87 years of expert advice and inspiration, for every couple.
Vintage fashion is having a moment—from the resurgence of Regency-era silhouettes and ‘70s-inspired platform shoes to archival looks on the red carpet, nostalgia is at an all-time high. And when it comes to wedding dresses and accessories, calling back to previous decades is a great way to showcase your personal style. Whether you’re looking for a traditional ballgown or the perfect pair of earrings to complete your ’20s-inspired bridal look, there are a ton of options out there to match your vision.
Shopping vintage can give you a bit of an advantage, as it's not only a sustainable and budget-friendly option, but you’ll be able to wear a style that can't easily be replicated.“You are going to have something that nobody else has,” says Maddy Anderson, founder of the curated vintage shop Madly Vintage. “A look that is completely unique and one of a kind, and every bride wants to feel that special during their time.”
If you’re looking to lean into the retro vibe for your big day, here’s everything you need to know before you start shopping!
Quite literally, vintage means “of age,” which leaves room for personal interpretation. Blossom Vintage shop owner, Jamie Lee, considers a vintage item to be 20 years old or older, with an antique being at least 100 years old. As for Anderson, she notes that vintage “is anything pre-loved that resonates with you or inspires from previous eras.”
For those searching for second-hand bridalwear, whether it’s a slip dress from the ‘90s or a pair of lace gloves from the ‘50s, if it’s representative of the era and was made at least 20 years ago, it can be considered authentically vintage.
Aside from the thrill of vintage treasure hunting, turning away from traditional bridal salons has its benefits.
One clear advantage to vintage shopping is the ability to wear a one-of-a-kind bridal look. No need to worry about donning a wedding dress dozens of brides have already worn, and it's an option that will also highlight your personal style.
"Wearing vintage brings another layer of personal style. All brides want to stand out, but when you choose to wear vintage you’ll truly be in something one of a kind and timeless,” says Lee. “There is also something romantic when you’re choosing to give a vintage wedding dress a new story.”
According to Anderson, shopping vintage is also typically more affordable than buying other items in the bridal market. “While at the same time, vintage pieces almost always look higher-end (regardless of price) than modern fashion, so it’s a win-win,” notes Anderson. That’s not to say there aren’t some expensive designer pieces out there, but most items will be significantly cheaper than a newly-made wedding dress or accessory.
Choosing pre-loved bridalwear pieces over new items is also a more sustainable choice. “The sustainability of shopping vintage is a huge benefit,” explains Anderson. “The wedding industry can often be very wasteful, so it’s nice to know you’re helping the environment by shopping vintage or second-hand.”
Lee has also noticed a clear uptick in second-hand shopping due to an increase in more eco-conscious buying trends. “With this shift in consumerism, buyers are also more aware of the negative impacts of fast fashion on a societal and humanitarian level,” notes Lee. “Reusing what we already have in new creative ways is the future of fashion.”
Before you take the plunge on a vintage wedding dress or accessory, these are a few important tips you should keep in mind as you start your search.
As with all wedding dress shopping, you should clearly define the type of look you want. Research different decades, and create a mood board of the eras or looks that inspire you. Additionally, try to focus on popular silhouettes or accessories of a particular time, rather than attempting to completely replicate a specific look. "It’s important to not think too literally when shopping vintage, you never want to look like you’re in costume,” highlights Anderson.
Even if you have a specific style in mind, remaining flexible as to the specific era you want to replicate is a good rule of thumb to follow. “It’s easy to fall into these stereotypes of what each era was known for (i.e. ‘60s = boho/hippy), but when you take style elements you love from a ‘60s dress, you can find it in other eras as well without even knowing,” advises Lee.
Anderson also recommends finding a vintage style that is similar to modern-day fashions you love today. “This makes it much easier to make [your dress] relevant when styling for today’s time, and not to mention much more special,” she notes.
Knowing your exact measurements is essential when it comes to shopping for any type of wedding dress, but especially vintage looks. “When you’re shopping for vintage, never rely on the sizing tag,” explains Lee. “Always be familiar with your own measurements and have a fabric measuring tape on hand when out shopping.”
Anderson agrees, noting that it’s also important to “know your body type, [as] some eras or styles might simply fit you better.” Knowing your measurements can help you make those quick decisions before an item sells out, and will also help minimize future alteration costs.
It's best to start shopping for your pre-loved pieces as soon as you get engaged, Anderson recommends. This will ease the pressure of finding the perfect ensemble on such a definitive timeline. And once you fall in love with an item, it’s usually a good idea to buy it immediately, even if you’re not sure how you’ll incorporate it into your overall look.
“With vintage, you have to remember if it fits right and feels right, you should jump on it because it’s one of a kind and it won’t be long before it gets snatched by someone else,” advises Anderson. Anderson also suggests booking consultations with a few vintage or bridal shops that align with the vision you’re trying to achieve. Most shops will work with you to find a piece that suits your needs.
You’ll want to check the conditions of a dress before you purchase it, but Lee notes you shouldn’t be discouraged if you notice a few marks or snags on the item. “Most stains or discolorations will come out in the hands of a good dry cleaner,” says Lee. “What should be of main concern is how durable the dress is when worn, especially for the older pieces.”
Beautiful vintage ensembles can be fragile and, depending on their age, aren’t always made for a day-long affair. "If you’re wearing a dress from the 1930s or older, you’ll want to look for one in pristine condition, depending on the activities of your wedding,” adds Lee. “If it’s just for the photos, most of the antique dresses will hold up to that, but for all-night dancing, I’d recommend an outfit change to save the integrity of the dress.”
If you’re a dedicated vintage shopper, then you already understand the importance of using an experienced tailor. While most dresses can be altered to fit your body, Lee explains that when it comes to dresses from the ‘30s or older, you should find a tailor that has experience handling delicate fabrics.
Additionally, "vintage dresses are oftentimes lined with too thick of material which can be ill-fitting,” says Anderson. “I suggest instead, adding your own undergarments and/or slip if it’s needed. You’ll see how much better the piece falls and fits your body this way.”
Knowing how to accessorize a vintage bridal look depends on your wedding dress of choice and bridal style. If you’re wearing a vintage wedding dress, Anderson recommends using more modern pieces to freshen up the look.
For brides who want to use vintage pieces to supplement a contemporary wedding dress, you can easily find pre-loved accessories tailored-made for your vintage-inspired vision. “There are so many cute vintage purses and accessories out there that could really make an outfit even if you’re not wearing vintage,” explains Anderson. “Shoes are hard because of sizing, but purses and jewelry are always easy and fun ways to throw in something special.”
28 Antique and Vintage Wedding Bands For a Truly Unique Ring
The Best Online and In-Store Shops for Vintage Wedding Dresses
How to Find Consignment Wedding Dresses
21 Peplum Wedding Dresses You'll Absolutely Love
28 Vintage Wedding Hairstyles for Retro-Loving Brides
How to Shop for the Perfect Pair of Extended Size Wedding Shoes
What to Wear to a Wedding as a Nonbinary Guest
20 Chic Outfits for a Courthouse Wedding
Beyond the “Norm”: 9 People Share What Size Inclusivity Means to Them
26 Best Sheath Wedding Dresses for a Classic Bridal Look
The 21 Best Places to Buy Bridal Party Dresses Online
Best Bridal Lingerie Sets for Your Wedding Night and Beyond
How to Choose Your Wedding Accessories Based on Your Zodiac Sun Sign
19 Best Places to Buy Wedding Dresses Online