From Windsor to West Sussex: Wedding Fashion from the Archives

While the country gets swept along in the media frenzy of the royal wedding this weekend, here at WSRO we’re looking back at some of the memories and celebrations that are preserved in our collections.

PH 25397 – Wedding of Lady May Cambridge and Captain Henry Abel Smith in Balcombe, West Sussex – The bridesmaid is Princess Elizabeth, aged five and a half (the future Queen Elizabeth II). Guests included the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), and the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth)

On Saturday, all eyes will be on the young couple, and every detail of their day will be scrutinised for years to come. If previous royal weddings are anything to go by, the fashion choices of the bridal party will not only be discussed in minute detail, but filter down to inspire an entire generation of brides. Like it or not, the undeniable influence of royal style has spanned centuries. The Duchess of Cambridge’s Issa engagement announcement dress sold out in 5 minutes, and copy-cat rings can still be found on the high street. An entire decade was defined by the Emmanuel’s puff-sleeved creation for Princess Diana, which has since been voted the “Most Influential Wedding Dress of All Time”. However, like with so many of our accepted cultural traditions (including most of Christmas, as discussed in a previous blog) it is Queen Victoria that can take the credit for influencing many of the recognisable wedding trends we still see today. It is widely accepted that Victoria changed bridal fashion forever by popularising the white wedding gown, opting for pale silk satin and Devonshire lace in a time when brides could often be seen walking down the aisle in anything from pink to black.

Likewise, wedding photographers across the globe may also have Queen Victoria to thank, as one of the earliest examples of a posed wedding photograph is a studio recreation of her wedding with Prince Albert. As photographic techniques were not fully developed when they wed in 1840, 14 years later in 1854 the couple once again donned their famous outfits and captured their ‘wedding day’ on film.

With the eyes of the world on Windsor this weekend, there will be no escaping the camera lens for the latest royal couple, but we thought we would take this opportunity to

Garland N485 - 1924
Garland N485 – Miss M Hughes’ wedding at Southwater (19 June 1924)

look a little closer to home, and highlight some of the wonderful photographs of West Sussex couples celebrating their love throughout the years. From our extensive George Garland photographic archive, to a collection of images from the Chichester Photographic Society, decades of young couples show how the changing trends and traditions of wedding style filter down from Queens to ‘commoners’.

Garland N12125 - 1935
Garland N12125 – Comber Homer wedding (Oct 1935)
Garland N22151 - 1943
Garland N22151 – Morris Clifford wedding (May 1943)
Garland N40695 - 1953
Garland N 40695 – Kirdford wedding (June 1953)



CPS 1094-15 - 1962
CPS 1094/15 – Butler Wilson wedding (3 Mar 1962)
CPS 3747-15 - 1960s
CPS 3747/15 (1960s)
CPS 4267-3
CPS 4267/3 (1960s)





Lauren Clifton

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