You know the old saying: when a bride wears “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” on her wedding day, a happy marriage is sure to follow. If you start with a dress in the “something old” category, you’ll have just three to go before you’re off to your wonderful new life! Seems I come across old, discarded wedding dresses at second hand shops or dangling from above a garage at tag sales all the time. And as women, we ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and think how sad that what was some woman’s bright future has come to this. We tend to be pretty superstitious about weddings in this culture, so the idea of wearing ‘someone else’s’ dress puts some people off. Usually if someone does wear a vintage dress, it belonged to mom or grandma. And while that does sound like a romantic notion, the style may miss the mark. So, why not consider rescuing ‘someone else’s’ dress and make it yours? With the expanded body sizes of 2011, it is more difficult to find one of those really old dresses to fit most women of today. If you’re a tiny girl, you’re chances are increased greatly (and p.s. I am jealous!)
So: you’re adventurous enough to infuse vintage into your wedding, now where do you go? You will not find vintage dresses amongst the racks at your everyday bridal shop. Nevermind that. Finding your dress will be another part of your unique adventure. If I were heading down the aisle, this is where I’d start the search:
Online. Though finding the dress you want also in the size you want may be challenging, these online shops have some glorious gowns that would put today’s off-the-rack dresses to shame! Take meticulous measurements and make sure you allow for breathing and eating room! You might even find an Indianapolis brand in the mix. Two of my favorites online stores for vintage dresses are:
• Dorothea’s Closet. This website allows you to peruse dresses by decade! Starting with pre-1920s and going up decade by decade through the 1980s, if you are targeting the style of a specific era, this will help save you some time! There is also a specific bridal category, and the decade represented is still noted.
Above, two amazing vintage wedding dresses on offer at Dorothea’s Vintage. Images courtesy Dorothea’s Vintage.
• Couture Allure. This online retailer was founded in 2001 and sells hand-picked vintage clothing. It is owned and operated by a mother and daughter with a passion for vintage clothing, accessories and textiles. Every piece they feature is impeccable!
If you can’t pour your curves into the treasures offered in these shops, or if you want a vintage look but insist on being the first person to wear your dress, custom work is the way to go! Check out:
• Whirling Turban. Focusing on bombshell-style dresses and pinup couture, this site offers custom-made and ready-made dresses. Pick your fabric and dress style, and voila! Your pristine vintage-inspired dream dress is on its way.
If you are a purist determined to stick with authentic vintage for your special day, but cannot find the right dress or right size in your favorite online vintage store, the other online option—though you may have to wade through hundreds of listings—are the galleries on Etsy or eBay. You can find exactly what you want by being thorough in your search, specifying criteria that meet your needs. For example, by measurement (“39” bust”) or detailing you want (“vintage white sequins”). These are the two best places to conduct that kind of search:
• Etsy. This website sells handmade and vintage products exclusively. The Etsy community is comprised of buyers and sellers from more than 150 countries. Here, you are able to search thousands of wedding dresses and accessories, both handmade and vintage. I love the bouquets made of vintage brooches! So maybe if you don’t want to wear a vintage dress, you could carry one of these vintage bouquets–at least you wouldn’t have to treat the flowers or have a closet with dried flowers in a glass case, right?
• eBay. With more than 9,000 search results for “vintage wedding,” there is bound to be something you’ll fall in love with for your vintage-clad wedding. Grab your maid of honor and a cocktail and wade through the pages of dresses, saving the top contenders to your ‘watch’ page. You can even email the link to other friends if you need a group vote. Just be careful, and maybe get a friend to help. These days “vintage” is used for anything older than today, since it is such a hot trend. Everyone is trying to cash in on the cache’ of that moniker. Just a head’s up.
If you prefer perusing the shops and pounding the pavement yourself, I don’t blame you. These Indiana boutiques are usually stocked with racks of fancy vintage dresses:
• Harloh’s. This historic Fletcher Place neighborhood shop on Virginia Avenue features tons of vintage clothing and accessories. They stock clothing from the 1920s to the ‘80s. You might even get your man in on the act, since they carry men’s vintage as well.
• Indy Swank Also located on Virginia Avenue, in Fountain Square sells real vintage and vintage-styled clothing and accessories. You’ll also find some awesome Block’s or Wasson’s hat boxes and other items from vintage Indianapolis.
• Material Plane. This shop in Bloomington, Ind. – sells vintage clothing and accessories. Equal parts digging and cleaning to be expected, but some real hidden gems to be uncovered!
My all-time favorite vintage clothing store ever isn’t in Indianapolis, but it’s a quick road trip. A day trip with the girls is always fun; too bad you can’t still hop and old-fashioned train to Louisville, Ky.
• Elizabeth’s Timeless Attire. Elizabeth’s is a Louisville institution at this point. Her selection of vintage apparel is primarily ‘20s through early ‘60s dresses, suits and accessories. Refined and impeccable mark what you will find in this petite shop. Much of my wardrobe has been purchased here. Louisville, Elizabeth and this store: I love them all. Ever wonder where places like J. Peterman find templates for retro-inspired clothes? Elizabeth’s is one of those places!
If you want to stand out on your most important day, there is no better way to do that than by wearing a beautifully crafted vintage dress. Trust me! Or, maybe let your bridesmaids wear something vintage and you stick to the new? However it goes, the craftsmanship of vintage stands out and stands up to the test of time!