Just this last week on the 17th of July 2020, Princess Beatrice wed her fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in an intimate and quiet setting with only members of the Royal Family in attendance. Despite the more understated occasion, the official images released of the happy couple have captured hearts around the world, a little glimmer of hope and happiness amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
However, as always with Royal weddings, there was plenty of attention on the dress. In fact, a sentimental memento, Beatrice’s wedding dress was loaned by the Queen. Originally worn by the Queen in the 1960s, the dress was “upcycled” into the modern era, yet still retained much of its original charm.
The dress was designed by Norman Hartnell and was made from Peau De Soie taffeta featuring vertical hand-embellished diamond-shaped details. The dress was adapted by the Queen’s trusted dressmakers Angela Kelly and Stewart Parvin to alter the dress to Beatrice’s shape and taste. A few of the additions were adding a Duchesse satin trim and petite organza puffed sleeves that instantly brought the piece into the modern-day.
Of course, like the rest of the world, we were enchanted by this adaptation of a classic! Not only does this give the dress another chapter in fashion history, but also it was a sustainable choice, a choice that resonates with many future brides-to-be. It is no secret that as a society we are becoming more eco-conscious, and adding vintage or antique details to your wedding could be the perfect way to incorporate this into your big day.
So, if you are inspired by HRH Princess Beatrice, then let's take a closer look at how you can bring the past into the present for your nuptials.
Find a Vintage or Second-Hand Wedding Dress
After Beatrice’s decision to wear a gown of the Queen, we won’t be surprised if vintage and second-hand wedding dresses have a surge in popularity. Previously associated with unique esoteric brides or those on a budget, shopping vintage or second hand wasn’t part of the norm when trying on wedding dresses. This may be due to changing styles and tastes, but also it takes a lot more work and a good eye to find the one. For instance, you need to be prepared to have alterations done, and some of the fabrics could be older and more delicate to work with than newer fabrics. That being said, it's certainly not impossible, and when you find the perfect dress it is worth all of the effort.
Liberty & Co Wedding Dress, c.1905, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
From beaded drop waist 1920s styles to bias cut 1930’s oyster satin pieces, you can certainly find something that feels both modern and of its time.
If you love the ease of shopping online for vintage clothing, Etsy and 1st Dibs is a great place to start for vintage wedding dresses. With just the click of a button, you can find Bridal retailers, collectors or pre-loved dresses from the ’90s backwards. In fact, we had a quick look ourselves, and we even spotted some Edwardian and Victorian wedding dresses on there!
A great way to modify the dresses is by changing the sleeves, inserting modern fastenings, changing the hemlines or adding embellishment or embroidery. Of course, speaking to a trusted and established dressmaker is a great way to know what you can and can’t do, and within your timeframe. That being said, preserving the original integrity of the dress is important too, as it only enhances its charm.
Here are some vintage and second-hand wedding dress sellers to try:
- The Vintage Brides Club
- Rock My Vintage Dress
- Abigail’s Vintage Bridal
- Very Vintage Bridal
- Heavenly Vintage Brides
- Bristol Bridal Boutique
- Dream Second Hand Wedding Dress Agency
- Bridal Reloved
- Oxfam Wedding Dresses
- Jane Bourvis
- Pennies Vintage
Of course, it is unlikely that you will find a Norman Hartnell gown like Princess Beatrices, but there was an amazing range of talented dress designers working in the mid-century.
In fact, you don’t necessarily have to go for the cookie-cut wedding dress style, the beauty about shopping vintage is that you might see a beautiful white, ivory or cream evening gown that for you could be the perfect wedding dress.
When searching for the dress, look for specifics like fabric quality, striking beading, boning, built-in waist and hand-stitched details. These details are likely to be original to the dress and thus are inherently higher in value. Like antique jewellery, it's an investment piece that your children and grandchildren will treasure. These considered details would have been painstakingly chosen for the woman’s shape, meaning that you are likely to get a higher-quality garment.
Of course, some styles will seem bulkier in shape due to the undergarments being different at the time of creation, so always make sure to keep an open mind.
Vintage Wedding Details
It’s not just the wedding dress where you can make a sustainable choice, but there is a range of ways you can nod to the eco way of life throughout your big day. Whether it's sourcing your food from local farmers, offsetting your carbon emissions, buying decorations made from recycled materials, purchasing biodegradable confetti or using vintage tableware, there truly are a wealth of options available.
Having a vintage wedding day isn’t always going to be floral teacups and bunting, there are actually a myriad of ways you can reference the past in a tasteful manner.
In fact, we have collated a few vintage wedding style ideas below that we are slightly obsessed with:
- Lace details like doilies or lace ribbon
- Paper flowers intertwined around the chairs
- Fairy lights
- Shabby chic furniture like vintage suitcases, books, floral cushions, antique french style mirrors
- Recycled wood benches and stools
- Linen tablecloths
- Vintage lanterns and birdcages
- Vintage glassware like Art Deco mid-century style perfume bottles, wine glasses, tumblers.
All of these vintage-inspired details will add a touch of old-world elegance to your big day, promising you a magical experience that is reminiscent of a former era.
