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Decades of Dresses: Bridal Gowns from 100+ years

July 13, 2023

Summertime makes me think of weddings. Though spring and fall months have come out on top over time to host the happy events, summer still has its fair share of matrimonial moments. As I was perusing our collections, I couldn’t help but get intrigued by all the wedding photographs we have, particularly the images of the brides on their special day.

When I was engaged in the early 2010s, one of the most exciting parts was selecting my wedding gown (next to marrying the love of my life, of course). So, I have gathered an image of a bride from each decade from 1870 and 2000 in our digital collection. I share those below for you to ooohh and ahh over.


Wedding Party on the Wabash and Erie Canal in Attica, Indiana, 1872, Indiana Historical Society, P0411 [cropped]; Douglas R. Kitley and Athila Kitley Wedding Portrait, Marion County, Indiana, 1882, Indiana Historical Society, P0385 [cropped]; Portrait of Mary Moore Bloomer on her Wedding Day, Marion County, Indiana, 1896, Indiana Historical Society, P0385 [cropped]


Katherine “Katie” Cathcart (Mrs. Clarence Martindale) in her Wedding Dress, Indianapolis, 1901, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Mrs. J.W. Paul, Indianapolis, 1917, Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Sisters Margaret and Alice Landon on Their Wedding Day, Indianapolis, 1920, Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]


Henry J. and Roselyn (Comer) Richardson Wedding, Georgia, 1938, Indiana Historical Society, M0649 [cropped]; Creedon Wedding, Terre Haute, 1944, Martin Collection, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Kay Mussetter, Bridal Portrait, Indianapolis, 1956, Bretzman Collection, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]


Wedding of K.P. and Janice Singh, Indianapolis, 1964, K.P. Singh, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Group at the Wedding of K.P. and Janice Singh, India, 1964, K.P. Singh, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Leon and Phylis Lan Lin Wedding Photograph, Missouri, 1970, Phylis Lan Lin, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]


Civil Wedding of Maria Luisa and John Tishner, Indianapolis, 1983, Maria L. Tishner, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Jill and Ray Kramer Wedding, Indianapolis, 1999, Jill Kramer, Indiana Historical Society [cropped]; Stan Chen Wedding, Indianapolis, 2006, Albert Chen, Indiana Historical Society [cropped

Now that you’ve seen the dresses from our collections, I can’t help but share a picture of my own. I felt royal on my wedding day, and it wasn’t just because I shared the day with Will and Kate. It was partly because I had found my perfect groom, and my perfect gown, among so many other things.

Wedding portrait of blog author, Amy Vedra,
Indianapolis, 2011, author’s collection,
image by A Photo Reflection [cropped]

Looking back at the decades of dresses shown above, it’s difficult to choose a favorite. If you twisted my arm, and I couldn’t pick my own, of course, I’d have to go with the sheer elegance of Kay Mussetter in 1956. Her gown, and the whole look, just radiates princess vibes. Which gown is your favorite?

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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