Vintage weddings are all the rage, so Preloved caught up with vintage wedding fair organiser, Keeley Harris, to find out more about how tying the knot in timeless style and injecting some retro romance into wedding days.
Keeley lives in Leeds with her partner, Steve and daughter, Bethany. As a dealer in vintage since she was 18, she is the owner of the Vintage Emporium in York and an organiser of vintage home and fashion fairs.
If you’re looking for some first-hand inspiration for a second-hand wedding gown, Preloved is packed with beautiful gowns that are real bargains.
How did your vintage wedding fairs start?
After doing a lot of research into vintage themed weddings and their growth in popularity, I discovered that more and more brides where asking about vintage dresses. I soon realised there was a gap in the market and nobody was offering a Vintage Wedding Fair.
The most important thing was to find vintage dealers that had the dresses, as this was the thing that would set the event apart from a standard wedding fair. It is a very niche market and at the time Vintage Wedding Dress sellers were few and far between.
Once a few of these specialist dealers were in place the other bits, such as flowers, stationery, cars, cakes, music soon followed. When I started to look there were lots suppliers that were turning to Vintage inspirations. So, with the confidence that I could create an event with enough exhibitors………The Vintage Wedding Fair was born!
The first event in Harrogateon Valentine’s Day took everybody by surprise, most of all me! It was such a busy day and both exhibitors and, more importantly, visitors had a great time.
Why are vintage wedding dresses so popular?
Vintage wedding dresses are popular for several reasons:
You know you are getting something completely individual, often handmade, specifically as many could not afford a shop bought version in the past. You find that the fabric used was very beautiful, often beaded, brocade, lace or satin.
The styles and cut are very different from a modern dress and each era has quite a distinct look. For example, a 1920s beaded flapper style dress is very different to the high-necked, almost Edwardian style that was popular in the 70s. This is exciting for brides as vintage offers so many shapes and styles to choose from.
The Love of Vintage
Vintage is extremely popular at the moment. In general, people enjoy the clothes and interiors from the Deco period through to the 70s. Then there are those who are enthusiasts and really live like you would in the 40s or 50s, as well as those who just love the idea, nostalgia and romance of having a preloved dress with its own story from the past.
In general, choosing a vintage dress is more economical as they can cost from as little as £50. On average they are between £100 & £300, which in today’s climate makes a whole lot of sense!
Are particular eras more popular than others?
Yes, the most popular era seems to be the 1950s. It’s quite a fun era with great music, dancing and cars, and the fashions were very liberating after the war years.
What designs are popular?
The 1950s tea Length/ballerina length. The dress styles from this period are flattering for most. Dresses were shorter in style and had a full circle skirts using lots of net and lace.
How much can a buyer expect to pay?
Vintage wedding dress prices vary but can start from £50 up to £2000, depending on the condition, era and style.
What are the most sought-after dresses?
1920s’ dresses, because they are so old and fragile, so finding something wearable is difficult.
What’s the most someone has paid?
I can only comment on the dresses I have sold in my shop and we are quite reasonable. The most we have charged is £300
What advantages does buying a vintage dress have over a new one?
Quality on a budget – without a doubt this is a big draw for most brides.
Do most people keep their dress or re-sell it?
Some have spent so long searching for the right dress that they want to keep them. But the good thing is re-cycling a vintage dress is easy and people want to buy them, so why not let someone else get pleasure out of it too?
Are vintage wedding dresses a passing fashion?
This is nothing new, in days gone by many families would keep a wedding dress and pass it down through the generations. I spoke to a lady who got married in 1947 and she said that her dress was passed to her sister and then her cousin. The dresses were often made with extra fabric on the seams in case they needed to be taken out for another bride to use. So this is not new, and a great idea to my mind!
How about grooms, do they get the vintage look?
I seem to be getting more emails recently from grooms who are looking for something a little bit different to wear, too. Many are looking for tweed or brown suits and even 40s’ uniforms.
Give us your top tips for buying a vintage wedding dress?
My best tip for buying a vintage wedding dress is to be open-minded, and don’t look for it to be totally right straight away. Think about the changes you could make to it that are right for you. For example, many dresses had long sleeves; this is something that can be altered. Also with many older dresses the condition may not be perfect. A good seamstress can often work around marks & holes by adding extra detail.