Ever wondered why we wear crowns, accessories and tiaras at weddings?

Do you dream of wearing a designer hair accessory for your wedding? Something with vintage-inspired jewellery, maybe… or perhaps you’re wondering if you’re brave enough for a flower crown or art deco diamantes across your forehead. I’d love to wear some of the vintage accessories I see in my virtual travels as a wedding blogger, but I’m not sure I’d know where to start! Designer Samantha Walden is here to help with a look at the history behind bridal hair accessories, and some tips on choosing the right style for your favourite era. Enjoy!
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Image credit Andy Platts

Article by Samantha Walden

I’ve always been fascinated by tiaras. If I could, I’d wear a different one for every day of the week. They are beautiful, elegant and striking pieces of jewellery, associated with glamour, wealth and status, and worn by many cultures throughout history. Vintage-inspired wedding hair accessories are a real trend for 2014, with styles from art deco bands to Victoriana and vintage tiaras enjoying a little renaissance with UK brides. But where do these adornments come from, and why do we wear them?

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Image credit Andy Platts

From ancient Greece to intricate crowns for English brides

Their history stretches back to antiquity, to ancient Greece and Rome. The ancient Greeks wore diadems of gold, fashioned into wreaths; the Romans also favoured this style and other floral designs, and although their headdresses were not as delicate, they made up for it in decoration and embellishment. The Romans were pioneers in the use of precious stones and as the Empire expanded, pearls, sapphires, diamonds, amethysts and emeralds became available to Roman jewellers, and as a result, tiaras became more intricate.
In England, the practice of wearing crowns at weddings was in place by the end of the 15th century, but it wasn’t until the late 18th century that the tiara underwent a dramatic resurgence in popularity. As with art and architecture, design was now heavily influenced by ancient Greece and Rome. The natural styles favoured by the ancient Greeks and Romans, such as the laurel wreath and other floral styles, were revived during this period and remained popular until the early 20th century.

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Image credit Samantha Walden

Tiaras ‘a la Josephine’ in the 19th century French court

In France, the crowning of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor was to influence the course of fashion and style throughout the continent. Seeking to cement his imperial status and nobility, Napoleon established a new set of rules and etiquette, making the tiara a required accessory at court. There, the women resembled exotic birds, adorned with beautiful jewels and sparkling tiaras, worn low on the forehead (‘a la Josephine’). Some tiaras were set with antique cameos; another nod to the fashions of classical antiquity.

Hair accessories carried secret messages of love!

The Victorians, with their secret language of fans and other forms of social etiquette, also conveyed messages through the design of their headdresses. To wear a beautiful and decorative tiara was a private, unspoken way to convey powerful messages of love. Precious stones carry special meanings, and combined with the language of flowers, each ornamental piece could carry a potent message for an admirer or loved one. Rubies symbolise passion, and amethysts, devotion; pearls are for love and emeralds signify hope; turquoise means true love, and diamonds are forever. In the language of flowers, daisies symbolise innocence, ivy signifies marriage, and roses are, of course, for love and all its meanings. A tiara adorned with a magnificent diamond rose was a declaration to the world of eternal love.

In England, early in her reign, Queen Victoria chose to assert her sovereignty by wearing her magnificent collection of tiaras, and her styles were eagerly awaited at society functions. Sadly, after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, her wonderful tiaras were put aside in favour of a white widow’s cap.

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Image credit Andy Platts

Tiaras for married ladies and ostrich feathers for singles!

It was during the reigns of Edward VII, George V and George VI, that one of the most magical events of the royal calendar took place; Their Majesty’s Courts, at which the season’s debutantes would be presented to the King and Queen. The royal couple would stand resplendent in full court dress, to receive the endless stream of young ladies either entering society or being presented at court, following their marriage. All married ladies at court were obliged to wear a tiara, and unmarried debutantes wore three ostrich feathers in their hair.

Art Deco hair accessories and tiaras

During the Art Deco period more angular styles with stars, comets and diamond fringes came into fashion and designers were increasingly influenced by the Far East, in particular Japan and China. A new fashion for shorter hairstyles in the 20s and 30s influenced the design of tiaras, which were worn across the head and secured above each ear.

The eternal elegance of the bridal tiara

The popularity of tiaras among the nobility waned during the mid-20th century, but for many brides, they remain a crowning glory and complete a beautiful wedding ensemble. Tiaras – ethereal, feminine, romantic and graceful – will always be with us, as nothing can look as beautiful or feel as special as these dramatic jewels.

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Image credit Andy Platts

Wedding hair accessories – style options

For brides with an eye on historical fashions, these days there are so many choices and options. In recent years, gold tiaras have risen in popularity and we have seen a big shift away from the sprigged, beaded styles of the nineties and noughties.

If you love the Regency period (as many of us do!) consider wearing a gold tiara, decorated with garnets and pearls in either a wishbone style, or worn low on the forehead. Laurel and oak leaves, acorns, or other leafy designs also hark back to the 18th century, when art and design was heavily influenced by the natural styles of ancient Rome. Gold wreaths set with turquoise stones were also popular during the Regency period, a combination which symbolised the triumph of true love.

The Victorians favoured deep and sumptuous colours, so any brides who want a 19th century influenced tiara should look for a piece with purple, black, or dark green crystals and beads, and cameos. To avoid looking too Gothic, if that’s not your thing, look for a piece with a few lustrous pearls in it too.

If you love the natural, flowing, and leafy styles of the Art Nouveau period, consider wearing a silver alice band style or side tiara, with pearls, sparkling crystals and leafy or floral components.

Whichever style you choose, wear it with confidence and you will look divine!

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Image credit Duncan Telford

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Image credit Duncan Telford

Samantha Walden designs exquisite tiaras and headdresses, evoking the most beautiful styles of the past…  Her years as a researcher at English Heritage have helped inspire her exciting and original hair accessories for formal and bridal wear. She has an enduring passion for history; in particular the history of fashion.  Whether your taste is for the bold classicism of the Regency period or the striking geometric styles of the Jazz Age, there will be a design to suit you.

Find out more at


Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



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