The Rise, Fall And Rise Again Of The Wedding Tiara
There are few wedding headbands as timeless and luxurious as the tiara, a headpiece that has been linked to royalty and high status since time immemorial.
However, whilst many wedding traditions have endured throughout the ages, the tiara has either been the centre of attention or not worn at all, with no middle ground whatsoever.
At present, with greater flexibility in wedding fashion, more brides are choosing to wear a tiara again, with increasingly unique options available to suit any style, colour scheme or theme imaginable.
This was not always the case, however, but to understand both the practical and cultural reasons why we need to go back quite some distance.
The Early History Of Tiaras
The word “tiara” was initially used to describe the headdresses of Persian kings, which had a high peak and were encircled with purple and white beads.
This word would quickly expand to most open types of head decoration, and as a result, the gold wreaths worn in Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, as well as other civilisations such as the Scythians.
They were worn primarily by Emperors in Rome, but in Greece, they were also given to people of high rank and their champions.
As with many cultural and fashion artefacts, however, the fracturing of the Roman Empire starting in 395AD meant that a lot of styles and designs disappeared for hundreds of years outside of royalty.
The European Resurgence
Tiaras attempted a comeback in the 19th century as a replacement for the crowns and coronets that had become increasingly difficult to wear given the trend for gigantic hairstyles for women the century before.
The rise of Neoclassicism in art, sculpture, architecture and fashion led to the revival of tiaras inspired by Ancient Greece and Rome, with the big difference being that tiaras had changed from an item worn by both men and women to one worn solely by women.
This was in part the result of Joséphine de Beauharnais, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the trend caught on as a major status symbol, to the point that women were expected to wear one for ceremonial and gala events, typically given to them as a gift on their wedding day.
War Changes Everything
The tiara as a ballroom essential peaked just before 1914, for a few reasons. The first was the rise of the Art Nouveau tiara, which was more of an art piece or a wearable sculpture than a practical item of jewellery.
A much bigger change happened that same year with the rise of the First World War, which had a huge effect both practically and socially.
In terms of the latter, the types of lavish displays of wealth seen with the grand European balls were far less fashionable than they had been, given that the intensity of the war had cost a lot of people, particularly in the middle and working class.
A more practical concern, however, was that with the invention of shampoo and with the rising popularity of short haircuts, a lot of older tiaras simply did not stay on the head.
There was a brief resurgence in the 1960s to coincide with the beehive, but it would take until the start of the 21st century for tiaras to become a wedding staple once again, alongside bandeaus and other similar headbands.