buying a vintage wedding dress

How to Buy a Vintage Wedding Dress

January 2, 2018 | News

Today we’re pleased to bring you a guest blog post from Jacky Doyle of Sixpenny Bride. Jacky is sharing her knowledge and experience when it comes to buying a vintage wedding dress… over to Jacky:

Finding your dream wedding dress can be a daunting process, a little stressful maybe. After all, in this #Insta- famous world of social media you’ll be bombarded with images of every conceivable shape and style of dress that seem to change with the season so it all becomes a bit of a confetti bomb blur!

Getting married to your one and only is not only a declaration to the world that you’re totally head over heels in love and ready to share the rest of your lives together, but you’re the main attraction – the stars of the show and the spotlight is on you! (yes you, not your OH) Soo what better way of avoiding the ‘who wore it better’ moment than choosing the style savvy option of buying a completely original, one of a kind vintage wedding dress?

Tracking down your dream dress requires patience and resourcefulness, particularly if you are looking for anything in a size 14 or more, but take heart as they are out there, it just takes perseverance.

Online bidding auctions and ebay can prove rich pickings and you just might bag a bargain if you’re willing to take a chance as most dresses are non- refundable and may require cleaning or repairs.

Etsy and vintage wedding gown shops offer a wide variety of dresses and accessories; prices vary depending on age and specific trimmings, but you can be reassured that dresses have been professionally cleaned and restored to their former glory so no nasty surprises (or smells!)

Before you start the hunt for that elusive vintage dress, try on as many modern wedding dress styles as you can so you have a good idea of what suits your personality and your body shape.  If you have a tiny waist and hourglass figure you may find yourself loving the 1950s Dior ‘New Look’ dresses with a fitted bodice, full skirt and frothy petticoats a plenty. You know yourself the best, so don’t be persuaded by your bride tribe to buy that dress they all rave over if you don’t feel completely comfortable and totally beautiful. It’s your day not theirs.

Vintage dress sizing is notoriously tiny and the majority of wedding dresses will have had some adjustments to fit the original wearer. That amazing feather trimmed ‘60s mini may say size 12 on the label (yay!) sorry, but it’s likely to be the equivalent of a modern size 8 or a small size 10 (boo!).

Women are now taller and body shapes have altered considerably over the years so as a rule of thumb it’s best to ignore the size label and ask the seller for the dress measurements and compare them to a favourite dress in your wardrobe that fits you well.  Be specific and ask as many questions as you need to. Also don’t be afraid to ask for additional images.

Don’t be put off if you find a dress that ticks all the boxes except that it’s too big/small. In most cases, providing the fabric is strong and there is an adequate seam allowance, an experienced seamstress should be able to alter it to fit you.  The right underwear is essential for eliminating lumps and bumps under a 1930s figure hugging satin sheath dress and you may need to consider using the services of a vintage underwear specialist if you want to sculpt your assets with a structured corset or ‘Bullet’ bra a la Jane Mansfield.

Don’t disregard a beautiful dress because the neckline is too frumpy or the sleeves too long; a few tweaks here and there can work wonders.  This also applies to dresses that are on the short side.  If you really don’t want to show off those fabulous shoes, check the hemline as there may be scope to let it down or add panels of lace to lengthen.

Vintage wedding dresses made before the second world war were often made of high quality natural fabrics including silk and will therefore have a natural lifespan. Silk can become brittle and removing stains from a 70 year old dress may cause it to disintegrate so it’s always best to leave it to the professionals.  Wherever possible test the fabric to see if it is strong and there is no thinning at the seams. Always check around the hemline for dirt and if the dress has a long train there may be the odd hole where it’s been snagged by a high heel. Perspiration and make up stains can be really tricky to remove completely so always look inside the neckline and under arms for tell- tale signs.

If the dress has a few minor holes and depending upon where they are they may be concealed with a cleverly placed vintage beaded applique, silk flowers or even a vintage brooch.  A beautifully embroidered floor length veil will cover any imperfections on the back of the dress.

If you’re keen to embrace the whole spirit of vintage, opt for a hair style and make up to compliment your dress; be it a Hollywood Wave with a  bright red lip or pixie crop with black eyeliner, but above all have fun and remember to breathe …  xx

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