How to buy a Vintage Wedding Gown

How to buy a Vintage Wedding Gown

Vintage Wedding Gown

You’ve fallen in love.

… And last night you announced your engagement to family and friends. Now comes the ceremony.

In the next few days, weeks and months, you’ll receive advice from all sorts of people who want to influence your wedding plans. They may mean well, but it’s your day, not theirs. What if you have a dream of a vintage wedding, with a Vintage Wedding Gown? How do you describe it to the wedding planner? Where do you go to find vintage wedding gowns?

If you want a vintage themed wedding, you’ve got to find companies that specialize in vintage weddings, either in your hometown or on the Internet.

A Vintage Wedding Gown is not easy to find. And unfortunately in today’s Internet search engines, paid sponsorship of “vintage wedding” keywords usually leads unsuspecting Brides right onto online auction sites. While there are super bargains to be found, it can be rather difficult for some sellers to accurately describe an item – and even more difficult for others to photograph it well. Sometimes we shake our heads at those listings where the item is described as “mint,” and then a description follows with a list of twenty major defects. Just like all businesses unfortunately, there are actually people who might try to cheat you by selling items that are far less than what was described in the auction listing. Mint condition may mean holes, rips, tears and stench and the seller may disappear overnight.

Even if your seller is a legitimate dealer or a retired Mom and Pop, they may claim that their item is a certain vintage, when it is absolutely not. Is that fraud? Not if the seller believes it in his or her heart to be true… So, if you’ve paid for a “Victorian Wedding Veil” that’s actually nylon, you may have trouble convincing the seller that nylon hadn’t been invented until 1938, and would not qualify as Vintage. Hence the caveat, “Let the Buyer Beware.”

So how do you protect yourself when searching for a Vintage Wedding Gown?

Know what you want and buy what you want, but educate yourself first. Shop around. Ask the dealer if they’ll stand by their estimation. If it doesn’t feel right, walk away… If you’re absolutely in love with an item and have questions about its authenticity, give us a shout and we’ll take a look at it if it’s up on the web.

This truly is a new chapter of your life. But it’s also the most important time to keep a cool head, or your vintage wedding dreams could turn into a big nightmare.

Don’t panic!

You can have anything you want, providing that you know how to avoid the pitfalls of “vintage racketeers.” This isn’t as scary as it sounds, because luckily, there are far more vintage wedding companies that are honest and fair (it’s actually hard to find the dishonest ones.) But there are a few rules that you should follow to make sure you get all of the vintage you’re paying for.

These rules are absolute

Absolute Rule Number One when buying a Vintage Wedding Gown:

  • Establish how much you are willing to pay.

“What will be the total cost of my vintage wedding gown?” is the obvious question, but sometimes the answer isn’t as simple as it seems… Is your gown going to arrive clean and ceremony ready? Or will it need to be cleaned and repaired before it can be worn again? Some cleaners may not accept vintage items or will make you sign a release in case they ruin your gown, so think very carefully if your seller describes your gown as “just needs a dry clean.”

Does It?

Find out the costs involved before you buy.

Do a little research beforehand concerning the expense of cleaning a vintage wedding gown by a qualified cleaner. There are lovely vintage gowns at all prices, but your gown is only the first part of the equation. If it’s not already cleaned, you’ll need to take on the task. You might be surprised to find out that the cost of archivally cleaning a gown is more than what you spent on the gown.

Dry cleaning is always cheaper, but will it clean your gown? And will the dry cleaner make you sign a release? The cost of dry cleaning a designer wedding gown should run the same as dry cleaning a non-designer gown, but some cleaners may try to up the cost if they see a designer label.

We have paid $200 for archival cleaning and an additional $100 for restoration of laces and French rolled buttons and felt that it was well worth it.

The bottom line is: Remember your budget. If you are a girl who wants rare or designer vintage or vintage silk and French laces, expect to pay more and account for it in your budget. Don’t be talked into more than you want to spend and don’t settle for less.

Find a qualified restorer that knows how to restore a vintage wedding gown. Be wary of the dry cleaner that makes you sign a release. Only you know what you can really afford, but these decisions are the fork in the road to success or failure with a vintage wedding gown. Don’t forget to save for alterations, which can add on another $75 to $350.

Absolute Rule Number Two: Know what you want before you shop.
It’s a good idea to have an idea of what you want before you start your search. Many vintage clothiers have spent years in the business and will know exactly what you are looking for if you say “1920’s wedding.” But if you’re confused about the 20’s, and you really meant the 30’s, you’ll only frustrate the dealer.

Use the resources available on vintage weddings to educate yourself.

And it’s never a good idea to buy the first gown you see, unless it’s positively, absolutely “the one.” Always do a lot of shopping around before you make any commitments. Again, a reputable company will understand the need for you to look elsewhere, and they quite understand that it’s especially important for you to make up your own mind. That way they are sure that you’re happy with the vintage wedding gown that you finally choose.

Absolute Rule Number Three: Never, under any circumstances, purchase a gown without knowing your own measurements first.
This can be a real problem with online auctions when one man’s “size 10″ is actually a size 2. Ask your seller for the gown’s measurements in inches, but know your own first.

Vintage wedding websites will fare better in this expertise, but you should expect to pay more, especially if they have archivally cleaned and restored the gown for you. Ask the company you’re dealing with if you can take a day or two to hold the gown so you can double check your measurements. Reputable establishments won’t mind.

If a merchant makes you feel pressured to buy, avoid them.

The bottom line is: Always, always, add on the “wearing ease” to a gown so that you can have some breathing room, whether you’re planning on losing weight before the wedding or not.

Absolute Final Rule: Never, under any circumstances, purchase a vintage wedding gown without knowing its condition first.
Reputable establishments won’t mind if you ask allot of questions about provenance and condition, in fact they encourage it.

It’s been said that a collectable or antique typically passes through four or five different owners from the time it first appears on the secondary market until it reaches you – the wearer.

Luckily, for wedding gowns, the opposite is true- especially if your dealer spends a considerable amount of time searching for gowns at private estates and buys from the original owner or bridal shop.

Unfortunately, the older an item is, the likelihood that it has left the original owner and has passed though many hands is greater than if it were left in the original owner’s hands. That is why an accurate description of any item is fundamental to your satisfaction with it.

Never buy a vintage wedding gown without a written description, even if there are several photos. In spite of what some dealers may have you believe, a picture is not worth a thousand words.

The bottom line is: Ask as many questions that you can about the vintage wedding gown that you are shopping for.



  1. Natalie June 23, 2016 Reply

    I want a vintage wedding dress.

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