Ridiculous Vintage Bridesmaids Dresses that Should Have Been Burned

Alli - November 12, 2021
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The 1960s in one photo. Bored Panda.

These Bridesmaids Dresses Could Have Toured with The Mamas and the Papas

California Dreamin’?? More like California Nightmarin’… Okay that was a bad joke. But it’s still better than these dresses. If you really love vintage looks, you might find these dresses endearing. But if you’re looking at it from a purely stylistic point of view, they’re just bad. And they all are a part of the mock neck dress committee. Even the bride. In addition to the gaudy floral print, their bouquets have some very matchy matchy ribbons hanging down. This really does feel like a 1960s fever dream. Speaking of all the floral, why do bridesmaids carry bouquets? We all love flowers, but it seems to be a very consistent tradition.

Why do bridesmaids carry bouquets? There are lots of theories, but back in olden days, bouquets were less about color and style and more about function and superstition. Bridesmaids carried fragrant herbs, even garlic, to ward off evildoers (and perhaps to mask their own body odor since bathing was not a daily occurrence). Later on, again inspired by Queen Victoria who carried a small bouquet of her favorite flowers on her big day, brides and bridesmaids started carrying floral bouquets. And though the tossing of the bouquet might be a tradition that single ‘maids dread, you might be surprised to learn about its origins. A bride used to throw one of her shoes to the waiting crowd of bridesmaids­!

This is a neon/pastel nightmare. Bored Panda.

Pastel Hell

I think that gaudy pastels are going to be a trend on this list. Today’s bridesmaids might have occasional rough looks, but the color schemes of some of these vintage weddings is truly baffling. Further evidence of this custom not only show up in Ancient Rome, but also feudal China, where a bride may have been required to travel many miles to her groom’s town, making her susceptible to attack by bandits or rival suitors. With a host of bridesmaids all dressed alike, it became that much harder to target the bride on the road or at her ceremony. (Think about it like traveling with a body double—except everybody looks fabulous.)  It eventually became a legal requirement, according to certain Roman wedding customers, for ten witnesses to attend a wedding ceremony, all of them uniformed in matching colors. Similarly, brides are said to wear veils in order to mask their faces from both real and supernatural wedding crashers.

This difference in dress really didn’t deviate from tradition until the later part of the 19th century. Brides and weddings became a bit more pageant like during this period. Leading to more of the gaudy bridesmaids fashions we are seeing here. For some reason looking like a frilly Easter egg has always been a big fad in the wedding industry. (Not that over-the-top weddings were some kind of radical new concept — during the Renaissance, laws had been enacted specifically to try to control consumption around weddings to prevent social climbing.) But thanks in part to a rise in detailed media coverage of weddings (think proto-Vows), Victorians were more aware than previous generations of what other, fancier people were doing, and — thanks to generally improved standards of living — middle-class families were increasingly likely to feel driven, or pressured, to copy it.

Veils were an extremely important theme for this bride. Bored Panda.

A Veiled Nightmare

The veil is “the oldest part of the bridal ensemble,” says wedding historian Susan Waggoner. It dates back to ancient times when people “wrapped brides from head to toe to represent the delivery of a modest and untouched maiden.” But there were many added benefits to wearing a veil. The veil also “hid her away from evil spirits who might want to thwart her happiness.” And from here, this bride really wanted to make sure that a veil was a very central theme to her big day. But let’s not forget the color scheme here. Yet another example of the Easter Bunny throwing up all over the bridal party. Based on the color scheme, I think it’s safe to assume this was a spring or early summer wedding.

“A more practical reason for the veil, said to stem from the days of arranged marriages, was the desire to hide the bride’s face from the groom,” Waggoner says. Queen Victoria was married in a white dress and a veil cascading down her back, “making her the first modern monarch to be married in a veil,” Waggoner explains. And at that moment, the image of a bride was defined for centuries to come. Today, the wedding veil is used as more of a simple accessory than a means of warding off evil spirits. Some brides choose to wear one over their face, but more often than not it’s draped over the back of their hair and dress.

Yellow was a very bold choice for this bride. Bored Panda.

