Lots of vintage dresses can inspire a tea length wedding dress. But here is the challenge: a style detail you might find very interesting may not be the one that most flatters the curvy gal.
Know the rules first, then decide if you want to break them. But don’t break them unknowingly, and settle on a tea length wedding dress with a style you may like but that may not make YOU look your best. A dress that may fit well but- perhaps- you could look even better without losing a pound! It’s all about proportions and the flow of the eye.
First let’s be clear: nobody needs to be a certain, cookie cutter size and everyone can look beautiful! But there are details and lines that make the eye travel in a pleasing manner which can be used to advantage, and the reverse is certainly true (yipes!)
Rule #1: Horizontal lines are not your friend! Don’t “chop” yourself! Help the eye flow up and down. Stop the up-and- down flow of the eye as little as possible with horizontal lines.
Illustration of the point. Doesn’t this tea length wedding dress below looks super cute, and what a great way to add the personal touch of your favorite color, right?
Answer: Only if you are 5’10” and a string bean. The wide, contrasting horizontal line of the pink sash, placed at the very point you are trying to make look small – the waist- in this very waist-focused style is a disaster for a curvy figure or even for a woman of average height.
Here’s what happens when you create a strong horizontal right at the place you want to “curve in”:
Above, the eye stops at the strong horizontal and moves from side to side, which makes the waist appear larger than it is.
Below is a style with lots of horizontal lines at the waist and midriff- even when the fabric matches (which is better than contrasting), the multiple horizontal lines at the midriff make the midriff, waist and stomach look bigger:
Here’s what we do for our curvy brides:
This style, above, has every possible horizontal detail eliminated, especially from the waist and midriff. This keeps the eye going up and down the body and eliminates 15 pounds with out a peep at the gym. Forsaking that waist or midriff horizontal detailing will make the waist appear much smaller and attract the eye to the bust and shoulder, the hem of the dress and shoes and -of course- your beautiful face. You can have lots of fun accessorizing with a beautiful necklace, a fascinator in your hair or beautiful veil, a colored petticoat, colored shoes, and or your bouquet creating a dot of contrast and splash of color.
(You can see a Whirling Turban Bride with a curvy figure who is not reed thin or 5’8″ tall but looks amazing in this style in another of our blog posts.)
The horizontal line rule can be applies to the colored petticoat: to help the eye flow up and down, let your colored petticoat just “peep” out from your skirt- don’t create a strong, wide, contrasting horizontal line by having 2 or 3 inches of petticoat showing at the bottom of your skirt.
Rule #2: Bring the eye to the center of the body with an accent.
First of all, the flow of the lines in the bodice below are diagonal, not horizontal, which keeps the eye moving and flowing. A narrow, non-contrasting belt doesn’t create a strong horizontal- it matches and is narrow and flat, so it is okay. Then the eye is quickly attracted to focal point of the mother of pearl buckle, pulling the eye toward the center of the body. This will be slimming and accomplishes what the curvy gal wants, which is to make the waist look small in comparison tho the hips and bust and shoulders= APPEALING CURVES!
Your look doesn’t have to be boring! A vintage broach (like the golden dress above) or feather-and-fabric flower can be added at the waist to create a focal point that brings the eye to the center of the body
Bouquets are great for this! The splash of color right at your waist created by your bouquet is a wonderfully slimming effect!
Rule #3: Don’t create BULK in the form of a clump of fabric volume at a place you want to look slim, like this:
Instead, have the top of your skirt absolutely sleek at the waist and free from gathering, so the eye flows in the hourglass line smoothly at your waist, like this:
This rule about fabric volume in the style applies to ANY place you want to look sleek; don’t add fabric volume there. Note the explosion of fullness at the hips where the skirt attaches to the bodice in the first tea length wedding dress photo in this blog post. That fullness will not flatter anyone who doesn’t want to make their hips look larger.
As a designer, I reject the development of new styles that only took good on the tall and thin. Tall, thin customers have lots of style choices. With a few exceptions, at Whirling Turban, I focus on using the tricks of the eye so it moves pleasingly up and down the body, and features that make the waist appear as small as possible in celebration of a delightful, womanly curve.
