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Vintage Wedding Gowns
Vintage wedding gowns have a way of making anyone who wears them look like a Silverscreen Goddess. There's something about how they fit over the body and flow with complete elegance that keeps their designs coming back year after year.
I've included photos that are either actual vintage dresses, some from people's attics and closets, others that exist in museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Christian Dior Gowns), or in designer collections (Haute couture gowns) that perhaps only royalty or red carpet celebrities may get the chance to wear. I've also added a few pictures of gowns that are attainable and affordable in comparison to other "new" gowns that can be found on the rack at a Bridal shop.
Beautiful Vintage Gowns
Finding your Vintage Inspired Wedding Gown
Vintage gowns that are pictured, go back to the 1920s. You'll notice that the style in the 20's, when Flapper girls were taking over the fashion market, was a bit more sleek in comparison to their crinoline counterparts of the 1950s.
The best way to wear these sleeker styles, that are either "A" line or more like a "sac dress" that bunches at the waist (you have to be fairly thin to pull this off with grace), is to combine it with a full lace veil. Since the style is sleeker, you can add other embellishments such as chunky jewelry, funky shoes, a colorful bouquet made of flowers or buttons, and a long veil with thicker lace.
The styles of the 1950s that flare out are fantastic for women with larger hips. They look absolutely great on every figure. I personally like the gowns that are tiered because they give the illusion of height. These gowns can also double as a ball gown, instead of a wedding gown.
You'll notice that I've included a black dress from John Galliano's collection. It's very unusual nowadays to see any bride wearing black, unless she's going Gothic. However, black was the style to wear during turn-of-the-century weddings in Europe. The one pictured is so elegant, I think the color can be forgiven and would look extravagant anywhere at anytime.
When looking for vintage gowns, or take-offs of vintage gowns, look for the details. Vintage bridal gowns paid more attention to detail than their new modernist, sleek counterparts. When I was recently shopping for a gown, I was surprised how difficult it was to find any of good quality that had hand sewn beading or cut lace. Most of the ones I saw looked very cookie-cutter and plain.
Fabric also plays a huge role in wedding gowns. The more expensive the fabric, obviously the more expensive the gown. Silks seem to be the most expensive, whereas taffeta looks really pretty and has a more elegant sheen than your run of the mill satin. If you're going for a 1950s inspired dress, you're in luck - crinoline is pretty cheap and comes in many colors.
Many of these vintage styles use a tremendous amount of lace. I didn't know how many types of lace or how many different processes were involved in making lace. There's the hand made kind (If you're lucky enough to have a relative that makes lace - utilize their skill and your dress will be an instant heirloom!), and there's the machine stitched kind. I'm not a huge fan of this kind, however it lessens the cost of a gown by at least half.
Beading was very popular for flapper girl dresses. There's one pictured that is dripping in beads, all hand-sewn. This will set you back quite a bit in price. An alternative would be to use fringe, or alternate fringe with beading.
For those of you considering purchasing a retro-vintage dress and are on a budget...consider checking out some of the Chinese businesses online. I found a few that I was communicating with from Ebay.
They apparently can replicate most gowns. I actually sent them 4 gowns and told them how I wanted the neckline of one with the skirt of another and a bustle of yet a different design, and they seemed confident they could recreate it and the cost was minimal. Their cost was under $300 to create the entire thing.
Their fabric is cheaper, but no one would know in the photographs. However, there is no way to have fittings done with their seamstresses. So, you'd have to set up an appointment and work with a bridal shop in your area, which costs more money.
I ended up not using the Chinese companies, and instead went to a tailor in Thailand for my vintage-inspired gown. I used 2-ply Thai silk and had about 10 fittings to get it all perfect. I used lace from Japan, (machine made) it wasn't my favorite, but the way they cut the lace to apply it to my dress worked well. I did not attach beading as it raised the price tremendously and I also knew I had to carry the gown on an airplane, so no beading was a safe idea. The total cost for my custom handmade, vintage-inspired gown was about $600.
If you have the time and money, it may be worth it to either hire a tailor or friend that can stitch for you, or an even nuttier idea - fly to another country to have your gown made. I know that sounds extravagant, but the dress that I had made, individual components of it came from dresses that retailed at $26,000. Also, it helps that I'm in Thailand, where silk is made. And to give you an idea, silk in Thailand is $8 - $12 a meter (or approx. 1 yard).
There is nothing more stunning and elegant than a classic vintage wedding gown on a bride. They come in all shapes and sizes and make amazing heirlooms.
Some Helpful Tools for the Vintage Bride
A storage box to keep your dress fresh after the big day. This is for do-it-yourself brides on a budget.