Planning Your Vintage Wedding - Part 1
( Part 2 )
An article by  Amanda Porter

Betty Grable-esque Amanda Porter is a bona-fide vintage fanatic. Her primary flights of fancy include cutting a rug and relentlessly collecting 1930s and 40s fashions. This journalist also masquerades as your friendly local bridal consultant. She married her "earnest 40s man" last fall and ever since has been trying to convince modern day brides that borrowing from the past is far better than living in the present. 

Visit also her Pin Up website: !!


Dressing the Bride - part 1 of a series
Once upon a time, a love story went something like this: Boy meets girl, the two fall in love, and then the pair marry just as simply as they come.

Nowadays, the mere process of meeting the right fella is enough to wear a girl out. So when you do finally find that special someone, you might feel as though your wedding should be a bit grander than usual run of the mill affair. Perhaps while you consider each requisite bridal detail, pondering the virtues of taffeta versus satin, a tiny thought might suddenly surface. What if you chose to get married the way it used to be done? After all, you  always did have a penchant for old school glamour....

Take for instance, the wedding of Anna and Michael Kline, a Memphis couple who were married on the wedding anniversary of the bride's grandparents in 2004. The couple, which feels a deep sense of connection to the past, immediately knew that getting married 1920s style was the only way for them!

Author  Amanda Porter

"I have always been fascinated with the decadence of the time—it's an idealized era that has always appealed to and captivated my imagination," Kline said. "One thing I noticed myself doing, in planning the wedding, was that I wanted to get back to the traditional, classic atmosphere that seemed to be missing from many of the weddings I'd attended. They seemed to lack real heart."

Ann Bonnette, owner of AC Bridal Boutique (, feels the desire for an old-fashioned look has been steadily returning for quite a while. She is finding that more and more modern brides are asking for vintage influenced styles, and are starting to buck bridal industry trends in favor of more unique and personal looks.

"With the recent revival of swing over the past few years, brides seem to be more attracted to the glamorous styles of the past," she noted. "The days of cookie cutter dresses seem to be coming to an end."

Grace Kelly
So how does one go about creating the perfect vintage silhouette? The first step is to ask yourself what look you envision for your special day. Will you be inspired by such lovely brides as Grace Kelly, Claudette Colbert, Carol Lombard, Ginger Rogers or Audrey Hepburn? Or would you prefer to walk down the aisle in pure Hollywood style, invoking such a stunning likeness as that platinum beauty we all know so well, Jean Harlow?

Your inspiration may come from an actual vintage wedding (scouring the old photo racks at antique stores will surely lend plenty of study materials), or from a wedding presented by Hollywood in such movies as "It Happened One Night", "Swing Time" and "Funny Face". You may even decide to recreate a Hollywood supper club, borrowing your look from the evening styles of the period, rather than the traditional wedding fashions worn during the era.

Regardless of the look you seek, it is not as difficult to achieve as one might think. A true vintage lover will wisely make the Internet her first stop, both in search of authentic pieces and to learn the nuances of history. Aside from (the proverbial vintage lover's paradise), notable websites include,, and Expect to pay as little as $50 to $500 or more for a gown, depending on its age, condition and how many other brides are interested in it!

Other notable resources include two recent books dedicated to educating the vintage bride to be. Your Vintage Wedding by Nancy Eaton and A Vintage Wedding by Daniela Turudich are both thorough guides covering weddings from 1910-1950. Eaton is keen to pass on a great deal of historical knowledge, and Turudich presents a nice, abbreviated guide to planning your wedding. Both show you how to incorporate just the right amount of vintage to suit your tastes.

In terms of condition, it is important to remember that a wedding gown has been worn at least once, and the stresses of being a bride do have an effect! Unless the gown is designated as dead stock (or new old stock) assume that unseen evils such as perspiration or spilled champagne may have set in the gown for 50 years or more, weakening the fabric with each passing year. Some visible stains, namely perspiration and rust, are generally permanent and may affect practical wearability depending on their location.

Silk fabrics, especially tulle, deteriorate over time as well, and may be unstable enough to disintegrate entirely (not an occurrence you'd want to happen on the big day!) Rayon fabrics hold up considerably better and seem to take well to cleaning; this fabric was often used in the 1940s. Chiffon fabric has a tendency to gray or turn dingy with age; this discoloration may or may not be correctable.

There are three areas to test before deciding to wear a vintage piece: Structural strength, staining and odor. You must also ask yourself how badly you want to wear the vintage piecewill anything else make you as happy? Staining can often be concealed with an organza or chiffon overlay, and odor will usually disappear with a simple airing out (no Febreze, please!) or an archival cleaning for more persistent cases. Structural strength, however, can literally make or break a piece. An experienced seamstress will be able to tell you if a gown can make it through one more wearing, and how to preserve it for future generations.

1940s Bride

Rhiannon Macbeth, a 2003 bride who enjoys wearing vintage clothing for special occasions, searched for quite a while before finding her 1920s silk wedding gown. She cautions brides on the difficulties of wearing vintage, and notes that it takes an experienced person to understand the delicate issues of vintage fabric.

"I found my dress in Palo Alto, CA at an all vintage wedding store," she remarked. "It fit like a glove with near to no alterations needed. The silk fabric was very strong and durable—it felt like butter!"