-Katherine Robinson, Designer for Whirling Turban
Want a leopard wedding dress? We understand. You want a beautiful wedding dress (otherwise you’d just be searching for a “leopard print dress”) but you also want to show your own personal style- you want both a nod to tradition but you also want to show your subversive side in the most beautiful possible way. And if you are shopping at Whirling Turban, you want a ELEGANT, artisanal, custom-fit, wildly flattering dress that will induce gasps when you make your entrance. THAT is what we do!
We’ve been working with “leopard brides” for years and we really, honestly have evolved this tiny little specialty so that we have the prettiest leopard wedding dresses on the planet! We have LOTS of choices in our leopard wedding dresses along with variations, personalized options, and customizations, all with our signature Whirling Turban “Move Star Fit” so that they not only express YOU but they flatter your unique figure, Leopard Bride.
Above, the leopard wedding dress that started it all. Most of our new styles start with a customer idea or request and the customer becomes the muse for the new design. This adorable UK bride found a rayon leopard fabric we had in our swatches, found a style she liked and decided on a burgundy contrast note, using out own custom hand-loomed burgundy fabric. We worked with her to get her into our very favorite petticoat on the market and so that just the right amount of petticoat would peek out. She also had a dashing groom, a great photographer and a picturesque location! The result was just enough tradition and a total expression of her personal style, along with a dress she could keep in her wardrobe and wear again many times!
We have added to our assortment of elegant leopard bridal fabric choices over the years. Below is a baby leopard combined with the most luminous burgundy silk. Whenever we a make this style dress with contrast at the bust, we send a strap in the matching leopard fabric AND a second halter strap in the contrast fabric. You can also wear it strapless. This way you get three different looks form one tea length wedding dress. You can also dress it up with the crinoline or dress it down by wearing it without the crinoline.
The contrast color at the bust gives you a chance to frame your face in a color that flatters your skin tone, or to pick up your wedding color in your dress. It;s also a chance to bring in the white element for a nod to that tradition. White can also be used in the crinoline and a birdcage veil. Then you can wear it for other occasions with a black crinoline, or strapless, or with the matching leopard halter strap.
Do we have a white leopard wedding dress? Yes, of course. Due to popular demand, we had our own leopard fabric custom-printed in a neutral on white for the bride who wants to wear white and still make her leopard wedding dress statement.
Now to the satins! We have a lovely selection of Satin Leopard Wedding Dresses!
These are tea length wedding dresses but they also come floor length, and they come as separates so you can wear the corselette top or the skirt later as beautiful additions to your wardrobe.
We customize the dress to flatter your unique figure, we custom fit you with the same techniques I use when I worked with Hollywood celebrities (Katy Perry, Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman and Bette Midler, to name just a few) so you truly do get a movie star fit when you work with us!
-Katherine Robinson, Designer for Whirling Turban
Today’s garment manufacturing standards are at an all-time low; the worst quality sewing and the worst fabric quality ever. Corporate brands shell out gasp-inducing fortunes in marketing and advertising expenses in order to sell their products. An obscene, 900% to 2000% markup is extorted from the consumer. Therefore, as general rule, buying vintage offers the best clothing value today. That’s a base value in addition to the unique look that a vintage garment gives to our weary contemporary eyes which have grown accustomed to today’s slipshod, ill-fitting garments, plus the mystery of history that also lends charm to the vintage garment.
No wonder more and more brides set out to find a vintage wedding dress every year! Why not get ten times as much dress-and charm- for your money? Many Whirling Turban brides started out shopping for a vintage tea length wedding dress before contacting Whirling Turban because they could not find the size or characteristics they wanted in vintage clothing shops.
If you have a 24 to 26 inch waist, you can have your choice of an array of vintage beauties. The number of women today with waists under 26 inches is probably about 5% of womankind, and even less so if you are talking about American womankind. Even very slim women today have bigger rib cages than their grandmothers.
