On the hitherto-unsuccessful Search For A Dress – and yes, the capitals are deserved – I’ve been struck by how much I appear to be veering towards a vintage dress. It’s surprising because in my non-bridal life I only own a few pieces of vintage that I wear regularly, but I’m discovering it’s much easier to find something unique on the vintage rails. (Short, sequined, not a fishtail in sight…) And, whilst I totally get that some people don’t like the fact someone else will have worn what’s supposed to be the most important dress of your life, I think there’s something romantic about the idea of it having a history. Plus, practically, you know if something’s been a wedding dress once it won’t date too much in pictures.
If you’re thinking along the same lines, head to the queen of the bridal vintage scene Charlie Brear’s VWDC – formerly the Vintage Wedding Dress Company. Charlie started professional life as a MTV stylist and has worked with everyone from Kate Moss to Anna Friel but it’s her eye for sourcing exquisite vintage bridal gowns from around the world – and designing her own vintage-inspired line – that’s made her a wedding saviour. Here Charlie, who got married herself in a vintage 1960s number, shares her top tips for vintage bridal shopping…
What decade suits what body shape and why?
1920’s styles tend to work best for girls with boyish figures because of the dropped waist. To show off your curves I would recommend 1930s and 1940’s styles as they are cut on the bias. Having said that, it really depends on the dress itself and you never know what is going to look good until you try it on.
What dress characteristics define each decade?
I love the 60’s for a classic boat neck and 70’s styles for kitsch factor. For high-octane glamour the slinky 1930s and 1940s styles. These eras create a real feel of old Hollywood opulence. The 1950s epitomised femininity with A-line skirts and nipped in waists. And last but by no means least the 1920’s - what can be more exciting than a flapper dress! The relaxed dropped waistline and all of the beads and fringing was revolutionary back then and is still a true showstopper today.
How much can you/should you alter a vintage wedding dress? And what things do you need to be especially careful about?
I don’t believe that there is anything that you cannot do with a vintage dress. However, this requires a high level of skill. The seamstresses we use are amazing and can do anything from length adjustment, fitting a dress, restyling the neckline or even dyeing fabrics and adding beading to the dress. The whole process allows the bride to add her own bespoke element to a dress that is already one of a kind.
What are the most sought-after vintage dresses?
Form-fitting 1930s and 1940s styles are very popular right now. These eras create a real feel of Hollywood starlet glamour and move away from the traditional ‘meringue’ style dresses. The fantastic cut and fluid lines means that this style flatters every figure. But they’re rare so if you see one you like, snap it up.
Is there anything you have be careful of when buying vintage?
Vintage material often has flaws – such as small tears or stains – and it’s hard to tell what can be corrected without seeing the problem. Although, remember, that some flaws add character to a vintage dress – the history is part of the appeal! Also the dresses always look very different on the hanger compared with how they look when worn. I constantly tell clients that if there is something calling out to them about a dress - be it some beading, a lace trim or simply just the colour, try the dress on as it might surprise them.
Can you go vintage even if you're wedding's not vintage themed?
Just because a bride is wearing a 1940’s dress doesn’t necessarily mean that everything has to be styled around the 40’s!Styling plays a huge part in making your original dress work for you on your wedding day. Some girls really do want to re-create an original retro look but for others making their dress their own is really about wearing accessories that bring the dress to life and up to date. A great pair of killer heels from your favourite shoe designer, huge earrings’, a vintage fur or neon nails the choice is yours to make your look all about you.
Charlie Brear VWDC (formerly The Vintage Wedding Dress Company) dresses start at £1,400 but look out for their regular trunk sales too. On 21-23 February 2013 Charlie Brear VWDC will hold their next trunk sale. Book an appointment on 020 7907 7719…