The World's Most Unusual Wedding Dresses
Because weddings (theoretically) only take place once in one's life, wedding dresses are a big deal. While many wedding dress designs are classic and generally uniform, there are some highly unique, unusual, and downright ridiculous wedding dresses out there. I've shared some of my favorites below.
Some of these dresses derive their uniqueness from their culture (or subculture) of origin, others from high fashion, and still more from the very eccentric brides who commissioned them.
I hope you find this collection of unusual wedding dresses to be amusing, interesting, and perhaps insightful. Whether the photos and video below inspire you to design your own unusual wedding dress, or just laugh and point, there is no denying that they are fascinating artifacts of fashion!
What sort of wedding dress would you want?
Unusual Wedding Dress Designs
I'm going to start off this collection of unique wedding dresses by looking at dresses made by specific designers and creative brides. After that, I'll look at interesting wedding dresses that are tied to cultural traditions.
When it comes to simple wedding dresses created by couturiers and brides themselves, it goes without saying that a certain degree of strangeness. Most designers, be they within the old-fashioned couture network, or more modern fashion circles, or even the amateur leagues, design wedding dresses at some point (even if they are just sketches). Most of them are normal—some are exquisite—and some are just plain strange. Here are some of the most notable ones.
The World's Most Unusual Wedding Dress
In my humble opinion, Yves Saint Laurent is responsible for the world's most unusual wedding dress.
I'll never forget the day I first saw it—it was featured as part of a YSL retrospective at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and it stuck out like a bone-white, fuzzy, dead thumb. I think it's the most hideous "dress" I've ever seen (and from what I heard other museum-goers saying, I was certainly not the only one feeling this way).
A mixture between a sarcophagus, a tea cozy, a condom, and a Russian doll costume, this wedding dress makes some VERY loaded statements . . . though I can't quite be entirely sure what they are.
Theatrical Wedding Dresses
Because wedding dresses have become such charged cultural icons, it comes as no surprise that musical artists and other celebrities have utilized them for performing purposes.
Though not technically used for wedding ceremonies, theatrical wedding dresses contribute some of the most outlandish and fascinating designs to the world's pool of unusual wedding dresses. Between stars' huge production budgets and access to super creative designers, the wedding dresses that have been worn on stage are probably the most strange when it comes to interpretations of modern, mainstream designs.
Wedding Dresses Inspired by Food
Food is beautiful, delicious, addictive, dangerous, nourishing, and without a doubt inspiring. Food can also be breathtakingly beautiful—it should come as no surprise that some clothing designers might incorporate aesthetic elements of wedding cakes, cookies, vegetables, fruit, and other visually fascinating treats into the odd dress or shoe.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that some designers have decided to just turn food into dresses—wedding dresses included. To your write, you'll see a wedding dress inspired by profiteroles . . . that is actually comprised of profiteroles.
I wonder if they ate it after the wedding. Heck - seeing as the thing weighed ten kilograms, they could have fed an entire wedding party with the dress!
Unusual Wedding Dresses With Crazy-Long Trains
Many young brides are drawn to at least some sort of train for their wedding dresses—they bring a sense of history, regality, and romance to the ensemble and allow the wearer to flaunt sumptuous fabrics, lace, and beadwork.
The Valentino wedding dress pictured to the right offers a great example of wedding dress train showboating. The intricate lacework is far too precious to touch the ground!
Perhaps the most famous unusual wedding dress with an incredibly long train is that worn by Princess Diana in her epic royal wedding. At 25 feet long, that particular train reached ridiculous lengths, but its designers, David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, were only catering to the fairy tale wedding visions of both Diana and her adoring public.
What makes that dress in particular so unique is not only the incredibly long train but also the almost cartoon-like extent to which it exaggerated almost every traditional feature of a wedding dress. In addition to the train, the shoulders, skirt, and veil were also exaggerated and theatrical.
Wedding Dresses Meet Subcultures, Themes, and Locations
As I mentioned earlier, many dresses are tied to subculture, and one reason why I love subculturally-affiliated wedding dresses is they can be ANYTHING! Take, for example, hardcore nerds who decide to have a Star Wars-themed wedding. Their wedding dresses can be as elaborate as those worn by Queen Amidala!
Even more mainstream folk can opt for crazy wedding grab by having a themed wedding (e.g., Prom theme, Belle Epoque theme, Under The Sea theme, Zombie theme . . .). Themed weddings rock!
The setting of a wedding can also lead to some very unusual costume choices. Pictured to the right is a snapshot taken of a wedding ceremony at Burning Man, an annual arts festival that takes place in a remote Nevada desert. As you can see, the unconventional setting and event enable not just the bride, but EVERYONE to wear insane outfits (as is clearly evident with the bridesmaids).
Unusual Wedding Dresses Tied to Traditional Culture
Each traditional culture has its own unique form of dress. I think we only see them as unusual because we're all starting to dress the same.
Seeing as we're all adopting a sort of borderless uniform—both in wedding chapels and in everyday life—let's take a break to celebrate some unusual wedding dresses from other traditional cultures—and one modern one, too!
