How to find vintage wedding dresses and accessories
Vintage fashion is at its peak – from the resurgence of Regency-era silhouettes and ’70s-inspired platform shoes to archive looks on the red carpet, nostalgia is at an all-time high. And when it comes to wedding dresses and accessories, reminiscing about decades past is a great way to showcase your personal style. Whether you’re looking for a traditional ballgown or the perfect pair of earrings to complete your 20s-inspired bridal look, there are tons of options to match your vision.
Buying vintage can give you a little edge because it’s not only a durable and economical option, but you’ll also be able to wear a style that can’t be easily replicated. “You’re going to have something no one else has,” says Maddy Anderson, founder of vintage boutique Madly Vintage. “A completely unique, one-of-a-kind look, and every bride wants to feel special during her time.”
Meet the expert
- Maddy Anderson is the founder of Madly Vintage, a curated vintage boutique that offers bridal pieces for pre-wedding events, receptions, and more.
- Jamie Lee is the founder of Blossom Vintage, a vintage boutique offering a collection of vintage and antique items, including wedding dresses and bridal accessories.
If you’re looking to lean into the retro vibe for your big day, here’s everything you need to know before you start shopping!
What is vintage fashion?
Literally, vintage means “of age”, which leaves room for personal interpretation. Blossom Vintage shop owner Jamie Lee considers a vintage item to be 20 years old or older, and an antique to be at least 100 years old. As for Anderson, she notes that vintage “is something pre-loved that resonates with you or inspires you from previous eras.”
For those looking for second-hand bridal wear, whether it’s a 90s slip dress or a pair of 50s lace gloves, if they’re representative of the era and have been made at least 20 years ago, they can be considered authentically vintage. .
Why buy vintage?
Besides the thrill of vintage treasure hunting, turning away from traditional bridal salons has its perks.
Unique bridal wear
An obvious benefit of vintage shopping is the ability to wear a one-of-a-kind bridal look. No need to worry about donning a wedding dress that dozens of brides have already worn, and it’s an option that will show off your personal style too.
“Wearing vintage brings another layer of personal style. All brides want to stand out, but when you choose to wear vintage, you’re truly into something unique and timeless,” says Lee. “There’s also something romantic when you’re choosing to give a vintage wedding dress a new story.
According to Anderson, vintage shopping is also generally more affordable than buying other items in the bridal market. “While at the same time, vintage pieces almost always look more upscale (regardless of price) than modern fashion, so it’s a win-win,” Anderson notes. That’s not to say there aren’t expensive designer pieces, but most items will be significantly cheaper than a newly made wedding dress or accessory.
Choosing pre-loved bridal wear over new items is also a more sustainable choice. “The sustainability of vintage shopping is a huge plus,” says Anderson. “The wedding industry can often be very wasteful, so it’s nice to know you’re helping the environment by buying vintage or used.”
Lee has also noticed a marked increase in second-hand shopping due to an increase in more environmentally friendly shopping trends. “With this consumer shift, shoppers are also more aware of the negative societal and humanitarian impacts of fast fashion,” notes Lee. “Reusing what we already have in new creative ways is the future of fashion.”
What to know when buying vintage bridal wear
Before you dive into a vintage wedding dress or accessory, here are some important tips you should keep in mind as you begin your search.
Do your research
As with all wedding dress purchases, you need to be clear about the type of look you want. Research different decades and create a mood board of eras or looks that inspire you. Also, try to focus on popular silhouettes or accessories from a particular era, rather than trying to completely replicate a specific look. “It’s important not to think too literally when buying vintage, you never want to look like you’re in a suit,” Anderson points out.
keep an open mind
Even if you have a specific style in mind, being flexible about the specific era you want to replicate is a good rule to follow. “It’s easy to fall into those stereotypes of what each era was known for (i.e. 60s = boho/hippie), but when you take style elements you love from a dress from the 60s, you can also find them in other eras without even knowing,” advises Lee.
Anderson also recommends finding a vintage style similar to the modern fashion you love today. “It makes it much easier to do [your dress] relevant to today’s style, and not to mention much more special,” she notes.
Know your measurements
Knowing your exact measurements is essential when shopping for any type of wedding dress, but especially vintage looks. “When buying vintage, never trust the size tag,” says Lee. “Always be familiar with your own measurements and have a fabric tape measure handy when you do your shopping.”
