There are many ways to approach the design of your wedding gown, and there is definitely no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. The majority of brides are searching for the latest trends or favourite labels to have as their own wedding dress. However, more and more frequently, I am seeing brides bring in their mother’s, or grandmother’s wedding dresses. The reason always comes from the same base – wanting to honour the women before her, and give the dress a second time at being the most beautiful dress in the world.
So, where to begin? There are many things to consider – is the objective to surprise, or pay tribute to the generations before you? Is the previous dress owner accepting of the changes you want to make? How much does the dress need to change to become what you want? Is the old style compatible with the new style? Do you see this as a way to save money on the cost of a wedding dress? Each of these deserve consideration.
Have an open, honest conversation with your dressmaker. Be free with your information – if both you and your sister have promised to ‘re-wear’ this wedding dress, how many changes are you allowed to make? If the heirloom needs to be refitted again later to another body shape, then this will change the way that a skilled dressmaker will alter it.
It is very important to consider the wishes of the original owner of the wedding dress. While your Mum may love the idea of you wearing her wedding dress, is she ok with it being remade into a more contemporary style? Will your Nan accept that you like the bias cut, but may not like the sleeves and shoulder pads? While you may be intending to honour who you are, and where you have come from, their blessings and opinions are very important to consider.
After alterations – a new tea length gown!
You may love it because it is vintage and you adore the fabrics. However, it is virtually impossible to find the same fabrics again. If you love the dress, but your Nan is a foot shorter than you are, it simply may not be possible to match it exactly. Your style may be limited to the fabrics that are part of your dress at the moment. If you are accepting of elements being different, contrasting, or non identical, then something new can be bought to complement the style of dress that you have.
Where cost is concerned, it can be a very close call as to which is more expensive: a new dress off the rack, a new dress custom-made, or considerable changes to an heirloom. If there are many changes to make to an existing wedding dress, it may need to be partially deconstructed to create a new style. This equates to hours of work getting the dress back to basics, before the new style even starts. In extreme cases, only once it is completely separated can it be lovingly put back to become what you want. With these hours and skill level come cost. Compare this to a mid-budget dress or fabric, which you can use straightforward dressmaking skills to draft, cut and sew. It can be a close call as to which will be more cost effective. What is your bottom line? You will need to make your decision based on the information your loved ones and dressmaker provide.
Heirloom accessories should also be considered. A century old veil will be a unique ‘something old’ tradition, and certainly of higher sentimentality than anything you will find in the shops although you will need to consider colouring, quality and the possibility of moth holes. With careful sourcing, vintage lace can still be bought by the metre, and can add an ‘heirloom’ element to an otherwise new wedding dress.
Ms Chinoiserie Says: Such thoughtful and heartfelt advice on transforming ‘something old’ into ‘something new’
About Studio C Bridal: Hi, I’m Caitlyn and I have made gowns for award-winning, internationally recognised theatre/ film designers and actors. My expertise lies in the ability to flatter the body shape, not create a ‘standard size’ garment, through technical sewing and fabric knowledge. I have an eye for fine detail, and the ability to see the beauty in every idea. I started Studio C Bridal with a passion to create beautiful, original, one-off pieces.