Photography courtesy of Taliah Leigh.
There are many great reasons to choose something old to wear on your wedding day. Your dress may be a family heirloom or a vintage treasure you found while dress shopping. It will definitely have history and be a very sustainable fashion choice which is top of mind for so many couples.
Princess Beatrice famously wore vintage for her May 2020 wedding day. The Princess was granted a touching and incredibly special honour by her grandmother who loaned the bride a gown from her own collection for Beatrice to wear. The dress was created for the Queen back in the 1960s by her go-to designer Sir Norman Hartnell who most notably designed her majesty’s 1947 wedding gown and her 1953 coronation gown. The peau de soie taffeta gown features a dazzling diamanté encrusted bodice. The gown was remodelled by Angela Kelly, the queen’s personal dresser and British designer Stuart Parvin, for Beatrice and includes delicate organza puffed sleeves.
If you are thinking of a vintage gown, there are a few things to be mindful with an older garment. We spoke to Shermin Zarif founder of Toronto’s Flair Cleaners who has much experience and expertise in handling delicate dresses that may also need a little TLC to bring them back to their glory. Here are four things Zarif suggests keeping top of mind.
Have the garment professionally inspected to ensure its wearable.
“If there is any yellowing on the hem or on the body, do not assume these marks are stains—often, the yellowing is from oxidation. While yellowing of any white hues is a concern, dry cleaning the garment will not remedy the issue. If the garment feels as though it is covered in dust or the material is sheer, the fabric is likely starting to decompose. This means that it has lost its integrity and should not be worn. Often, evidence of decomposition is seen in the lining of the dress, but it can also be found in the lace. If you’re looking to alter a vintage dress, please note that taking the hem down may be impossible. However, excess length can be shortened with ease.”
Understand what a restoration of the dress will involve.
“Often, the hem of the dress sees the most damage. Shortening or adding tulle and fabric are generally required. We also see thinning of lace details, which have to be replaced or re-knitted in their original patterns. If lace needs to be replaced or blended, you can opt for an overlay—matching lace isn’t difficult to do. Finally, any and all beading can be re-stitched or glued depending on the design. In the case of our business, we have two amazing seamstresses that can creatively enhance your gown. Also know the restoration process takes time. The process will depend primarily on what the new vision is. Often, we can restore a dress in as little as 10 days or up to three weeks.
If you can’t save the dress, work with portions of it.
“Any lace or tulle could be incorporated into a new design, or the gown itself can be pared down into a cocktail dress. If you’re looking to get creative, you could use fabric from the existing dress and create a headpiece, flower girl ensembles, or personalized flower arrangements.”
Take proper care of your gown post wedding!
“Depending on its age and condition, a vintage dress may not be able to undergo a dry-cleaning cycle. However, it should be brought to a professional shortly after wear to assess its needs. Generally, we recommend a soft steam and preservation techniques, which include vacuum-sealing to prevent yellowing and oxidization.”
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