The second and third time brides have most probably already lived the fantasy of their first traditional wedding gown and now in consideration of a more seasoned spirit they lean towards an exciting sexy cocktail dress, that’s powerful and uniquely different than the gown they chose for their first wedding. No longer feeling compelled to blow the baby’s college fund on a single expensive designer bridal gown, the second-timers are more inclined to consider value and the potential to wear their vintage dress or gown for future occasions.
Julia van Hees-Aidner, marriage to Donald Aidner
Ladies who come to me at The Paper Bag Princess in both Beverly Hills and Toronto for a vintage bridal gown tend to be adventurous and open-minded with a specific theme or era for their wedding that is free of particular parental expectations. Because they are having this wedding just for them, they are not as concerned with choosing a gown that will wow their family and friends; they just want to dazzle their new husband.
It is always fun to work with a second-timer bride, because there seem to be no sides to their box. I always begin the selection process with understanding the personal specifics about our bride-to-be. The dress needs to be age appropriate, as many of them are in their forties or fifties, it must be figure flattering, and be suitable for the ceremony, as well as the reception with both functionally and beauty. Often times the brides will opt for a variation of white, in creams and ivory to embrace the tradition of the wedding, but not the symbolism of the ‘Blushing Bride’ in pure white.
What I really love to do is work with a bride who has a definitive vision of an era she wishes to reflect in her gown, whether it is a glamorous sultry bias-cut gown from the 1930s, or a fitted and flirty look from the 1950s such as the ‘New Look’ made famous by Christian Dior. We may even carry the era of the gown through as an entire theme for the wedding, by finding little touches to match the groom’s attire to the bride, or selecting a vintage venue, table dressings, flowers, vintage china and crystal, special cocktails typical of and era and even the music selections. Once I was delighted by a bride who selected a short off-white vintage 1950s cocktail length dress which she found to be absolutely perfect to ride away in on the back of her husband’s new shinny red Vespa!
One of the only restrictions one has when choosing to wear vintage is the issue of sizing, as we were much smaller in past eras, and as humans have evolved to be much larger as a result of improved nutrition and exercise. There are limited amounts of larger sizes for early eras, especially the 1920s through the early 1940s. There is also the fact that many eras required a specific type of undergarment to structure a figure to fit the cut and drape of a particular style such as the restrictive corsets worn during the ‘New Look’ era. That being said, I am never apposed to altering a gown to compensate for a more contemporary and comfortable undergarment.
A few things to consider when choosing a vintage bridal dress, or gown is to be sure that you examine all the seams and check for any stress areas where tired threads may need to be re-stitched, for silk threads do have a tendency to disintegrate, as does some fine silk over time. The last thing you want to have happen the day of your wedding is to have your gown fall to the floor as all your side-seams give way. All zippers and buttons should also be put through similar stress tests.
Ultimately when you decide to consider a vintage gown for your wedding you need to set out with an open mind. Don’t be opposed to consider alterations, or even a complete redesign. Redesign is one of my favorite things to do with a wonderful piece that just may not transcend current fashions. If a gown has what I refer to as ‘Good Bones’, however it needs a little up dating, then having the courage and imagination to realize that vision is the secret to a beautiful and uniquely your own vintage bridal gown.
Finally, when pressed with the issue of size availability, scarcity of particular eras, and the fragility of some styles, I offer my clients the option to work with me and my contemporary line, Elizabeth Mason Couture to design their own custom wedding gown inspired by my company’s vast collection of vintage bridal gowns. In this way we often combine elements from many eras, to create a contemporary gown with an exquisite vintage flare that is uniquely their own.
The Paper Bag Princess vintage Bridal collection, as well as Elizabeth Mason Couture contemporary collections may be found on line at The Paper Bag Princess, or in the boutiques in Beverly Hills and Toronto.