Black and White Wedding Gowns

Add black accents for elegance.

Adding drama and high glamour to the event, black and white wedding gowns are regaining popularity for formal weddings. They have a retro style and cutting edge sophistication that appeals to a wide range of tastes - and they just generally look fabulous.

Black and White Wedding Gowns History

The old saying was "Marry in black, you'll wish yourself back," but even in the 19th century, women sometimes wore their good black dresses for their weddings. As a dress designated solely for nuptials was something only worn by the very wealthy until comparatively recently, so the uniformly white wedding dress was something not seen so much in centuries past.

Black and white wedding gowns were seen initially in the Art Deco era, as the stunning color contrast so prevalent in art, architecture, design, and fashion would naturally extend its influence to high-fashion events like weddings. Dashes of black in folds of gowns enticed the eye as the bride moved or danced.

The look was also popular in the mid-1950s, when style-setter Audrey Hepburn sported a beautiful strapless white gown with black accents designed by Givenchy in the film Sabrina. Women went mad for the dress and the look is still widely sought by brides and copied by designers today.

Choices in Black and White Dresses

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Alexis Mabille wedding dress

When a bride opts for a black and white wedding gown, she's more than likely echoing a décor theme. Black and white weddings, far from dull, have a high class and drama that makes for a memorable event. They are typically for evening affairs - think black-and-white balls. Bridesmaids' dresses are usually black - perhaps with white accents - and more variety can be had with the men's clothing as well. Pinstripes are very dashing and popular, adding to the retro glamour.

For the bride, the most common choice in a black and white dress is a predominately white dress with black accents. It can be as simple as a black sash or bow; or more involved, like toile throughout the dress. Designers with an eye for strong statements look for exciting ways to add black - on a gown with a train, for instance, black panels are stunning. Black can also be folded into pleats or wrapped around the skirt's hem.

To prevent busyness, a white dress adorned with black needs to have a simple, clean cut. While you can certainly add a contrasting accent to a full-skirted dress, you're in danger of distracting the eye.

Likewise, although checkerboard patterns and swirls can add distinction, you need to be sure they are kept as light accents - you don't want your guests to feel dizzy watching you dance, or even just walk down the aisle.

Finding and Styling the Gown

Although a black and white gown is a high-fashion item, it doesn't have to come in at a designer price. You can certainly get a Vera Wang black and white dress, but you can also find much more reasonably priced elegant gowns with some careful shopping. Check different bridal shops and dress retailers for ideas, and don't overlook special occasion and prom dress selections for options in black and white.

You also have the option of personalizing your dress. If you find a perfect vintage wedding dress in white, you can have a skilled seamstress or costumer add black detailing, either with embroidery or insets.

Expanding From the Gown

Even if you're not using a wedding planner, choosing something so striking as a black and white gown should definitely inform more intimate details of the wedding, such as the cake. A white cake with toile icing accents to match the bride's dress is beautiful. The invitations should likewise be black and white, setting the mood long before the magical evening, and other wedding decorations can have touches of black and white as well. Both gold and silver are superb accent colors, or you may opt for a bolder statement with jewel tones or other colors.


Black and white wedding gowns are stunning, and you can find either vintage or modern designs to suit your wedding plans. Adding a touch of black to your gown is a daring and decisive step, and one that is sure to make your attire as memorable as your wedding day.

Black and White Wedding Gowns