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.