Wear a Piece of History and Make It Your Own With Unique Vintage Wedding Dresses
Online searches for wedding dresses that use terms like “vintage,” “second hand,” and “pre-owned” have gone up by 38%—and for good reason. Vintage dresses promote sustainability, are often made of quality materials, offer superior craftsmanship, and evoke nostalgia.
If you’ve been dreaming of making your matrimonial vows in a gorgeous vintage wedding dress, we’ll tell you all you need to know about vintage wedding gowns in this article by the Wardrobe Shop.
What Is a Vintage Wedding Dress?
What makes a wedding dress vintage? Vintage dresses refer to pre-loved dresses from the Renaissance to the Regency era. They can be acquired from thrift stores or from a family member who wore one. It could also mean wearing a dress with vintage-inspired touches like ruffles, laces, embellishments, vintage silhouettes, and more.
Vintage Wedding Dresses Through the Decades
Vintage fashion is a rather catch-all term that refers to styles from bygone eras. So, there are a lot of dresses that can be considered vintage. From one decade to the next, there are certain characteristics that make them reminiscent of years past.
Here are some examples of decades and their distinctive dress styles:
Wedding dresses from the 1930s were heavily influenced by the silver screen. Their hefty price tags often reflected female celebrities’ more generous salaries.
Most wedding gowns during this decade were floor length, sporting high necklines and bias cuts that made them look sleek. Satin was a popular fabric for wedding gowns. They were frequently paired with tulle veils or tiara-style headdresses. Sun hats were also common.
1940s dresses were a lot like the 30s but were more informal. They featured sweetheart necklines, fitted bodices, and shorter trains. A tumultuous time when war broke out in several parts of the world, wedding attire also become more practical, using color palettes that made them wearable even after the wedding celebration.
Widely credited with the rise of the ball gown, the decade also witnessed the iconic dresses of Jacqueline Kennedy and Grace Kelly. Fashion trends included high collars, slender bodices, long form-fitting sleeves, round skirts, sweetheart necklines, and wrapped waistlines for a flirtatious but modest look.
The 1960s was a revolutionary decade—a quality that could be seen in its bridal outfits. From gently flared flowing skirts to shorter hemlines and lace to sheer sleeves and fitted bodices, it was an unforgettable era that highlighted femininity in all its glory.
Bridal wear in the 1970s was influenced by the counterculture hippie movement. Trends fluctuated throughout the decade, giving you a lot of options to choose from.
This decade saw simple and traditional gowns in light, flowy fabrics but it also included unorthodox choices like jumpsuits and pantsuits with large and sparkling brooches.
The 1980s bride went all out. This is easily evident from Princess Diana’s six-pound wedding dress with its 25-foot train and 10,000 pearls. The 80s were marked by voluminous lavish outfits with heavy embellishments, puff sleeves, and regal lace. Everything was supersized—from the veil to the bows.
Unlike the previous era, the 1990s were all about minimalism. Layered and voluminous skirts were a thing of the past and there was a shift towards flattering but simple silhouettes in silk. Headbands were added to veils while accessories became more feminine and delicate.
How To Make a Wedding Dress Look Vintage
As you can see, vintage encompasses a wide range of styles and looks but there are some embellishments you can add that fit our general idea of what vintage is:
- Go Heavy on the Lace: Take inspiration from 1930s Chanel, a romantic era marked by soft lace tiers and hand-sewn details to jazz up your outfit, creating a modern vintage wedding dress that beautifully blends the old with the new.
- Consider Dyes: If you want your wedding dress to look vintage but would like to wear it to other occasions, give it a “worn” look with natural dyes. Once you’ve achieved the effect you want, lock it in with apple cider vinegar.
- Pay Attention to the Material: Designers from different eras used different materials to bring their visions to life. For example, a dress made of polyester is reminiscent of the modern revival era (Victorian), silk was often used in the 50s and early 60s, synthetic fibers were abundant in the 30s and 40s, soft chiffon in the 20s, etc.
- Choose the Right Silhouette: Not every dress silhouette will flatter every figure. So, don’t be afraid to try on different cuts and styles until you find one that makes you look your best. If you’re looking for vintage wedding dresses with sleeves, check out Duchess Kate’s wedding look by Alexander McQueen. Her Victorian-inspired wedding gown was modest and featured a simple lace appliquéd bodice and skirt. The overall effect was absolutely mesmerizing!
- Accessorize: Even the simplest gown can be transformed into a ravishing, envy-inducing wedding dress if you choose the right accessories. Consider adding pearls, fascinators, and period-appropriate jewelry. You may also add 1920s wedding veils. These were commonly made from silk and decorated with flowers that matched the bridal bouquet.
Here’s the bottom line: you can get creative with retro wedding dresses. If you want to stick to a specific decade, familiarize yourself with those looks and search for vintage pieces from those years. You can even mix and match particular styles that you admire and recreate them in a one-of-a-kind dress that you can show off on your big day.
But if you don’t feel like visiting countless flea markets, thrift shops, and secondhand stores in search of that elusive perfect dress, you can look online for retailers that are dedicated to creating vintage fashion.
Where To Buy Vintage Wedding Dresses
While vintage wedding dresses can be altered and customized just like regular dresses (Princess Beatrice, we’re looking at you), not everybody’s grandma has a wardrobe full of achingly cool, museum-worthy dresses that you’d want to wear.
For gorgeously nostalgic dresses from the 1920s, visit the Wardrobe Shop. Our wide range of vintage wedding gowns and retro bridesmaids dresses feature light and airy fabrics, flattering cuts, and exquisite craftsmanship. They’re available in different shades of white as well as other hues so you can easily mix and match them according to your wedding colors. Our sizes range from S size to 3X so brides of all shapes and sizes will find their perfect match on our site.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to shop for vintage wedding dresses, look no further than the Wardrobe Shop.