What Is the Most Popular Wedding Dress Style?

Some wedding dress styles come and go, but some silhouettes endure. Zola's guide explains the most popular wedding dresses from yesterday and today.

By The Zola Team

woman outside in wedding dress
Photo by Christopher Duggan Photography

The wedding dress is perhaps the most personal of clothing decisions. Choosing one can be the most exciting or—let’s be honest—excruciating decision in the wedding planning process. There’s the wedding dress length, fabric, color, and design to consider. We can’t forget seasonal conditions, nor the opinion of your mother, bridesmaids, and perhaps the squirrel outside.

Then there’s this little thing called budget. Not to mention the fact that wedding dress styles are constantly evolving. Who can forget the ‘80s mega puff sleeve era? Or the Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy silk nightie look? Or Meghan Markle’s unforgettable bridal gown?

Yet, why do we draw a blank when we try to think of the most popular wedding dress style?

What Is the Most Popular Wedding Dress Style? | Zola Photo Credit // Faith Photography

Narrowing It Down: The White Dress

Queen Victoria is said to have popularized the modern, white wedding dress, although there’s documentation of white dresses long before. Her 1840 marriage to Prince Albert started the trend through which brides today are taking liberties, from adding floral prints to nixing the hue altogether, opting instead for blues and greys.

According to Business Insider, as of 2014, only four to five percent of dresses sold at David's Bridal were colored. So, is the answer to the “What is the most popular wedding dress style” question Queen Victoria’s? Does her dress endure all these years later? Let’s find out.

Cinderella, Cinderella

There’s something about the ball gown—the classic poofy skirt with a fitted waistline look—that screams Disney princess. It’s not unfounded to think that many of us have shaped our “idea” of this magnificent piece of clothing through the lens of Disney films.

In fact, In 2014, Marie Claire published a great historical timeline on the dress and how it entered the American subconscious. According to the story, the look first captivated audiences when the Disney cartoon—”Cinderella”—was released in 1950. This was followed up seven years later by a television special of Rodgers and Hammerstein's “Cinderella” starring none other than Julie Andrews, magnificent in her ballgown. The look was immortalized yet again when pop star Brandi starred in a Cinderella reboot in 1997.

It’s no wonder that this type of dress retains its unbeatable popularity. But, is the Disney princess look the most popular wedding dress style?

We’d say it’s the foundation upon which the wedding dress as a concept has been built. But really, wedding dresses reflect wedding ceremony styles. In reality, there are five most popular wedding styles:

  • Classic
  • Modern
  • Rustic
  • Boho
  • Garden Party

And based on the style of wedding that you plan, your dream wedding dress will have to fit the theme. So, how about a little blast from the past inspiration?

Style Through the Ages

The truth of the matter is this, wedding dresses vary greatly depending on where you live and what decade you said “I do” in. If you’re just looking at American trends, it goes a little like this:

  • 1910s: Drapey, low-waisted floor-length gowns.
  • 1920s: Think flapper. Insider reports that during this era, brides opted for “a high scoop neckline, a straight, slim fit, and a low waist.”
  • 1930s: Slouchy silk (or, more often, the cheaper rayon due to the Depression slump) was the most common choice.
  • 1940s: A slim, silky wedding dress silhouette was favored.
  • 1950s: Enter the ball gown wedding dress (see aforementioned “Cinderella” movie).
  • 1960s: Brides traded big fluffy gowns for a straight, floor-length shape and even mini skirt looks.
  • 1970s: Accessories such as hats, flower crowns, and chokers suddenly came into fashion.
  • 1980s: Bigger was better in this decade of giant puffy sleeves and ruffles upon ruffles.
  • 1990s: A little bit of all of the above snuck into the 90s, from residual poofy sleeves to svelte and simple a-line wedding dresses.
  • 2000s: Lots of lace in all manner of silhouettes.
  • 2010s: Strapless makes a big statement on the likes of Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen, and Jessica Beil.

So, What’s the Hottest Style in 2020?

Well, we don’t need to tell you that it’s been a weird year. Even if you’re reading this years after 2020, you’re still going to think: yes, weird year.