Hello Yellow

When the bride in this photo called her wedding planner for her concept, the only word that came out of her mouth was “yellow.” The carpet, the dresses, the flowers. Everything yellow. It’s probably the vintage film, but he entire hue of this photo also has a yellow cast to it. It’s astounding really. But we’ve poked fun. Let’s maybe look at the reason and positive aspects of using so much yellow in a wedding. Colors (particularly with special events and floral arrangements) have always been a way for people to take their story that much further. Color symbolism actually has a very strong place for many people planning events. So what does yellow in a wedding mean?

Yellow is a very bold and brave choice for brides. Yellow’s meaning can change dramatically with shade and context.  Brighter shades represent the sunshine of summer, cheerfulness, and wisdom. Lighter, buttery shades mean warmth, hope, and spring. It also can symbolize wisdom, happiness and intellectual energy. Yellow is also a very imaginative colour and chosen by those seeking self-fulfillment and adventure. People with good senses of humor often tend towards yellow and other personality traits yellow can represent are curiosity, awareness, and those who are driven and focused. No matter what shade, this color will grab the attention of everyone. Just beware of dull yellows as they are often associated with decay and sickness. So maybe stick to happier shades of yellow.

That’s a lot of bridesmaids. Bored Panda.

That is a Lot of Veils… and Bridesmaids

This kind of looks like a tropical veiled wedding nightmare. The pink veils really add… something to the bridal party. The color choice is also very interesting considering they’re all in long sleeved turtle neck type dresses. You would think this would be a summer color scheme. So there is a lot of confusion on this one. There are also SO MANY bridesmaids in this party. People were probably falling asleep waiting for the bridesmaid processional to end just so they could see the bride. Unfortunately we’re not shown how the bride looks in this photo, so we’re going to imagine she followed through in her semi-tropical off season theme. But let’s take a look at how many bridesmaids is normal.

On average, North American brides have between three and five bridesmaids. Some have way, way more than that; others forgo the bridal party altogether. If you’re considering going above average (six bridesmaids or more), make sure you take into consideration the effect that this will have on the rest of your wedding. When it comes to deciding how many attendants you can have in your line up, there is no set number. One way to do it is to pick a number based on the number of guests that you’ll have. For instance, if you’re planning a wedding with 200 or more guests, a larger wedding party might be okay. But if you’re looking to have a more intimate wedding of 100 or fewer guests, it’s probably best to stick to a smaller bridal party – like maybe 3 or 4 bridesmaids. 

It’s a job of the bridesmaid to look pretty but not outshine the bride. Bored Panda.

Pink Nuns or Another Bo Peep Copycat?

This is a doozy. First of all, Peptobismol pink is never an acceptable choice. The one saving grace is that the bride looks pretty cute in her ensemble. But maybe it’s the contrast of the hideous bridesmaid dresses that make her shine. But maybe some brides decide to choose unflattering dresses for their pretty friends as a petty way to upstage them. A lot of people have speculated over whether or not some of these scenarios are the case. And even throughout history and wedding etiquette books, it’s essential for the “modern” bridesmaid to be subservient to the bride and not outshine them in any way.

According to the 1865 nuptial guidebook The Etiquette of Courtship and Matrimony, bridesmaid dresses should “be as the depth of colouring in the background of a sun-lit picture.” It goes on to later say, “The principal duty of the brides-maid is to look pretty, and not out-shine the bride,” advised Rose Cleveland in The Social Mirror, her 1888 “Complete Treatise on the Laws, Rules and Usages that Govern Our Most Refined Homes and Social Circles.” A 1920 issue of Vogue agreed that bridesmaids should look “charming, yet not too charming; distinctive, yet not too prominent.” What do you think? Did these bridesmaids understand the assignment?

The rose colored glasses… Bored Panda.