Anderson agrees, noting that it’s also important to “know your body type, [as] certain eras or styles might just suit you better. Knowing your body measurements can help you make those quick decisions before an item sells, and will also help minimize future alteration costs.
It’s best to start shopping for your favorite pieces as soon as you get engaged, Anderson recommends. It will relieve the pressure of finding the perfect set on such a definitive timeline. And once you fall in love with an item, it’s usually a good idea to buy it immediately, even if you’re not sure how you’ll fit it into your overall look.
“With vintage, you have to remember that if it fits and feels good, you have to jump on it because it’s one of a kind and it won’t be long before it gets ripped off by someone out there. ‘other,’ Anderson advises. Anderson also suggests booking consultations with a few vintage or bridal shops that fit the vision you’re trying to achieve. Most stores will work with you to find a part that meets your needs.
Check dress requirements
You’ll want to check the conditions of a dress before buying it, but Lee notes that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you notice a few marks or snags on the item. “Most stains or discolorations will come out in the hands of a good dry cleaner,” says Lee. “What should be the main concern is the durability of the dress when worn, especially for older pieces.”
Beautiful vintage sets can be fragile and, depending on their age, aren’t always made to last all day. “If you’re wearing a dress from the 1930s or older, you’ll want to look for one that’s in pristine condition, depending on your wedding activities,” adds Lee. “If it’s just for pictures, most antique dresses will withstand this, but for dancing the night away, I would recommend a change of outfit to preserve the integrity of the dress.
Find a good tailor
If you’re a dedicated vintage shopper, you already understand the importance of hiring an experienced tailor. While most dresses can be altered to fit your body, Lee explains that when it comes to dresses from the 1930s or older, you should find a tailor who has experience handling clothes. delicate fabrics.
Additionally, “Vintage dresses are often lined with too thick fabric that can fit ill,” Anderson says. “I suggest instead adding your own underwear and/or briefs if needed. You’ll see how much better the piece falls and fits your body that way.
How to Accessorize a Vintage Bridal Look
Knowing how to accessorize a vintage bridal look depends on your chosen wedding dress and bridal style. If you’re wearing a vintage wedding dress, Anderson recommends using more modern pieces to refresh the look.
For brides who want to use vintage pieces to complement a contemporary wedding dress, you can easily find pre-loved accessories custom-designed for your vintage-inspired vision. “There are so many cute vintage handbags and accessories that could really make an outfit even if you’re not wearing vintage,” Anderson says. “Shoes are difficult because of the size, but handbags and jewelry are always easy and fun ways to add something special.”
Where to buy vintage bridal wear
- Happy Islands: Based in Los Angeles, this by-appointment vintage bridal salon features pieces from the 1930s to the early 2000s. With a focus on designer labels, you can find vintage wedding dresses from Versace and Dior. They also offer vintage jewelry and accessories to complete any look.
- Madly Vintage: This curated vintage boutique sells directly through Instagram, pop-up shops, and in person at its showroom in Venice, California. With new bridal releases every few months, Madly Vintage has a range of pieces for all wedding events, with looks from the 30s to the 90s.
- Vintage of flowers: Focusing on modern, wearable vintage pieces, this online store began as a physical store that operated from a 1970s Safari Airstream. Its bridal collection focuses on the Edwardian era up to the 1930s, this which means you are guaranteed a truly one-of-a-kind wedding dress.
- Sully House: If you are looking for a vintage wedding dress from the mod and disco eras of the 1960s and 1970s, this bridal workshop may be the right choice for you. However, with an ever-changing collection, you can find dresses, cocktail dresses, separates, and accessories from decades past.
- Tulle: An online vintage store filled with one-of-a-kind pieces, Gossamer offers items from the Victorian era to the 2000s. With a bridal collection of beaded dresses and tulle dresses, you can find a look for all your wedding events, including the ceremony and the rehearsal dinner. They also offer rentals for those looking for a one night wedding occasion!
- Thrilling: Thrilling is an online vintage marketplace that includes items from several small business and vintage shop owners. They have a huge selection of wedding dresses from the 20s and older, as well as shoes, handbags and other accessories.