If vintage doesn't pan out, the next logical step is to consider having a dress made by an experienced seamstress. Maybe you would like to restore or recreate Grandmother's dress, or another gown you have found that is not wearable in its current state. Or perhaps you have found a wonderful dress pattern that would make a positively stunning bridal gown (consider such unlikely examples as day dress patterns and nightgown patterns, which can cross the line into appropriate wedding wear with the right fabric and length adjustments.) That's where a dressmaker can happily step in, using bits and pieces from an original gown or recreating it entirely with new materials. Appealing sites include,, and
1930s Bride
For restoration, Diana Ackerman of comes with high regard; check out her website for wonderful before and after examples of her work. Ackerman noted that the real trend for wearing vintage started after the movie Titanic was released. About 80 percent of her clients come to her with a family heirloom, often from the 50s or 60s. She points out though, that her favorite era for bridal fashion is the 1930s, referring to this age as "the best decade of sewing techniques, from nouveau to deco."

"Gowns from the 1930s often hold up quite well, as they tend to made from crepe-backed silk," she commented. "If the bride can pull off the slim, bias cut style, her great grandma's gown will make a stunning piece."

Bear in mind though, that the reputable seamstress, quality material and labor involved in sewing a custom wedding gown may cost you upwards of $800-$1000 or more. Ackerman estimates that it can cost anywhere from $350-$1200 to make an heirloom gown wearable for another generation, but stresses that this is money well spent.

"Many brides tell me that the cost to remake a vintage dress usually works out to be less than they would have spent on a modern dress they wouldn't have liked as well!"

As vintage clothing often runs very small, and custom designs may sometimes be cost prohibitive, it can make perfect sense to delve into the world of modern bridal wear. Many designers have sensed a return to the past and have turned out some rather lovely numbers that invoke the 1920s, 30s, 40s and so on. Moderately priced manufacturers of retro interest include Alfred Angelo, St. Patrick, Watters and Watters, Eden Bridals, Maggie Sottero and Jessica McClintock. The bride with a more generous budget might do well to examine the lines of Amy Michelson, Marisa and Bagdley Mishcka, all noted for their siren-esque appeal.

"I've noticed that jewelry stores are carrying more vintage style rings as well," Bonnette remarked. "I think brides are looking at their grandparents' pictures and are becoming inspired by sentimentality. The elegance and romance of bygone eras is so appealing nowadays."

Kline herself realized that she was very drawn to the lacy, beaded styles reminiscent of flapper dresses. Armed with a photo of a couture gown, she walked into a local shop and found a dress that fit her bill.

"[But] if I had to do it all over again, it would be a wedding dress in full-blown era style!" Kline laughed. "I would either get it custom made or find an authentic dress. By the time I got well underway with the planning, it was too late for me to find another dress—it's more difficult to find true era items because in Memphis there aren't many shops like you would find in California & New York."

The Look: 1920s Flapper
A bride seeking to recreate the fancifully fun styles of the 20s would do well to study the styles of the era. Note how the e ver-creeping upward hemlines traveled from mainstream clothing into the world of bridal fashion. Stylish 1920s brides, fond of feminine lace, silks and netting, did strike an appealing silhouette in their dropped waist dresses. As a modern day counterpart, peruse or the Eva Dress original E20-3804 for a positively scandalous ensemble.

The Look: 1930s Sophisticate
If there ever was a time when fashion and grandeur became one and the same, it would be when the bias cut and exquisite silk charmeuse fabric ruled both evening and bridal wear. Don't be afraid to choose something that would rival Ms. Harlow herself. Of particular interest are two new additions to Alfred Angelo's line, styles 1920 and 1929, both available at AC Bridal Boutique. These exquisite, slinky numbers are accented with rhinestones and such figure flattering details as a ruched bodice, cowl back and bias cut skirt inset. Or consider what a silver screen beauty you will be in Eva Dress pattern 1416, a stunning 1938 creation that can be recreated from lightweight silk satin in a creamy shade of champagne, gold or platinum. Your groom is sure to swoon!

The Look: 1940s Glamour
Wartime may have lent an austere presence to the fashion world, but weddings were still as romantic as ever. The 1940s bride, in her padded shouldered, slim hipped creation may have planned her wedding in only a matter of hours, but she still wore the dress of dreams. Many hasty brides wore their best suits, and this is always an option for a modern bride having a simple home affair. Those who chose to wear an actual wedding gown often eschewed silk (it was far too important to the war effort) and selected something in a rayon satin, crepe, or net. The sweetheart neckline ruled, and long, bridal point sleeves were favored. Consider Butterick Pattern 2696, available through Silk Poppy, in crepe with contrasting satin diamond inset (suitable in both shorter and longer lengths, depending on wedding formality.) Or St. Patrick style 3876, with its lovely portrait collar designed to frame your best assets.

The Look: 1950s Elegance
The 1950s was a time of bridal magnificence, as the war was finally over and the baby boom was just beginning. Popular designs favored by idealistic brides include the ballerina style made of tea length tulle, lace and satin. Skirts were full and created via layers of netting and the proper undergarments (don't forget your long line bra and hoop skirt!) Select a full-skirted dress with nipped in waist, cap or long sleeves and delicate detailing. Accentuate the luxurious drama with wrist length 'shortie' gloves and flyaway veil. For the more daring bride, consider a strapless gown, worn with a lace or organza bolero jacket for the ceremony. St. Patrick Bridal makes a host of 50s inspirations—lots of clean lines paired with lovely lace jackets. Or check out Alfred Angelo style 1947; this snappy tea length number of beaded organza makes a lovely informal statement. Perfect for that trip to Vegas or home garden wedding, this little dress could even be worn again. Practical elegance is always in style!
1950s Bride

Don't forget to accessorize you gown with period elements as well. The right veil, headpiece, stockings and jewelry will complete your trip back in time, and help you start you new life together in style.

Best wishes from your friends in Port Halcyon!

Dressing the Bridesmaids  - part 2 

xoxo, Amanda

Photos Courtesy of Cherished Bride

Reprinted with permission 

Copyright © 2004 Port Halcyon, Inc.