But if you want a “wedding dress”, even with this impossibly small waist size, likely it is not a vintage wedding dress that you would ultimately purchase. You quickly discover- when on a quest for a vintage wedding dress- that the wedding dresses from mid-century or before were much more modest than today’s bride wants.
Actual vintage wedding dresses tend to look awfully conservative today. So the shopper moves to vintage cocktail dresses and ball gowns. These can be found in white, but wanting to maintain some tradition by going with the white-toned family, now again your dress selection becomes limited.
These are a lot of factors that conspire to send the vintage wedding dress shopper to a search for the “vintage-inspired” wedding dress. (More apt to suit you, we suggest the “vintage reproduction” vs .”vintage inspired”, a term that invites many a corner to be cut.)
These search problems become exacerbated when the dress search is for “tea length wedding dresses”. There weren’t exactly bajillions of tea length dresses worn mid-century, despite our images of Audrey Hepburn in, “Funny Face”, so finding a real mid-century, vintage, tea length wedding dress that fits you and suits your taste has become very nearly impossible
Here are some ways to find the perfect vintage wedding dress:
- If you live near NYC, make a trip to Millcrest Vintage. They have the largest selection of actual vintage wedding dresses in one place whereas most vintage stores will only have a few vintage wedding dresses in their entire shop. If you even approach a plus size, be prepared for very limited choices.
- Consider going with color. When the entire wedding setting is decked out and you have a veil and bouquet, a colored vintage dress will look more “wedding-y” than it would in a cocktail or ball context.
- Give yourself a long, long, long time to shop. You’ll need to kiss a lot of frogs. Be prepared to search for months and months, and visit many, many vintage stores. Know this going in so you are not discouraged.
- Be prepared to resell. If you want to try vintage tea length wedding dresses that you find online on Etsy or Ebay, before purchasing ask the vendor if you can use their photos to resell the dress if it doesn’t fit. (It is a GREAT mistake to think that just because the measurements are the same as yours it is going to fit and flatter- there is a lot more then just a waist and bust measurement involved in getting a beautiful flattering fit.) Then don’t be discouraged and frustrated if the dress isn’t right. It’s not that difficult to resell a dress if you have the photos and the dress measurements have been specified for you. Consider the loss of a few bucks during this process part of the cost of the dress, since a professional vintage seller can get more for a dress than you can, and you must expect to at least pay shipping charges in exchange for being able to try on the dress “in person”.
- Expect to alter and DO NOT BUY TOO SMALL. It is a well-known fact among seamstresses that alterations projects can be as much work as making the dress from scratch, so save a chunk of your budget for alterations. Know this: not all alterations can be done, even if the dress is too big. Sometime s there is not enough extra fabric in the dress in the place where it is needed.
- Consider buying a “vintage reproduction” tea length wedding dress, so you can get exactly what you want, in your size, made to flatter YOU. That’s what we do at Whirling Turban. We do make our own designs but they are absolutely authentic in patterning, sewn detail, fabrics, and even the undergarments we recommend.
At Whirling Turban, we choose fabrics appropriate for mid-century styles instead of “making do” with cheaper modern fabrics (even when we have to have them custom-woven!) We are extremely fussy and hold our dresses to the same standards of authenticity as are used in the making of period movies which is a much higher standard of authenticity than is found in modern mass-produced garments, “vintage inspired” or those made by folks without our 12 years of movie costuming background.
After creating custom-fit, vintage-authentic tea-length wedding dresses online, at a distance without ever meeting or fitting the bride in person for more than 13 years, I could write a book on this topic rather than a mere blog post. But for now I will focus on these few key points regarding the pros and cons of buying reproduction vintage, vintage-inspired or vintage tea length wedding dresses online:
- MORE FOR YOUR MONEY: As long as the company from whom you are buying is not spending an arm and a leg on advertising and does not have a brick and mortar store to support, you can get much, much value for more for your dollar, providing you are well-informed and buy wisely. Why? Your wedding dress budget will not be spent on store overhead or huge advertising costs; it can go for outstanding personal service, sewing labor and materials for YOUR dress!
