Think wearing a vintage wedding dress makes you look out of style? Think again.
Many brides shy away from the idea of wearing a vintage dress because they think it belongs only in the bygone eras. What they don’t know is that a vintage wedding dress can be as stunning as a brand-new gown. Going vintage is also a great way to stand out and give new life to pre-loved pieces Plus, vintage wedding gowns have their own stories, which makes wearing them feel even more special.
If you’re planning on wearing a vintage piece for your wedding, here are a few tips for finding the perfect secondhand dress:
Start your search early
Some brides can walk into the bridal store and come out with their dream dress in minutes. However, if you want a vintage wedding dress, keep in mind that it will take a lot longer to find the perfect garment. For one, not all shops have vintage wedding dresses. Pre-loved pieces are also unique, so you’ll probably have to go to several boutiques (or browse the web for days) before you can find the dress.
When it comes to vintage wedding dress shopping, there’s no such thing as “too early”. Start shopping for vintage wedding gowns once you get engaged. That way, you can give yourself or your dealer ample time to find a vintage piece that aligns with your vision.
Pick an era
What kind of “vintage” are you looking for? Vintage clothing covers every era, including the Victorian era, the Regency era, and the late Georgian era. For that reason, you can’t simply ask for a “vintage dress” when you go wedding dress shopping. You need to be as specific as possible, or else you’ll be shown dresses you don’t want and end up overwhelmed by all of the options.
You should already have an idea of what dress you want before your bridal appointment. Google what wedding gown styles were popular in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and so on. Take note of the styles that stand out to you.
If you love the look of sparkly slip dresses à la The Great Gatsby, ask for 1920s dresses. Or, if you’ve fallen in love with flowy fabrics, Victorian wedding dresses are your best bet. Brides who want big wedding dresses with a bit of Hollywood glamour will love vintage dresses from the 1950s.
Consider your shape
One way to choose a vintage wedding dress is to consider your shape. This is a good starting point for brides who aren’t familiar with wedding gown designs through the decades.
Vintage wedding gowns from the 1950s are perfect for pear-shaped brides, while drop-waist dresses of the 1930s are ideal for brides with apple-shaped bodies. For something you can’t go wrong with, wear an A-line dress. This style was made popular in the 50s, 80s, and 90s and will suit most body types.
Keep your venue in mind.
Where are you going to get married? You won’t be able to wear an Edwardian-era-inspired dress if you’re planning on saying your “I dos” by the beach. Remember that your big day should be made up of parts that complement — not clash with — one another. That includes what you wear.
You might have to give up wearing your dream vintage wedding dress if it doesn’t go with the venue. That’s why it’s so important to find the perfect dress only after you’ve chosen a location. You must make sure your wedding dress evokes the same feelings as your wedding venue. For instance, let’s say you’re throwing a garden wedding. In that case, you might want to wear a Regency-era-inspired vintage dress for its carefree, fairytale feel.
See it in person
The Internet is a treasure trove of vintage finds, but be careful — pictures can be deceiving. Before you say yes to the dress, be sure to see it in person. That way, you can check its condition as second-hand dresses tend to come with imperfections such as stains, marks, and discoloration. This is common among wedding dresses made from the 1930s or older. Ask yourself if the cost to restore the dress will be worth it, or if it would be better to buy a newer dress from the 70s or 80s.
Don’t forget to get a feel of the fabric as vintage dresses can be very fragile, depending on what year they were made. Many second-hand dresses can still hold up, but others will be on the brink of breaking apart. You probably won’t find a vintage dress in perfect condition, but you should still choose one that can “survive” a day-long affair.
If you’re shopping online, be sure to read the description. Vintage wedding dress dealers typically describe the item’s condition in detail on their website.
Know your measurements
You wouldn’t wear a diamond ring with the wrong measurements. In the same way, you wouldn’t walk down the aisle wearing a vintage wedding dress that doesn’t fit right. Before going window-shopping for wedding dresses, you’ll want to take measurements of your whole body. It’s important to note that sizes have changed over the years — what was once a size 12 may now be a size 8. With that said, don’t buy a pre-loved piece based on the number on its tag. There’s a good chance its sizing is longer accurate.
Try on the dress before you buy, but if you’re ordering it from an online bridal store, ask for the dress’ exact measurements in centimeters. If you’re unsure, size up just to be safe. Your tailor can always take it in to fit you perfectly, anyway.
Buy it now or never
When shopping for vintage wedding dresses, you have to remember that you’re dealing with one-of-a-kind pieces. So when you find a dress that feels (and fits) right, trust your gut and get it. Don’t tell your bridal stylist that you’ll think about it because chances are, it won’t be there when you come back. If you find a vintage dress that you love, buy it before someone beats you to it.