Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wedding Dress Blues!

WHY, oh why, fellow vintage lovers, were 1950's and 60's people so small?

As you might have known from a post a couple months ago, I'm still shooting for a November wedding, but gosh, am I dragging my feet on planning. The best I can do lately is to ebay and etsy fantasy shop for dresses, but they are ALL. TOO. SMALL. Oh my goodness, was there no one with a waist circumference bigger than two hands cupped together in the post-war, pre-Nixon era?

I'm not plus-sized, but for a six foot tall gal, my human skeleton is just going to be larger than you reet petites out there... I think I would have to have a rib removed, Victorian corseteers style, to have the 22''-25'' waists a lot of these dresses boast. AND you need an inch or so wiggle room so that you can perform optional tasks, such as walking, eating, or breathing while IN the dress. While I've squeezed myself into modern dress size 5's and 6's (with a free hip measurements... I'm about a modern 12 in fitted-skirt dresses), I would feel very anxious indeed to buy a dress in the $150-$200 range, which I'm *certain* was originally designed for someone four to ten inches shorter than me, on the thin hope that it will fit perfectly.

I thought I'd show you a few of the gems and jewels I've been looking at, for an idea of the heartache and pining involved in searching for "THE dress" outside of David's Bridal (I haven't been, but the prices scare me) and outside of the size 0 to 6. In the end, I hope to poll you, the audience, in search of alternative options. Keeping in mind, of course, that I've probably procrastinated far too long slash am way too cheap to have a dress made for me. Hopeless. I'm a hopeless case!

Gorgeous! Look at the unusual lace banding! This dress is actually a 30'' waist, which is a mite too large, but the problem with that is that the ensuing bustline is 40''. Ay yi yi. I think about how a 5'2'' person in the 1960's, with the measurements 40-30-36, would be a pretty pneumatic lady, which I, admittedly, am not. Bazooms, and the lack thereof, keeps me from properly fitting into these types of dresses, and I think trying to alter them would just make me look a little like I was wearing someone else's clothes. Which, admittedly, is something I do just about every day... but do you ever get something, try it on (or even worse, buy it and take it home only to) then realize whoever was meant to wear it was about the EXACT OPPOSITE of your own size and style? Maybe way taller, maybe way shorter, maybe thinner, maybe super busty, maybe hipless, but at any rate, somehow your polar opposite? I've had this experience after buying things size-unseen (heaped up with $1 finds at estate sales), and boy is it disappointing. I just don't know if I could take that big of a bite on items that are for the most part un-returnable.

Also, definitely looking for that late 50's, full skirt and nipped waist look, but GEE were people's waist NIPPED at the time!

I've been going nuts over these "with bolero" wedding ensembles, or the kind that have a little suit-ish top and then a 50's prom dress under-dress. What a neat idea, above, to put a cotton candy styled dress with a more structured, boxy jacket. You could go from wedding to reception in a few snaps. Below, the same idea with a pretty little lace shrug. I have trouble with the sleeves being long enough, but I'm still holding out for my dream dress with over-generous sleeve allowances. It's possible, by gum, it's possible!

What do you guys think is reasonable for a 50's or 60's wedding dress? I think I'm spoiled by the estate sales to expect price tags between $30 and $100, but $100 seems to be on the lowest of the low end. I've seen some dresses that are "as-is", "for pattern study only" that start at $80. I should've been scrutinizing those darn dresses when I saw them months ago at the sales! As it goes, now that I'm looking I don't see them nearly as much as I was seeing them. Le sigh.

Below, dig the kind of "surprise" pattern in the subtle brocade of the dress, which has an Asian motif to it (close up for a better look, click away!). I have a dress a lot like this, but in color (beige with pale blue and light pink figures) and with a slimmer collar, but I want the white one. Isn't it totally wedding-ready? I terribly, all-the-way love the line on this one.

