Vintage Wedding Veil – How to choose one

Vintage Wedding Veil – How to choose one

Wedding Veil

1920’s Cap Veil of Silk Tulle. A back interest of starched and stiffened lace stands upright in a half crown. Two strands of opaque celluloid sequins are sewn onto the front at the forehead.
Is it appropriate to wear an old wedding veil, gloves or garter during your wedding ceremony?

You bet !

“An old wedding veil is supposed to bring good luck to the bride and a borrowed wedding veil even more so…”
English Superstition

Many brides overlook the fact that the addition of a beautiful vintage headpiece or veil, opera length gloves and an antique beaded bag can dramatically change a plain dress into a stunning wedding statement. With just a little searching, the proper vintage accessories can be found!

How do I begin to choose a wedding veil?
What traditions accompany a veil?
Let’s go shopping for Veils and Headpieces!

How do I begin to choose a wedding veil ?

Ah, in the beginning…one must choose a wedding gown!

Simple, huh? Well…once you’ve accomplished that seemingly monumental task, it’s OK to think about accessorizing your head with the wedding veil.

Your gown’s style and shade of color will narrow your choices to some extent, but don’t let the style of your dress impose restrictions. It’s your wedding and you should wear whatever you want. The majority of people won’t notice if you choose to wear a cloche from the 1920’s with a gown from the 70’s.

Although fashion historians will applaud you for getting it right, it’s none of their business if you choose to forego historical correctness and borrow from all eras. The fashion police are not going to arrest you at your wedding. That would be rude.

Anything goes, it’s your “look.” Just remember that matching shades between an antique wedding veil and an antique gown can be difficult as the variations of ivory are endless! The key is to consider what appeals to you, and then find a veil/headpiece that compliments your gown in a shade as close to or slightly lighter than your gown’s color.

Always choose your dress first. You can then refer to the color of your gown and consider the style and color of your wedding veil and other accessories.

Although it is important to note the changes that occurred during the Victorian era until the Edwardian, most antique or vintage wedding veils that we’ll be offering you are from the 1920’s through the 1970’s.

The fragile nature of silk tulle makes it difficult to collect these treasures earlier than the 20th century. Headpieces will remain, but the wedding veil must be re-created from new materials. Perhaps a brief overview of styles will help make it possible for you to go out and create your own reproduction.

The bottom line is that you’ll need to choose a length of tulle for your wedding veil and a shape for that tulle. The headpiece that you decide upon will mostly determine what you need for the tulle.

Wedding Veil Color:

Most antique or vintage wedding veils have aged to a golden cream, off-white or ivory. It is extremely rare if not impossible to find a pure white antique veil.

Wedding Veil Fragility:

Vintage veils are made from silk tulle or English cotton net. They are extremely fragile and require extreme care when worn, especially silk tulle, which often disintegrates before it can be passed down as a heirloom.

Wedding Veil Silk Tulle:

Before nylon net became the standard in the 1950’s, silk tulle was commonly used in vintage veils. Airy and delicate, it is considered to be the ultimate material used in modern bridal veiling.

Current prices for silk illusion may run about $80 to $100 dollars for one yard, but the beauty of silk tulle drapes gorgeously, as can be seen in Princess Grace’s wedding veil as shown above.

Should you decide on a veil made from silk, be aware of the delicate nature of the material and its limitations. Beadwork cannot be supported on this type of veil unless it is heavily starched or combined with several layers of the tulle. Once starched, the veil will go limp if exposed to a slight mist or sudden rain shower. It is very possible that an outdoor ceremony will increase the chances of your veil’s demise in record time. The solution? Use Nylon Tulle.

Wedding Veil Cotton Net:

Cotton net is often difficult to find, but it’s drape is similar to silk tulle but with more body. It is also slightly more opaque than silk. Also known as English net, it is prone to water spotting and will tear easily when wet. Stronger than silk tulle but weaker than nylon, cotton net has a tendency to crease like nylon.

What then? You must either accept the limitations of the more expensive net or you may have to consider the three modern color choices of nylon bridal illusion commonly found for sale in most bridal and fabric shops in North America.

Wedding Veil Nylon Net:

Nylon Illusion netting comes in varying sizes, the most popular widths being 72″ to 108″ inches.

Being nylon, this net has a stiffer hand than Silk or cotton. Nylon is also less expensive. The three color choices commonly found are White, Diamond White, and Ivory.

White illusion netting is perfect for the new, contemporary white gowns. Diamond White, which is a soft off-white, works well with vintage gowns, and Ivory illusion net has a deep yellow cast, which may be best for the very “yellowed” antique gowns.

Choose A Length:

Shoulder Length: Often referred to as the “Madonna” veil because it resembles a Sunday service mantilla. The doubled tulle is cut into a circle and folded at the cap. It ranges in length from 18″ to 27,” just coming to or passing the shoulders. Simple style sheath gowns look fabulous with this length of veil at the back of the head. Examples of this style of veil are shown on our Vintage Brides We Love page four.

Elbow Length: Just a bit longer than the shoulder length veil. It measures anywhere from 28″ to 36 ” in length and ends at or near the elbows. A perfect classic for when you want a more dramatic length of tulle at the back.

Fingertip: This wedding veil is meant to extend to your outstretched fingertips. It is usually 48 inches in length and can be single layer or doubled with a blusher front.

