Vintage wedding dress-a buyer’s guide!

guide to buying a vintage wedding dress

So you’ve decided to buy a vintage wedding dress? Congratulations! But how do you go about finding your ideal vintage wedding dress and what should you bear in mind when choosing one? Read my guide for some top tips on buying a vintage wedding dress.  

1 Condition

Vintage wedding dresses by their nature are both old and, most likely, used. This means that finding a vintage wedding dress in perfect condition is highly unlikely (though certainly not impossible). Bear in mind that condition will significantly affect price, so if you’re willing to accept a few flaws you could pick up a real bargain. Things to look our for when choosing a vintage wedding dress include:

  • Hems and trains. These are the areas that are most likely to suffer from damage due to their being in contact with the ground. (1950s style tea-length dresses are the exception). Check for staining and tears both on the front of the dress and in the lining. Consider whether any damage will be visible when you are wearing the dress
  • Fastenings. Check zips and buttons work and are securely attached. It may be difficult to source identical buttons to replace any that are missing.
  • Discolouration. As most wedding dresses are white, or variations of white, discolouration can be a problem. Yellow stains can be particularly difficult to remove. If your vintage wedding dress does have stains then avoid washing it in a washing machine, even if the care label says that it can be. You can take a lot more care by hand-washing and the chances of any damage will be minimised. Washing your dress in a bathtub is the best method of hand-washing. Adding 4-6 denture tablets (the ones used to clean false teeth!) can help to reduce yellow stains. If you have found a dress you love but there is a prominent stain, consider whether you could cover this up with, for example, a bridal belt or some appliqué. After all, the beauty of a vintage wedding dress is that it is unique so you should feel comfortable adding your own mark to it!

2. Sizes of vintage wedding dresses

Sizing with vintage wedding dresses can be tricky. Women were generally a bit smaller in the past thanks to corsets and girdles…If you are buying a very old gown from the 1940s or pre 1940s then do make sure you check the fit carefully. Women very often wore corsets in those days, which made the waist a lot smaller. This means a dress may fit in the rest of the body but be too small on the waist. It may be possible to let out a dress that is too small if the seam allowance is generous (check the seams on the inside of the dress-if they measure at least 2cm it might be possible to let the dress out a little) however it is typically easier to take in a dress than to let it out. You may therefore find it better to choose a dress that fits well on the waist but needs taking in elsewhere.

Dresses from the 50s and 60s may still be smaller on the waist as a lot of women still wore girdles but the difference won’t be as much. When considering overall size, you might find a dress one size up from what you wear now is a good fit for a vintage dress. For example if you are normally a size 10 then a size 12 might be a good fit. If in doubt, always take exact measurements rather than relying on manufactures dress sizes.

3. Where to find a vintage wedding dress

There are a number of places where you can find vintage wedding dresses. There are retailers, both online and on the high street, that specialise in vintage weddings dresses. You may pay slightly more this way but you will generally have a wider choice and the dress will have been inspected for condition. Another option is charity shops. You will be limited to what’s around at the time but if you keep your eyes open you could spot something perfect. Oxfam also has an online wedding dress shop with a wide choice of vintage dresses.

You can also look online at places such as eBay. You may be taking more of a risk this way as most eBay sellers don’t take returns but you always have the option of selling on a dress if it’s not quite right for you. Some places to look for vintage wedding dresses include:

4. A question of price

Just how much should you be paying for a vintage wedding dress? Frustratingly a big part of the answer is ‘however much you are willing to pay!’ Buying a wedding dress is often a one off purchase that is dictated more by emotion than practical concerns. It is good though to have a rough idea of how much different types of wedding dress cost. A typical rule is – the older the dress, the more expensive it will be! Vintage is technically anything older than 30 years, which means dresses from the 1990s would now be considered vintage. These would be a lot cheaper though than a dress from say the 1900s.

As in modern day dresses, the fabric the dress is made from will also impact on price. A silk vintage wedding dress will cost more than one made from polyester. There are also some types of vintage wedding dress that are particularly sought after, therefore inflating their price. For example, a ‘parachute silk’ dress from the war-so called as women would descend on fallen parachutes with their scissors in order to cut off some of the material to make clothes-often commands a high price tag!

Generally speaking it is usually possible to buy a good quality vintage dress for around the £75-150 mark but you can pay more or less depending on your personal preferences.

I hope you found this guide to buying a vintage wedding dress useful. Please share with anyone who loves vintage!

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