Of course, the perfect vintage dress is not complete without complementary accessories. Princess Beatrice opted for another heirloom piece of her grandmothers, Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond fringe tiara, worn by both Queen Mary and Queen Victoria.
What’s more, the Queen herself wore this tiara to her wedding to Prince Phillip in 1947. The natural elegance of this tiara perfectly fused with the vertical embellishments on the Norman Hartnell wedding gown, creating an air of excellence that will be remembered throughout royal history.
With this in mind, if you are opting for a vintage wedding gown for your celebrations, you certainly should choose complementary vintage accessories too. In fact, see this as a time to mix up eras, incorporating Art Deco, Mid-century or even 1990’s touches depending on your personal style. Plus, we think it is the opportune moment to wear glittering antique jewellery too, from Victorian paste Rivieres to Edwardian Moonstone necklaces.
Luckily, authentic vintage accessories are easier to find than the perfect vintage wedding dress. Below are our ideas:
Beaded handbags - Beaded handbags are currently having a fashion renaissance, but nothing compares to the exquisite beauty of those created centuries ago. From bohemian treasures to prim and proper Pearl numbers, vintage embellished handbags are easy to find, and won’t cost the earth too.
If you are having a traditional white wedding, then why not go for different tones like pastels or light metallics. On the other hand, why not choose accessories that complement your wedding bouquet? For instance, we can easily envisage a coral peony bouquet looking idyllic with an equally fabulous coral beaded bag!
Fans - If you are tying the knot in the height of summer, we strongly suggest that you recommend getting a fan or two regardless, even if you are getting married in the UK! Fans were a common Georgian dress item amongst aristocratic Regency women, as they were used in society balls to flirt with promising gentlemen. In fact, there was even a secret language attributed to fans, a language that dates back thousands of years! Vintage fans can be easy to source, with finely detailed pieces costing a pretty penny. From fine lace pieces to gorgeous silk-printed florals and mother of pearl structures, you can easily find a fan that will look stunning with your vintage dress.
Capes, Shawls and Boleros - A must for brides getting married in the winter, or getting married outside, a finely detailed cape, shawl or bolero would be a gorgeous and ethereal addition to your look. This is also a great option if you are getting married in a church or you prefer a modest look for your big day. We think a simple slick sheath wedding dress would look stunning with an embellished or embroidered vintage cape, or a faux fur shawl for a winter wonderland theme.
Veils - Many assume that the quintessential vintage veil is, in fact, a birdcage veil, however, there is a range of vintage veil styles to choose from. For example, as custom in the 1920s and 1930s, capped cathedral length veils were pinned at the top of the head. You could adopt this today to instantly have a regal and demure look.
Plus, many vintage veils are made from premium lace and netting, so you won’t be compromising on quality. If you like the edgy and textured look of shorter veils, turn to the ’80s, '90s and early 2000s for your style inspiration. In fact, investing in a high-quality veil is a beautiful way to create a treasured heirloom for future generations.
Headpieces - Veils can be attached to a vintage headpiece, which in itself offers a range of options. Of course, like Princess Beatrice, we are partial to a glittering tiara, yet floral crowns offer a gorgeous look too. In fact, once you delve into vintage and antique tiara shopping its hard to stop! From c.1900 french Gold crowns to 1950s rhinestone beauties and vintage wax tiaras, you can easily find both traditional and esoteric pieces. Of course, a Diamond tiara is likely to be incredibly expensive, but we would love to find one...sigh…!
Silk Scarves - Perfect for incorporating a touch of colour to your wedding outfit, silk scarves have been a vintage staple for decades. From wearing it in your hair to channelling your inner European and tying it around your neck, silk scarves can be used as wedding decorations or unique wedding favours too!
Antique and Vintage Jewellery - It’s not just your wedding dress that needs to be spectacular, but your jewels have to quietly command attention too. No matter if you are having vintage-themed nuptials or wearing a contemporary wedding gown, antique and vintage jewellery is a stunning way to reference the traditions of “something old”.
In fact, you could even choose to effortlessly reference the “something new” and “something blue” traditions too with our collection of Aquamarine jewellery.
We recommend that traditional brides go towards Edwardian pieces, as the Edwardian period is known for crafting jewellery with pale gemstones, white Paste and Pearls. Art Deco is also a fantastic era if you are looking for white Gold and Platinum pieces, and Victorian is also perfect for the warm feminine tones of Rose Gold.
What's more, in these periods, specific gemstones and motifs were chosen for their innate symbolism, which will add a further dimension to your bridal look. Earlier this year, in our New Beginnings blog, we detailed how pearl-encrusted crescent moons were an appropriate gift for newly married couples in the Victorian period, and gemstones like Opals were used in abundance for courtship rituals as they were symbolic of passion. Other popular romantic motifs and gemstones were ivy leaves, forget me nots, orange blossoms, roses, Rose Quartz, Moonstones, Pearls, Emeralds and of course, Diamonds.
If you are planning your look for your wedding day, we can certainly sought you out with some of the finest antique jewels in Bristol and the UK, feel free to contact us if you have any questions!