Monday, March 19, 2012

Vintage Latte Dream

This week I have a vintage-inspired wedding gown to share, made for the lovely Leah.

As vintage is so huge in the wedding market these days, you would think it would be easier to find something less "bridal", something more unique. But unfortunately, like most wedding trends, the originally fresh idea gets watered-down, over-used and sold-out: think mass produced vintage trinkets from China, polyester "old-fashioned" lace dresses and the general glut of hideous pastel-coloured junk that now passes for "antique" or "retro". 

That said, I think you can still successfully incorporate a vintage-y flavour into elements of your wedding successfully, it's just a matter of using some taste, and discretion to choose where this will shine through. A lot of brides get this really right, and I think "vintage" is a great way to cut through the inherent glitz and shmack that can secretly work it's way into your wedding design. 

Vintage has a real place for this reason: like a lot of old things, we find integrity and charm in styles past, even if, at the time, they were as tacky as Hello Kitty is now. Thats the joy of nostalgia. 
When it comes to clothes, this is often an extremely personal reaction.

Vintage fashion is great because it acknowledges a style when women were not encouraged to look like twiggy, 12-year-models. The most referenced periods (1930s, '40s, '50s, '60s) are now so appealing because women dressed up, as women
The vintage styles we love now require (relatively) massive amounts of 
underwear, styling, shopping, preening and general time-wastage that modern women can't be doing with: except on yer wedding day!
Underwear really does need to be kept in mind when you choose any special dress. There is no way any glamourous look is achieved without foundation garments: whilst a boned dress will hold your torso in, every (un-boned) dress will look better if you choose the right bras, shape-wear, and slip. Ask your Nanna. You aren't actually expected to be anti-gravity on your own. (see below)

Dior dress, 1952, via Fifties Wedding
These designs famously incorporate a heavily constructed bra,
and girdle with extra hip padding, to create this extreme shape.
So this week's bridal creation was along these lines: feminine, nostalgic, emotive, unique.

Leah wanted, as many clients do, something "different, personal, with a touch of vintage about it". She had a nice collection of inspiration pictures and some good reference points regarding features she really wanted to incorporate:
  • Waisted design with belt, perhaps and a full but short skirt, 
  • Texture: lace, tulles, fabric with grain, jacquard or hailspot
  • Cap sleeves
Her wedding was to be a modern, understated urban affair, and she set about organising it in a tight timeframe, so there was to be nothing too over-blown about the dress. A city cocktail reception set the tone, as well as Leah's desire for something she might wear again.

Its also really important, when using "vintage" as inspiration for your wedding, to choose your angle, and focus on what's relevent. Just choosing "lace", or "vintage" won't necessarily result in an elegant party or dress:

  • Do you like a certain decade? What stands out about that period to you? Colours, lines, shapes.
  • Choose a limited range of colours and textures and stick to it. 
  • Cut out white, and replace it with creams, off-white and dirty, tinted colours like beige, lemon, browns, duck-egg blue, pink. 
  • Keep the textures natural and old-fashioned: cotton, porcelain, wicker, glass, silk, linen; not shiny, polyester or plastic. 
These kinds of guidelines will direct your choices to create a nice look, not an op-shop explosion.

I designed a range of options for Leah, as she gave me a range of source material, and I wanted to keep the design open for her to choose whatever really struck her. These were based around dresses referencing the waisted 1950's line, but with a more reduced silhouette, to keep it modern. We talked about fabrics like linen, silk tulle, spotted voile, lace. Geometry and simplicity were key guidelines. 

The key was to make it "vintage", but not too frilly. A fine line to walk, or sew.

We ended up going with a layered design of two dresses, a spotted cream satin sleeves princess-line dress, under a latte-coloured georgette over-dress. This would have the details of lace inserts and add to the soft flowing look of the dress.

The under-dress was made of very soft cream silk satin, with a self spot, which was really cute, especially on the diagonal across the skirt, as below.

Spotted silk under-dress with cream belt and blue belt.
 I went with a simple circle cut for the skirt, as the fabrics were so soft, I wanted a bit of volume, and "swish", which is always fun. This is the sort of thing that can make you love a dress, no matter how adult, or rational you think you are... I've had many grown women dancing around the shop during a fitting, unashamedly swishing.

I dyed the lace to match the georgette, and made three belts: one cornflower blue, one in the spotted cream silk and another to match the latte dress in georgette.

Leah loved the beautiful soft latte colour, as the whiter tones where too conventional and stark for her taste. A gorgeous colour, made even more interesting by the layering textures to pick it up. And by being a more natural, neutral colour, it also emphasises the antique influence in the design.

Latte wedding dress with lace insert panels, and bow.

Layered silk satin and georgette wedding dress.

Leah can now wear these dresses alone or together and has a couple of accessories to make it new and fun each time.

So, here are some of the photos from Leah and Casey's wedding in Melbourne. I love the church setting, and Leah's excellent accessories really finish her vintage-inspired look: pearls, netted fascinator, and amazing shoes. But as you can see, she still looks like a completely modern bride.
 These lovely photos are by Jacinta Benne and Bec Gallaher.

Thank you to Leah and Casey for sharing their photos and beautiful wedding.


  1. This is one of the best posts that I’ve ever seen; you may include some more ideas in the same theme about Silk Satin Dresses. I’m still waiting for some interesting thoughts from your side in your next post.

  2. Cheers! I shall endeavour to address more satin soon :)