Confessions of a DIY Bride #4: The Dress

Hello lovelies! Sam’s back today with more on her DIY wedding adventure! And this is such a special post – I know I felt a bit choked up at the end!

DIY Bride Disclaimer: My ‘DIY Dress Project’ didn’t stretch to actually making my own dress, or getting a fabulous mom/aunt/granny to create the perfect Couture Gown, but I was lucky enough to be able to re-create a vintage heirloom into my own version of THE dress.

When I started my search for a not-too-extravagant but still pretty awesome, reasonably comfy wedding dress, I hoped the answer would be a vintage one. (I had visions of a puffy 1950s cocktail number). So, I trawled vintage fairs, shops and websites, and saw so many beautiful dresses and even more beautiful accessories, but generally felt a little overwhelmed at my lack of London vintage shopping knowledge and know-how.

Then I travelled to South Africa, and in between the mad rush to choose a venue and find a caterer, my mom, sister and I visited a few wedding boutiques, and I dutifully tried on the dresses. They were nice (some were even very very nice) but… they just weren’t quite right. Eventually, I decided I’d go back to London, find a plain, simple high street dress, and accessorise it with my grandmother’s wedding veil (cathedral length, 1940s Brussels lace). There was just one problem – no one could find it. Anywhere.

It was in the process of searching through yet another trunk, at the back of yet another cupboard, in the last few hours before I flew back to the UK, that I found the rumpled old plastic bag… Filled with an even more rumpled mess of delicately textured, oyster satin and few lonesome diamantes… It wasn’t my grandmother’s veil, but it was her wedding dress. The same one she wore in 1946 when she’d married my grandpa.

It was frayed, with a giant rip down the centre seam, and rust stains around the very rickety zip. I gingerly tried it on, thinking – what the heck, it can’t hurt… right? It was the perfect fit.

Altered after the wedding and changed into a more practical dance dress – my gran had turned the train into a sash, and shortened the sleeves – it wasn’t the 1950s shape I’d wanted… it was better. So, all I needed to do was find someone I trusted enough to mend and alter it (the sleeves needed a bit of a lift) without ‘ruining’ it… easy-peasy. Luckily, I found Everton. Over the next six months, he expertly repaired the rips (you’d never know they were even there), replaced the zip and lowered the austere neckline a little without losing the glorious 1940s shape or drape of the original dress. After every stage I went in for a fitting and a chat – to check that I was happy with the next step. Because it was such a precious heirloom, Everton also kept every piece of cloth he trimmed off the dress, and ensured that any added extras could be easily removed – in case another girl in the family wanted to re-use the original dress.

To help strengthen the very delicate fabric, he lined the bodice, and created a separate, loose-fitting tulle petticoat, which gave me a little extra length and a whole lot of ‘swishiness’. When it came to that little something extra special, he suggested the addition of a lace train – reasoning that the front of the dress would be all about the past, and my heritage, and the back of the dress as I passed down the aisle would be all about the new – my future, and me. I loved it.

From the raggedy tatters of a 60-year-old dress, Everton and his team helped me re-create not only a precious piece of my family history, but my little-girl-dressing-up dream wedding gown. On the big day, I got ready with an old picture of my grandparents on their big day propped against the mirror. Even though my gran wasn’t there, she was looking over us. And my grandpa? Well, he got to dance with that dress at one more wedding!

Looking for a Vintage Vibe? Try these great options:

Images from Sam’s wedding by Jacqui Bruniquel 


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