How To Buy A Vintage Wedding Dress


A recent article I read in Consumer Reports stated that brides spend an average of  $1200 on their wedding gown. All brides have their own opinions, but I personally think spending so much money on one dress, particularly a dress you only wear one day is a waste of money.

And not only does the average bride spend this money. And surprisingly, very little in the world of bridal gowns can be bought for $1200. Where in the world of normal dresses this might get you a very decent wedding gown, in the world of bridal gowns it gets very little.

A bridal gown made out of high-quality silk and old world details is not going to cost you $1200, try more like $12,000, especially if there is a major designer name to it.

Why are wedding gowns so expensive… well because they are allowed to be. Wedding gown designers take advantage of brides wanting the very best for walking down the aisle and they make a fortune.

What else can be bought for $12,000 besides a high-end dress? How about a honeymoon for two to Europe, half of a fairly nice new car, a very small down payment on a very small house or a little less than half your wedding if you are average bride spending 27,000 on your special day.

And if you are like the bride that is spending the average amount on your dress, you would be better spending that money on something else as well.

For all the above reasons, I would go with a vintage gown, especially if you are having a vintage themed wedding. While I appreciate the efforts of certain designers to design dress based off of certain eras, usually they just don’t stand up to their real counterparts.

First, before you shop, you need to decide what era you wedding is inspired by whether it is the roaring 20s or the nifty 50s or the boho 70s. Personally, as a lover of many vintage eras, I was open to several different eras, so I had wedding gown for two different eras, about 1908 and the late 1930s. I also mixed in a piece from the Victorian era and the 1950s.

There are several places to buy vintage dresses, but before you do check if anyone in your family might have a dress you can borrow that might have been someones in a previous generation.

If you don’t something like this, there are several places you can go to buy a vintage dress. To a local vintage store, to an online vintage store, to Etsy or Ebay.

My two vintage dresses I wore were both bought on Etsy, one for under $100, and one for just under $200. Despite their low price points, they had details found in only the most expensive of modern dresses. My cape that I wore and bridal crown came from Ebay.

To me, the place you will probably find the best deal on a dress is undoubtedly Ebay. If you want to go this route, I would start looking as early as possible, maybe just after your engagement.  I also recommend keeping your eye out on Etsy as well.

When ordering online, make sure you know your measurements.  Keep in mind that vintage garments, particularly the older ones from the Edwardian-1940s fit differently than modern garments. They are not meant to be worn tightly, but to skim over your curves, some 1920s dresses are meant to be slightly baggy.

To get you proper measurements for a garment, take your measurements and add on one or two inches. For example, my measurements are 33-inch bust, a 24.5/ 25-inch waist and 32 hips. I usually look out for garments with a 34-35 bust, a 27-28 waist and 34-inch hips, in 1950s garments the waist can be tight because this is the look.

I would not recommend buying something that is the closest to your measurements as possible, even a little big. If you are buying the piece many months before your wedding, this can compensate for any weight you might gain. It can always be altered slightly if you stay the same or lose weight.

Never buy a garment which is too small for you. It’s fine to lose a little weight before your wedding, but you don’t want to face the horror of having a gown that does not fit and a wedding date right around the corner. Vintage dresses are a lot harder and a lot more costly to make bigger than to make smaller.

Keep in mind that you in this day and age, if you want to be a vintage bride, there is no need for you to only be looking at vintage wedding dresses. If you have an open mind, you can always look at other vintage garments as well.

Depending on the formality level of your wedding or lack of, you can look at a wide variety of other vintage garments, these include ball/evening gowns, suits, and even day dresses. My grandmother was a wartime bride who didn’t have enough time or money to buy a formal wedding dress. In the early 1940s when she was married to my grandfather she wore a suit. Today, many brides don’t want to wear a white dress, maybe you would prefer to wear a pink 1950s ball gown or a sleek black 1930s evening gown.

Sometimes it is not possible to find your dream vintage dress. Ladies who are exceptionally tall or voluptuous might not find a large selection in their size. Or maybe you can find your size, but you just can’t find your dream dress.

In this situation, I would highly recommend finding a picture or a pattern for a vintage dress and having a seamstress recreate. I will post more about this in an upcoming another post.

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