- SELECTION: The selection online is as vast as the internet -1000’s of choices- whereas your choices locally, specifically for tea length dresses- may be limited from none to 25. Tea length wedding dresses are not mainstream, so local wedding shops are likely to have very few tea length choices.
- PERSONALIZATION/CUSTOMIZATION: Depending on your vendor, wedding dresses ordered on the internet can often be sewn to order, offering you the chance to get your dress made to fit your unique figure and with customizations specified especially for you, such as a matching jacket, an accent color or embroidery of your choice, with meaning especially for you.
CONS of buying “vintage” tea length wedding dresses online:
- Photos can be deceiving. At the internet’s low-resolution, you can’t see detail -especially if you don’t know what to look for- and might be dismayed when you see the dress fabric or sewing quality in person. Furthermore, many dress faults can be PhotoShopped-out.
- Your -or your vendor’s- lack of fitting knowledge (or a vendors lack of caring about your fit, and their exploitation of the fact that you don’t know what can go wrong or what information they actually need to fit you beautifully) can make the dress you receive horribly unflattering, while the photo of the dress made it appear to be flattering.
- It’s more difficult to check on the reputation of a distant vendor than it is to check on the reputation of a local shop. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done but you will have to be much more thorough and diligent.Here are two tea length wedding dresses that are from David’s Bridal. Most brides have access to a David’s Bridal as a local shopping option:
Naturally, I feel you can get infinitely more quality and style from Whirling Turban than you can from David’s Bridal [shudder], but I certainly understand the pitfalls along your path in deciding to buy online. I “feel for” brides shopping online, particularly when I can see what’s missing from the information provided by- or requested by- less scrupulous online sellers.
For example, when I see an online vendor request just the bust and waist measurements to make a custom-fit dress, I am horrified. That’s a recipe for disappointment and disaster. What facts are needed to create a bride’s dress tea length wedding dress that will fit, and fit beautifully? LOTS. That’s a topic for another blog post.
-Katherine Robinson, Designer for Whirling Turban
I was interviewed a while back by Los Angeles times Blogger, Whitney Friedlander. She asked me why there was this interest and trend in short wedding dresses. I told her that I felt it was because tea length wedding dresses now look fresh, chic and original whereas long wedding dresses now so often look clichéd and out of date. It’s so hard to get away from the polyester (plastic), David’s Bridal, quasi-princessy look in a long wedding dress unless you do something very unusual.
I was a big fan of the program, “Big Love”, because it was so well done and also because it reminded me (in an evil way) of the people from my own hometown. So clean-cut, so small town, so very non-urban and non-cosmopolitan. I told her that a long white wedding gown today practically reminds me of life “on the compound”; the anachronistic cult of polygamists that were the nemeses of the program’s stars. (I know- I’m mean to say long dresses are this square…)
One might say that since the currently-in-vogue short wedding dresses reference “vintage” that they are hearkening back to simpler time. I hear this all the time about vintage. I myself have a different view about “vintage”. To begin with, it isn’t all vintage that is popular now.
A 60′s miniskirt style or even a contemporary mini as a wedding dress also looks pretty silly now, in my opinion.
What we are seeing now is the popularity of a very specific period which is the “New Look”. To paraphrase the Wikipedia, the signature shape was characterized by a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, large bust (which had fallen from style in 1912), and small waist. This was in stark contrast to the post-war fabric restriction during World War II in 1940’s, when women could use only about 3 1/2 yards for a dress. This usually meant a fairly narrow A-line skirt, below the knee and short sleeves. When the wartime restrictions ended, Christian Dior introduced a collection Dior that used an extravagant amount of fabric in the skirt – at minimum a full circle – and a very narrow waist contrasting with the full bust. Fashion editors referred to it as the “New Look” which became revolutionary and strongly popular, influencing fashion and other designers for many years to come. Prominent Hollywood figures and the European upper-class became instant clients of Dior.
The point here is about “freshness”. Brides today are likely have mothers who wore very unstructured lingerie and comfortable clothing. To work the New Look, you need strong foundations under your clothes to get that bust up and out and that waist nipped in. Full skirts and crinolines haven’t been seen in half a century, so they’re novel and interesting to us now. They’re surprising, delightful and unlike Mom, which is also something that tends to influence fashion.