Waltz Length: Known as a “Walking Veil,” the tulle should end between the calf of the leg and the ankle. The usual length is 54″ to 60″ and the veil is usually double layer.

Chapel Length: A Chapel length veil is meant to just barely skim the floor. This is a tricky veil to individually measure, as it may mean customizing a store bought veil with a pair of scissors to suit your height.

Cathedral Length: Cathedral wedding Veils are meant for very formal weddings, and are so dramatic that they can be the focal point of attention over the dress. Many Brides choose to embellish a floor length dress with a Cathedral Veil to give the impression of a long train. A Cathedral Veil can extend for more than 5 yards if desired, but your best guide is to have the veil extend at least a foot beyond your gown’s train.

Use Your Imagination:

Many brides choose to wear an antique Spanish lace mantilla, which is less transparent than net but can look stunning with a simple gown.

The simpler your gown, the more it will offset any intricate lace or beadwork on your wedding veil.

Consequently, any sheer or transparent fabric such as silk chiffon, voile or organza can be used for an opaque veil worn over a heavily beaded or laced gown.

Be aware however, that any back beading or detail of your gown may be obscured by the opaqueness of the wedding veil.

A note about traditions

The veil, common to Christian, Jewish, Moslem and Hindu brides, has a number of long standing traditions. According to an 1831 Godey’s article, the wedding veil begins back in ancient Greece in the city of Sparta, when Penelope denied her Father and moved away from the city with her husband, Ulysses.

The wedding veil of the Christian ceremonies is descended from the Romans, though the bridal veil is mentioned in Genesis and veiling was a custom in the East.

In ancient Rome the Vestal Virgins wore sacred veils symbolizing the constancy of their devotion to the Gods. The early Christians absorbed this Roman custom, requiring brides to wear their veils from the moment of their betrothal until the conclusion of the wedding. The veils of nuns likewise denoted the constancy of their consecration as “brides” of Christ.

Eastern cultures felt the veil protected the bride from malicious spirits; from the “evil eye.” Sometimes, though, as in Morocco and ancient India, the veil has been used to protect others from the bride! A more modern interpretation of this thoughtful custom was that the veil shielded the bride from enticing all unwanted suitors, therefore her shroud of secrecy maintained her purity from less than proper male glances. It also symbolized her protected purity, which was the honor of the family.

Because of these strong associations with chaste virginity, a blusher veil (one that is worn over the face,) should never be worn for an obviously pregnant Bride!

The bridal garland is perhaps the oldest tradition of the wedding costume. It began as a wreath of olive or myrtle in ancient times and continues today in the form of a bridal bouquet. The Victorians, who were responsible for placing the garland firmly in the bride’s hand rather than on her head, preferred orange blossoms and syringa, but Eastern brides have worn garlands of different flowers in many forms–wreaths, chaplets, sprigs and bouquets.

Saffron was once widely used until it’s meaning was gloomily interpreted as “my happiest days are past.” It appears that from the 19th century on, the most popular wedding flower was orange blossoms, long considered symbols of chastity and fertility. The custom of using orange blossoms for bridal fashions dates back to the Crusaders, who saw the Saracen brides wear orange blossoms on their wedding day as a symbol of fecundity, because the orange was a prolific fruit-bearing plant.

According to Greek mythological belief, the “golden apple” presented by Gaea, the ancient goddess of the earth and fertility as a wedding gift to Hera on the day she married Zeus, was in actuality, an orange and the golden apples of the Hesperides, orange trees.

Throughout the 1800’s, a bride would have placed orange blossoms in her hair and sewn the flowers onto her dress, signifying it’s unmistakable duty as a wedding gown.

After the ceremony, it was customary for the newlywed bride to re-design her wedding dress, dyeing it to a darker color, removing the symbolic orange blossoms and replacing them with a different type of flower that was not associated with weddings. This enabled her to wear her expensive dress again at formal dinners and receptions. French designers Worth and Paquin always included a box of silk roses with their couture wedding gowns for such a purpose.

By the turn of the century, the practice of creating wax flowers for the bridal trousseau had become customary. An 1890 book by George Worgan, “the art of modeling flowers in wax,” had reached its second printing and was considered an important guide to creating beautiful headpieces.

This La Mode Illustree bridal coiffure from Maison Camille, rue du Quatre Septembre 1902 shows a simple use of the traditional wax blossoms as a wedding headpiece covered with a rounded and gathered pouf of unadorned silk tulle. This elegant manner of illusion veil over wax headpiece continued through Edwardian times until the 1920’s, when bridal fashion began a dramatic change, but through it all, wax blossom headpieces remained a constant, almost required bridal adornment.

In his book’s preface, Worgan wrote that he “wished to present a stimulus to many to exercise their imitative powers in copying nature’s most beautiful works, thereby cultivating a taste for the fine arts, which in these days of advancement is absolutely essential in the varied pursuits of life.”

Whew! Obviously, Mr. Worgan felt that young ladies needed a little crafting spirit in the 1890’s. Unfortunately, his stimulus lasted only into the first part of the 20th century. The art of modeling flowers in wax began to wane by the1950’s when the advancement of man made materials reached an almost nationalistic fervor and plastic was king. By the 1960’s, Worgan’s beloved wax flowers fell out of favor, as petroleum products represented the new frontier.

Many wax headpieces from the past have survived in mint condition today and are considered to be irreplaceable wedding veil works of art.


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