Head-to-Toe 1920s Wedding Fashion

By Maureen A. Taylor

June is a popular month for weddings, so Diane Smith’s submission of a mystery photo is a perfect way to start off the summer bridal season.

Her maternal great-grandmother owned this picture. Could this be a picture of Diane’s great-grandfather’s parents, who married in Poland in 1876?

Diane’s in for a surprise! This image dates from the 1920s, not the 1870s. It’s a head-to-toe wedding portrait. Here’s how the clues stack up:

The young man’s hairstyle was called a “boyish pomadour” by the Tonsorial Artist magazine (tonsorial meaning “of or related to a barber or barbering”) in 1924. It would be easy to jump to conclusions based on a single clue, but it’s important to add up all the facts first.

Short hair was very fashionable for young women in the 1920s. The bride wears a variation of the wavy shingle, or short hair with waves. Those waves could be created by a permanent wave treatment or using a curling iron to “marcel” it. A few weeks ago I wrote about wavy hair in old photos and showed a picture of an 1870s Marcel wave, named after a hairdresser.

In the 1920s, bridal bouquets featured long trailing ribbons, like the one shown here.

Shoes are rarely visible in 19th century images, but are a prominent photo- dating clue in the 20th century. There were three basic shoe styles for women in the 1920s:

  • pumps
  • t-straps
  • ankle straps

In the early 1920s, heels were thicker, but by the later part of decade thinner heals were common. This woman’s shoes feature a cuban or spike heel. To view more examples of shoes from the 1920s, click here.

Let’s take another look at the picture and their wedding outfits.

The bride wears an ankle-length satin dress with a bias cut and full sleeves. The groom’s suit likely features a two-button front. He’s wearing a formal shirt and a light-colored (perhaps white) bow tie.

While his haircut came into fashion in the early 1920s, it likely remained popular for several years. Their wedding outfits, especially her shoes and sleeves, date from the late 1920s, probably between 1927 and 1929.

To determine who’s in this picture, Diane needs to re-check her family history for any weddings in that period. Because the picture was owned by her maternal great grandmother, the bride or groom probably has a connection to her.

There is one more clue in the picture: The groom has light-colored eyes, which might help in finding him in other, already-identified images.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now