline and is an excellent choice to pair with embellishments, such as a contrasting ribbon along the waist.
Try, try, and try again. There’s a reason why women often don’t pick the first bridal gown they try on during bridal boutique reality shows. This hefty decision requires plenty of reflection and lots of viewing options. Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case. At Zola, you can order the dress you want, try it on at home, and, if you don’t like it, return it hassle-free!
Zola’s Wedding Boutique makes wedding dress shopping easy with its hundreds of gowns in a variety of price points. Enjoy the benefit of time, and invite your friends over for a viewing party, so you can get their two cents on the gown that fits you best. Experiment with fabrics and shapes from the comfort of your own home, not on a pedestal in front of random shoppers. At Zola, you can find looks that a smaller bridal shop might not carry.
Plus, at Zola you can enjoy price matching. If you find an everyday lower price on a qualifying product from an approved online retailer, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll match it. How’s that for big day shopping deals?
When you’re ready to begin your wedding gown journey, not only will you find the dress of your dreams your dream dress, but you can build a registry and plan your entire event, too—all at Zola. It’s one-stop shopping that will have you saying “I do!” more simply than ever imagined.