Back in April of 2019, publishers such as Vogue were predicting spring 2020’s wedding season to be a mix of bustled dresses, high-low cuts, feathered garments, anti-establishment wedding suits, and over the top headbands. Due to the pandemic, weddings have been predominantly put on hold.

Yet, as you would imagine, this situation will influence the next series of style. A few trends that we’re seeing in wedding dresses are:

  • Dress budgets are shrinkingFashionista reports that some wedding gown shops are seeing individuals trim their wedding dress budgets by up to 25 percent.

  • Discarding tradition – If there’s one thing that the past five months have done, it’s make people reevaluate what they care about. For some brides, that’s tradition. When it comes to wedding dresses, the need to follow suit and sport the “classic white gown” is slowly being challenged by palettes filled with color.

  • Upcycling – Eco-conscious couples are rethinking the look and feel of weddings. This extends to the gowns, as some brides are retooling vintage or second-hand dresses.

  • Buying local – The continued lockdown has many people reassessing how they spend their money. This phenomenon is affecting bridal gown purchases.

  • Sequel looks — For couples who hosted pandemic weddings that ended up being smaller than planned, the wedding dress industry expects many sequel weddings, nuptials 2.0 with more playful twists on gowns, such as jumpsuits, two pieces, and casual ensembles.

What Is the Most Popular Wedding Dress Style? | Zola Photo Credit //JoPhoto

Looking Ahead

As much as fashion followers like to predict future styles, there’s no formula to tell what will take off and what won’t.

With that said, we’ve sussed through the best of bridal fashion forecasting to give you a look at what the best and brightest in the wedding gown industry think will be making catwalk news in 2021.

Whether or not one of these styles becomes the most popular wedding dress remains to be seen. Perhaps there will be a resurgence of over-the-top styles in celebration of a return to normal. Or, maybe there will be a renewed sense of simplicity in reaction to lockdown.

But, in the meantime, you can do your own forecasting by checking out the options at Zola and making your own predictions.

Statement Sleeves

Multiple fashion writers are predicting statement sleeves as a popular choice for brides in 2021. What does that mean? Think off-the-shoulder lace sleeves, long lace sleeves, and billowy sleeves.

Jazz Age Influences

The Jazz Age is making a big comeback next year. This vintage revival will translate into plunging backlines, glamorous beadwork, and lots of sparkles.

Put a Bow on It

Buttons and bows are big in 2021. We’re talking stacked bows up the backline, silky waistline bow cinchers, and bold statement bows.

Thigh High

The thigh slit continues to be a favorite moving from 2020 into 2021. The addition of a peek-a-boo leg look adds some sensual appeal to the traditional wedding gown.

Off-the-Shoulder

The off-the-shoulder look continues to prevail.

Sustainability

More and more couples are interested in hosting ethical weddings. To that end, the eco-friendly wedding dress market continues to expand and manufacture dresses from sustainable, organic, and recycled textiles.

Zola: The Most Popular Wedding Dresses

One thing that will never go out of style when it comes to wedding dresses is drama. And drama comes in all different fashions. A wedding day is a monumental moment in a couple’s lifetime and whether it’s celebrated at a courthouse or in an extravagant ballroom, wearing something special that symbolizes the importance of the union continues to be important (no world event will change this).

What drama means to you is a singularly personal question. It could be following a new trend, such as intricate, lace sleeves. Or, it could mean retooling a vintage wedding dress with a deep “V” backline or trimming a lengthy bridal gown into a high-low look. The good news is: you have a resource for inspiration, sporting various wedding dress designs.

At Zola, we make wedding planning and registry easy—that goes for gown shopping, too. With hundreds of different dresses, Zola’s Bridal Boutique is the ultimate digital wedding gown boutique. But, you don’t just have to surf through dozens of pages of gowns, you can drill down by color, price, and brand, in addition to five different styles:

  • A-Line
  • Ball Gown
  • Mermaid and Trumpet
  • Separates
  • Sheath

Zola understands that wedding trends are perpetually evolving. Whether you’re planning your wedding sequel for 2021 or downsizing your nuptials for later this year, we have the perfect dress to fit your budget, style, and size.

Shop Decor, Favors, and More at Our Wedding Boutique