The Bride Chose these Dresses through Rose Colored Glasses… Literally

The term, “seeing the world through rose colored glasses” takes on a whole new meaning in this photo. The bride and groom both wear the 1970s glasses style with tinted lenses. So maybe the bride thought the bridesmaids dresses were a bit less green than when she originally chose them? After all, half of the wedding party is wearing those types of shades. This type of green is somewhere between a pastel green and a Kelly green. And it looks like they didn’t exclude the groomsmen from this green shade of fun. And they were blessed with green ruffles at that. What a lucky group. Of course, people haven’t always been able to afford a whole new outfit for one specific occasion.

Bridesmaid dresses, for most people, would have been re-worn out of economic necessity. A single-use dress (distinctive, yet not too prominent as it may be) might have been “fine for wealthy people,” Katherine Jellison, Professor of Sociology at Ohio University and author of It’s Our Day: America’s Love Affair with the White Wedding, wrote, “but it only moved down into the middle and working class when folks on those rungs of the economic ladder acquired more disposable income” — likely not until after World War II. Today, says Kelsey Doorey, CEO and Founder of Vow to be Chic, which rents designer bridesmaid dresses, 86% of bridesmaid dresses (average price: $234) are worn exactly once. This just isn’t a sustainable option for many people, even nowadays.

Merry Weddingmas!

I don’t think any of us can look at this photo and not see brides of old Saint Nick. Could that be Mrs. Claus getting married? At least there are poinsettias and it doesn’t look like they made this jolly choice in the wrong season. But they seriously look like they could be getting ready for a Christmas pageant. This definitely represents the couple’s love for the holiday season! So hopefully the bridesmaids could put aside their personal opinions about these… cute dresses.  Many bridesmaids advice books seem to say the same thing. “Your bridesmaid’s dress is a costume in a production, not an expression of who you are,” chides tough-loving maiding guide.

The Bridesmaid’s Manual. “A bridesmaid should remember her avowed duty it is to be supportive of the bride’s notions,” concurs You Can Wear It Again, a showcase of dresses “real brides have selected on behalf of their supporting cast.” Bridesmaid dresses, of course, are an expression of identity — just not the identity of the people actually required to wear them. They are an organza manifestation of the personality and taste of the happy couple, like the food, or the music, or the succulents-as-centerpieces.

Bold dresses that very obviously were inspired by French Can-Can Dancers. Bored Panda.

Did they Can-Can down the Aisle?

Just looking at this photo, it seems that pageantry was a big theme for this wedding. The groom is sporting a white tux, a top hat and a cane, for heaven’s sake. And the red bridesmaids dresses against the solid white certainly does pop. It seems as though they decided to take some inspiration from French Can-Can Dancers. In the early 19th century the fashion was for public and private balls, most often held in the fine hotels and mansions which the Parisian bourgeoisie of the Belle Epoque enjoyed frequenting. It was against this backdrop that le chahut (noise or uproar) or the chahut-cancan (cancan meaning tittle tattle or scandal) made its first appearance. It is believed that this dance was derived from the final figure of the social dance known as the quadrille and later became known as the cancan or coincoin, a vigorous dance performed by couples.

In 1850, Celeste Mogador, a leading light of the Mabille Ball, embraced the cancan phenomenon and thereby lent it a patina of respectability that helped it increase in popularity. Developing rapidly, the new dance now lasted for about ten minutes, during which the row of female dancers would high kick, lift their skirts and perform various other energetic moves to up tempo music while facing the audience like a chorus line. The long, frilly dresses were kept but now the panties beneath them were, shall we say, less revealing. Still considered scandalous, the dance was at least acceptable by the authorities, and became known as the French cancan.

Taking pothead to new levels. Bored Panda.

Alice in Wonderland Nightmare

Okay so we’re not entirely sure what the themed of this is. Maybe some sort of Renaissance garden theme? The only hint is that it seems as though the bride’s head dress is… a potted plant. We give them kudos for creativity, but that’s pretty much where the compliments on this end. It also looks like fake flowers have been hot glued to the bridesmaid’s dresses and their heads. Of course, even though this looks like some strange Renaissance faire production, it’s the job of the bridesmaids to suck it up and smile for the bride. As well as attend to the other needs of the bride.

