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How to find the perfect vintage wedding dress

23 Feb 2018

Whether you’re a fan of the '50s or the '20s, your perfect vintage wedding dress is out there somewhere

There are so many reasons to wear a vintage dress instead of a modern gown on your wedding day. Not only is it more sustainable and environmentally-friendly, there are also so many options out there depending on your taste and personal style. What’s more, a vintage garment will be far more unique and one-of-a-kind than a just-released collection. Here’s our guide to finding your perfect vintage dress.

Where to look

Online: There are many online stores that stock vintage and pre-loved wedding dresses. Cheaper options include Oxfam, Rokit London and Beyond Retro, whereas genuine designer gowns can be found on 1stdibs and Decades Inc among others; alternatively, take a look at Bride's Sell My Wedding for pre-owned dresses in your local area. The risk with buying online is that you won’t get to see or feel the gown before you purchase it, so make sure to ask for as much detail as possible from the seller including what materials it is made from and the overall quality of the garment.  

Vintage stores: Most big cities throughout the country have a selection of vintage shops with products that range from casual clothing to accessories. While it can be tricky finding bridalwear in physical stores, it is worth checking back frequently to check out the new stock. Another option is to talk to the owner to see if they can source something for you. If you don’t have access to a physical shop, keep your eye out for pop-up vintage fairs; Lou Lou Vintage Fairs, for example, frequently tour the country.

Charity shops: Not to be confused with vintage stores, charity shops stock garments that are donated to them by the local community. The chance of finding a genuine vintage wedding dress in a charity shop is very slim, however many charities have specific bridalwear boutiques. The British Red Cross has bridalwear charity shops in Edinburgh and Dorking, cancer charity Big C in Norfolk has a large boutique in the city centre, Oxfam sells wedding gowns both online and in physical stores across the country, and Brides Do Good hosts pop-up shops in Bicester Village.

What to look for

Style: It is recommended that you do some research before you start searching for a vintage dress. Different decades have different styles, and you need to know what you’re looking for. The easiest way to work out which style suits you the best is to look at modern wedding dresses first. Book an appointment at your local boutique and try on a variety of silhouettes before you begin your hunt for a vintage dress.  

Material: As with modern garments, vintage clothing can be found in a variety of materials; and just as you wouldn’t want your brand new wedding dress to be made out of sub-par material, you don’t want your vintage dress to be scratchy, synthetic or uncomfortable. Keep an eye out for high-quality materials such as silk and lace – and avoid heavy materials and polyester. Before you take the gown home, try it on to see how the material drapes and fits to your body.  

Quality: This is particularly pertinent if you’re buying online, but is worth bearing in mind if you’re looking in stores too. If a dress hasn’t been stored or preserved correctly, there may be irreversible damage such as stains, holes and decay. Be sure to thoroughly inspect the garment, checking the stitching, construction and durability of the fabric. If you’re unsure, ask the store owner for their opinion or consult the internet.

Size: Sizing has changed throughout the years, and what was once a size eight could now very well be a modern-day size four. Furthermore, dresses will have different tailoring and shaping depending on the era, the type of lingerie that was worn in that time, and the fashion trends of that particular period. If you’re shopping in a physical store, try the garment on before leaving to ensure it’s a good fit; if you’re buying online, ask for measurements in centimetres or inches instead of generic sizes. Remember – a seamstress can easily shrink a garment, but it’s almost impossible to make it bigger.

Finally, don’t forget to plan your hair and make-up to suit your style of dress. Whether it’s victory rolls and bright red lipstick or tight curls with heavy eye make-up, every era has its signature style. Do some research and look at photos for inspiration, and show your hair stylist and make-up artist a picture of your dress before they get started. 

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