Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Brief History of 'Trash the Dress' Photography

New, 3 comments

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Welcome to Racked's third annual Weddings Week, where we'll be discussing all things wedding-related, from our favorite outfit ideas to the batshit craziest wedding traditions around. Happy wedding season!

Dock trashers, via Pinterest/Azy A.

Against all likelihood, Trash the Dress photography (TTD) has endured for more than a decade. Unfamiliar? It's a phenomenon whereby a bride destroys her $1000+ gown—and destroys it good—all in the hope of generating pretty-ugly images worthy of the pages of Vogue. You know, to show the grandkids one day.

The most popular motifs involve water and/or beaches, mud, paint and/or paintballs. Also getting dirty in various natural environments, like a field or a forest.

Credit for originating the trend tends to go to Los Vegas wedding photographer John Michael Cooper, who, when bored with traditional wedding photography, convinced clients to pose in dirty settings, submerge themselves in freezing water, or light themselves on fire, all while wearing their bridal whites. "In fashion photography, they often put really pretty people in very ugly places. I'm applying that technique to weddings," he told the New York Times back in 2007.

Though Cooper first started trashing dresses in a pre-a-lot-of-things 2001, the "trend" has managed to outlive a recession, plenty of detractors, and one mid-shoot death. Paintballs got involved. There's at least one wedding film that doubles as a Lana Del Rey music video. It's huge in Germany.

Recently, Pinterest has embraced the trend—though the term "trashed" tends to be loosely used on that particular platform, where any dress that makes it within three feet of un-mowed grass is considered fit for the rubbish bin.

And in a natural evolution of sorts, it has now been adopted by a group of women that it probably should have belonged to all along: divorcees in their twenties. The images are nearly indistinguishable from the original TTD photos, but they're symbolically different, and involve mud more often. The book is forthcoming.

See below for a selection of our favorite Trash the Dress photos and feel free to let us know what you think about the trend in the comments.

· Is This Any Way to Treat Vera Wang? [New York Times]
· All Weddings Week 2013 Coverage [Racked]