The History of the Wedding Dress Train

Everything to know about this standout bridal detail.

bride with a long wedding dress train

Photo by Amy Anaiz

A train is the divine design detail that takes a wedding dress from ordinary to extraordinary. If you think of some of the most iconic celebrity brides in history, the first thing you'll likely note about the impact of their wedding dress is the length of the train

Princess Diana unquestionably had one of the most famous wedding dresses of all time. While the gown’s outstanding elements—like the incredible bow and lace trimmed puff sleeves, voluminous skirting, and intricate sequin and pearl embroidery— made it a standout, there’s no question it was the train that made this look superior. Her silk taffeta train measured 25 feet in length, and when combined with her epic veil, crafted from 154 yards of tulle, the effect was otherworldly.

Other royal brides who’ve embraced the drama of the wedding dress train include Queen Elizabeth, Catherine Middleton, and Meghan Markle. What's more, it’s also a dress feature most often talked about in relation to Hollywood red carpet looks. For example, Rihanna famously shut down the 2015 Met Gala in her Guo Pei dress that featured a 16-foot-long train; and most recently, Florence Pugh wore a scene-stealing Valentino Haute Couture playsuit to the Venice Film Festival, complete with a billowy black tulle and silver sequin embellished train. 

Meet the Expert

Valentine Avoh is a Brussels-based bridalwear designer and founder of Atelier Valentine Avoh. Her wedding dress designs are inspired by the golden age of Old Hollywood, with a focus on statuesque silhouettes, luxury fabrics, and couture-level finishing details.

Read on to learn more about the beginnings of the wedding dress train, what to consider when choosing one, plus modern style alternatives as suggested by bridal designer Valentine Avoh.

The History of the Wedding Dress Train

The history of a wedding dress train dates to medieval times and was included on a bride's gown in order to impress wedding guests. At that time, trains were seen as an incredibly luxurious and elevated detail, and as such, were only affordable to those in the circles of high society. The length of the train was also thought to speak to the bride’s social ranking—a long train was equated with excessive wealth.

In the modern era, a wedding train is a way to add high impact to your bridal style. “I think a train is a very unique detail as it isn't something you'd wear in your everyday life,” Avoh says. “In fact, most women would never wear a train in their life aside from their wedding day. It is synonymous with greatness and haute couture as it draws attention and makes a statement. Some amazing wedding dress trains we have seen on celebrity brides in recent years include Kate Moss in her John Galliano gown, and Olivia Palermo's three-piece wedding outfit, including a tulle and lace skirt with a train so different and so chic.”

Modern Wedding Dress Train Styles

Formally defined, a train is an extra length of fabric extending from the back of a wedding dress which trails behind as you walk. It can be attached to your gown or created as a detachable piece, with various styles to choose from. Specifically, a sweep train is the shortest and most common for styles like a slip or sheath wedding dress. It is typically six inches longer than the rest of the skirt and adds subtle drama. For more volumized silhouettes, like ballgowns or fit-and-flares, a cathedral-length train, which measures 22 inches or more, is traditionally a go-to style.

According to Avoh, not only is it important to take the gown's style into consideration, but brides must also factor in their height when searching for the best wedding dress train. "I would not choose a super long train if you are petite as it can make you look smaller. Proportions are very important with wedding dress trains," she notes.

Wedding Dress Train Alternatives

For some brides, a dress with a train isn't what they envision for their special day. And if this sounds like you, don't worry, that's totally fine! After all, it's your wedding and you get to choose the rules.

"A beautiful alternative to a train is a long veil or cape, in a fabric like light organza," shares Avoh. "I really loved Lily Collins's lace cape which looked so dreamy and grandiose. A beautiful headpiece is another way to add a fashionable and dramatic air to your bridal style.”

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