The day of the wedding is a long day for the entire wedding party, but if you find yourself unhappy with choices, remember that all the pressure is on the couple, so you don’t want to voice your frustrations or annoyances on the day of. Maybe you don’t love how your hair or makeup turned out; work out with the stylists, don’t complain to the bride. Some brides may already have a strong vision of what they want the wedding party to wear, but if the bride asks for help, you can certainly chime in on ideas for the bridesmaids’ attire, hair, or makeup. If you’re asked to wear something you don’t like, this is the time to forever hold your peace.

Straight from the Handmaid’s Tale. Bored Panda.

Blessed be the Fruit, Ladies

Nobody wants to look like they just got off the set of the Handmaid’s Tale. This dystopian story does not bode well for the women living in this twisted universe where male domination and female servitude are key. This hooded bridesmaid’s dress is definitely giving some creepy cult vibes though. And the pop up weird floral 70s print in red, white, and blue looks like the Handmaids are about to celebrate the Fourth of July. Of course, based on what we’ve learned about the history of the bridesmaids, they have been a sort of handmaiden to the bride to be. But let’s not overlook the groomsmen in this photo. Although somebody should have stopped the far right groomsman from wearing his hair like an early 2000s emo kid.

In some early traditions, the groomsmen were called Bride’s Knights, because they helped protect her—and her dowry, and her virginity—or because they assisted in her kidnapping. Given the likelihood that the bride’s family would attempt to retrieve her from her groom or get revenge—or that another suitor would try to take her, or she might try to escape—the best man stood right next to her at the wedding, at the ready with his weapon. Later, he was moved to the groom’s right side (possibly due to jealousy on the part of the groom). After the ceremony he stood guard outside the newlyweds’ bedroom or home.

Butterfly bridesmaids from the 90s. Bored Panda.

Runaway Members of a Renaissance Faire

This theme is very over the top. Is this theme the worst of what we’ve seen? No, at least it doesn’t look completely out of place. It’s gaudy and cringey for sure, but at least they’re doing it outside and not in front of drab brown curtains. Of course, while the bridesmaids are all costumed out, it seems as though the bride went with an extremely traditional choice. She almost looks like she’s about to walk into a church wedding. Which is definitely not the vibe you get from the butterfly gang. So the consistency is way off for this wedding party. It would be interesting to see if the male/groomsman side of the wedding party went with a similar fantasy theme or if they’re dressed traditionally. It’s anybody’s guess based on the bride’s attire.

The first bachelor parties occurred in ancient Sparta, around the 5th century B.C. These raucous parties were an occasion to toast and feast in the groom’s honor. These parties weren’t always wild debaucheries, but became more so in the 19th and 20th centuries. The term “bachelor” was not widely used, however, until the 14th century, when Geoffrey Chauncer used the word to refer to an unmarried man in his book The Canterbury Tales. Bachelor parties are also called stag parties or stag dos in other parts of the world.

Cult weddings are the best. Bored Panda.

Oh Good, More Creepy Cult Outfits

Why wouldn’t you want a wedding party that creeped out all of your guests? We love this haunting image more than any of the rest. Just because it’s so creepy and bad. If we were going by ancient tradition of confusing spirits or bandits as to who is the actual bride, this bridesmaids outfit would take the wedding cake. And it would throw off any would be perpetrators because if you approach them, you may be cursed for all eternity… Of course the decision for an all white wedding is actually regaining popularity nowadays. But it seems as though this is a trend that came in and out of historical weddings. So if you’re wondering if this had a certain story or tradition behind it, you’d be absolutely right. Just not the hoods.

In early Victorian times, tradition called for all-white weddings, so bridesmaids—who were supposed to be younger than the bride—wore white dresses with short veils, contrasting with the bride’s more ornate veil and train. By the 20th century, this had fallen out of favor, and the bride alone wore white to better stand out. But the Victorian bridesmaids had more responsibilities than that. Victorian bridesmaids were tasked with making party favors out of things like ribbons and flowers and pinning them onto the sleeves and shoulders of guests as they left the ceremony. Bridesmaids of the past also used to walk down the aisle with aromatic bunches of garlic, herbs, and grains to drive evil spirits away (and to help make things smell nice in times when hygiene was a bit different).

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