Current designers from Paris to New York are showing this kind of New Look silhouette. So it really isn’t about hearkening back to a simpler time, in my opinion, nor is it about the appeal of “anything old or nostalgic”. It’s a very specific look that we happen to find exciting right now.
In the late sixties to mid-70s, there was a rage for a 1930’s look. That had nothing to do with “hearkening back to a simpler time”. After the mod early 60’s, the 30’s was quite geometric and a bit space-age, the 1930’s glamour look was in stark contrast and was simply an interesting decade to play with in that context. The movie Bonnie and Clyde had come out and had a huge influence on fashion.
A multi floor store opened in London called Biba that featured the look of art deco and old Hollywood glamour (from silent films to early talkies). Severely thin eyebrows and bee stung lips with dark brown or funereal purple lipstick were part of the Biba Look that just hit spot on at the time. Rayon, rhinestone studs, platform shoes and skinny girls with big eyes reigned.
Fashion is something that is “in the air”; certain people just sniff it earlier than others. These people have what we call style. The short wedding dress with the full skirt and puffy, frilly crinoline is fresh and stylish and interesting today. The reason why it’s stylish now is both as inexplicable and simple as that.
Whirling Turban has built our exclusive brand with a fresh but authentic take on the New Look in both dresses from cocktails to barbecues to the short, tea length wedding dresses that comprise about 65% of our business.
As the designer for Whirling Turban, I have retained what I think is gorgeous about this era. It goes beyond simply a full skirt or basic pattern shape. It includes the authentic foundations that are worn under the dress.
We coach every bride about her foundations and the difference it makes is positively jaw-dropping.
These foundations do more than plastic surgery or a year at the gym. We use the fabrics that were authentic to the period; we do not re-create a style halfheartedly by doing it up in polyester or a stretch fabric. Since I am a lifelong seamstress, have fashion school technical training and worked a dozen years doing films for Hollywood, I know how important authentic sewing and construction techniques are to achieving the charm of garments actually made from 1947 to around 1962. We use those techniques to sew all of our garments Whirling Turban, just as one would if one was working on a period film and authenticity was critical.
These techniques and details take a lot more time but if you place one of our dresses side-by-side with a vintage garment on the one side and a “retro-inspired” stretch or polyester dress on the other, Whirling Turban will have the charm of the original. I’m very proud of that and the fact that we built our business- from the beginning- with clients who were collectors of genuine vintage from this era. It is often said by vintage collectors that Whirling Turban is the only modern brand they would buy – otherwise it’s genuine vintage only.
The muse for this dress was Rockwell DeVil, the famous pinup model, and Mattel’s Original Barbie Doll. Above photo by the remarkable talent at Le Mew Studios.
Rockwell LOVES the original Barbie Doll (of whom she has a portrait tattoo) and so do I. I have also always loved the vintage Barbie’s, “Solo in the Spotlight”; hence this dress. Let’s stop at this roadside attraction here for just a moment and revel in vintage Barbie.
To make this dress we built a completely custom dress form to duplicate Rockwell’s EVERY curve, based strictly on body pics and measurements done to the specifications that we send customers. It’s a 100% remote- we never fit the dress in person! At least one toile will be sent during the fitting process. This is made from our own locally hand-woven, gold-kissed cotton.
If you look closely, the “polka dots” are actually tiny individual roses made from ribbon.
The buttons down the back are covered buttons with loops and completely functional. There are no shortcuts or concessions; this is a movie star fit made with pure vintage construction techniques. Yet we can do this all at a distance. I’l explain that how we can do that more in another post.
While we dyed the fabric for Rockwell’s dress to a gold-kissed peach- one of her favorite colors- the dress can be made in white kissed with silver or gold..
The bows here are bias-cut with couture construction, made of silk satin or silk chiffon.
Heavy tulle netting is required under the lower skirt to support and is built-in.
It can be ordered sleek with no buttons, bows or roses or customized using your imagination.