Shinto Wedding DressesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Shinto Wedding Dresses
Some of my favorite wedding dresses are Shinto wedding dresses, which I would imagine may seem very unusual to some, as they are hardly the white, beaded standard we are so accustomed to.
Let's take a second to talk about these—Shinto wedding dresses are actually kimonos—elegant robes with long, wide sleeves and a hem that ends right around the ankle. The traditional kimono worn by brides for Shinto wedding ceremonies is called a shiromuku and is all white.
The particularly awesome thing about wedding dresses as worn for Shinto-style weddings is that a bride gets more than one—in addition to the shiromuku, which is worn for the wedding ceremony, brides get to wear a more colorful kimono called an irouchikake for the reception.
Some brides who have chosen to go all out for their weddings might even have a Western-style wedding dress for part of the reception as well.
Is this the best of all worlds? Absolutely. The more wedding dresses, the better!
Traditional Russian Wedding Dresses
When it comes to Russian wedding dresses (traditional ones, at least), I am more fascinated by the headdresses than the dresses themselves!
The image to the right displays a commemorative stamp showcasing the culture of Russian People.
The Russian bride on the stamp is wearing a national headdress, which includes amazing beadwork and a beautiful white veil.
It looks pretty heavy, and the shape is fascinating—I have never seen one worn in person, but imagine it would be quite a sight!
Aceh Wedding Dresses
Also heavy on the headgear are traditional Aceh wedding ensembles.
Aceh is a region at the north end of Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia. Aceh is comprised of several different ethnic groups, including Alas, Aneuk Jamee, Kluet, Simeule, Acehnese, and Chinese.
All of these groups have some influence on traditional garb, and while the wedding clothing shown to the right is predominantly Acehnese in nature, it probably contains a decent amount of outside cultural influence as well.
What's not to love about combining tradition with bright color, shiny metals, and a bit of outside influence?
Traditional Peranakan Wedding Dresses
I am absolutely floored by the amazing patterns and fabrics of which traditional Peranakan wedding dresses are comprised.
Typical Peranakan clothing consists of a long dress worn with a batik sarong with three brooches (called kerosang). Shoes are often embellished with handmade beads (though today, more pass-produced beads are utilized).
Peranakan wedding garb incorporates these elements while utilizing all the best fabric and beautiful batik patterns, often mixing in Chinese symbols.
Palestinian Wedding Dresses (From More Isolated Villages)
Also very impressive are traditional wedding dresses worn by women of Ramallah and other Palestinian cities outside (and in this case, specifically south) of Jerusalem.
Utilizing beautiful patterns and fabric with rounded dowry headdresses and flowing silhouettes, these dresses look far more comfortable than the nuptial designs many modern Western women have opted for.
Because many Palestinian villages have been somewhat isolated, their clothing has become a unique defining element and is less influenced by the outside world.
No wonder women's wedding dresses in Ramallah are so beautiful and unique!
Hebron Area Wedding Dresses
Wedding dresses outside of Jerusalem sure are fascinating—more south of Jerusalem in the Hebron area, traditional wedding dresses are heavily embroidered, which on its own is not so unique, however, the heavy panels on the front and back of the dresses are absolutely exquisite.
The dresses' veils, called shambars, feature both sequins and silk embroidery. The 'iraqiyeh, or headdress, is my favorite part—I love the beautiful coins (many of which will be passed down from generation to generation) and can only imagine the beautiful sound they make when the bride walks.
A lot of brides obsess about makeup and hair, but one of the unique aspects of Hebron bridal costumes is that those wearing them do not have to worry as much about these things!
More on Gypsy Wedding Dresses
- Gypsy Wedding Dresses
I used to be under the impression that large wedding dresses had gone the way of the dinosaur and that slim silhouettes would be reigning supreme for the foreseeable future.
Gypsy Wedding Dresses
Even the UK, known for kicking off what is now becoming the universal "normal" wedding dress design (white, feminine, etc.), has some very unusual designs, thanks to one of its nomadic subcultures: Gypsies.
The UK documentary series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding ignited a great deal of interest in the flamboyant and creative dresses designed for Traveller brides for their weddings.
As many Gypsy weddings involve unusually young couples (at least in terms of modern standards), the dresses commissioned by brides-to-be have characteristically girlish themes, reminiscent of Disney princesses and fairy tale heroines.
Often embellished with LED lights and Swarovski crystals, these dresses offer a very interesting combination of modern brands and technology with caricatures of 17th-century silhouettes.
While these large, flamboyant dresses are only worn by a small subculture, they are definitely worth noting as some of the most notable and unusual wedding dresses out there!
Unusual Traveller Wedding DressesClick thumbnail to view full-size
An Intro to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding
Face It: All Wedding Dresses Are Unusual
The more you look at wedding dresses, the more you will realize that they are unusual. Wedding dresses are, by definition, unusual. If they were not, women would be getting married in their best dresses, and there would be no such thing as dedicated garb for nuptials.
Scoff, drool, or laugh all you want at wedding dresses; no matter what, they're here to stay, and they'll only get weirder.