Below, for that Joanne Whalley in the Scarlett miniseries look... but seriously, how handmade this one looks at the same time as looking totally trashy/sexy romance novel. And I'm so very not above the princess look or 1800's look. But again, to get into this one, I would need some stays. I think this is a 22'' waist. Maybe a rib-ectomy is not so expensive. But seriously! Where do people go for cut-rate alterations? Is it really as expensive and time consuming as people say to do alterations? I'm a mean cross-stitcher, but my talents at sewing are limited to repairwork (unstitched hems, etc). Something this major is beyond my abilities at present.

Another idea, seeing as I'm going semi-traditional but not Emily Post letter perfect, would be to have a pastel or pretty colored lace prom dress, opening up my options from shades of white and off-white. This, with some sort of a contrasting, ruffled shirt on Babu (he already has a Danny Zuko pink one I scored at the Goodwill in east Nashville... you never know what you'll find when you keep digging!), would give everything a nice pop of color that might be different without being too far from the norm. I really want it to have a Donna Reed quality to the whole thing, I can't help myself.

There's pale pink, for the hint of color...

Or, if we're going whole hog, why not robin's egg blue? (I almost bought this dress... it's a 26'' waist... so close. I just think if I want to move around in it at all, it would have to at least be a 27'' or a 28''...)

I saw the prettiest dress on Mary Deluxe at her Deluxeville blog, which was about the color of the dress below. She looked GREAT on her wedding day! Not to mention she found it online at a Goodwill auction site. Jealous bones. :) Isn't that salmon pink just a dream of a color?

Last but not least, in the same vein, an apple-green number. Imagine this was a lot of white crinoline underneath and Matthew in a yellow ruffled tuxedo shirt. YES.

Anyway, just some ideas on wedding finery. I have enough costume jewlery to make Gloria Swanson blush, but no dress! I've been working on this for weeks with no conclusive leads. If you have any super pro wedding tips, please send them my way? Congrats to all you newlyweds and soon-to-be-weds out there in the vintage blogosphere right now, by the way. We seem to be legion! I hope I can shake loose a few recommendations from all those clever minds out there. Keep me in the know!


I think it would be very appropriate to have a bridal-veiled bellydancer at my wedding with projections of the 5th Dimension being played across her gyrating form while "Wedding Bell Blues" is being played... right? Could we at least play this video at the reception?

Til next time.


  1. I'm really not the person to give advice in this arena--I wore a navy cotton wrap dress from American Apparel to get married. Of course, it was in a judge's chambers at the courthouse with exactly two witnesses. And no planning, no party, nothing. Family not happy. They're still trying to get over it.

    I understand about the sewing thing. I can knit, but I'm terrified to even attempt to sew anything--go figure. I do love all the little poofy dresses, though. I loved my grandmother's early 50s wedding dress, but my thyroid decided to stop working a few months before I got married...

  2. I always have a tough time finding vintage dresses to fit me too :( I'm curvy and it seems like all there is out there are too small :'(

  3. Oohhh La la!! I LOVE the colored confections and could easily see myself sporting such a frothy gown for my own imaginary wedding! I love the idea of you and your hubs being decked out in pastels. I think you would also broaden your options if it could include those vintage prom dresses as too. I may have already said this, but watch the movie Catch Me if you Can and keep an eye out for the wedding reception scene. I love what the bride is wearing. The fellas are in white tuxedos too. Tres classique! Keep looking and be sure to showcase your finds here. I am totally living vicariously through your wedding planning =D

  4. I'm not one to give advice either, as mine was green, navy and white. But I definitely think a fun colored prom dress would be completely awesome! I loved Mary Deluxes's outfit, it was just perfect.

  5. dang! People back then were tiny! lol.

  6. Oh child, I had the same problem! And to make it worse, I AM a plus-sized girl. I was on eBay nonstop for probably three months. I even got dresses sent to me that I thought were going to fit but didn't - crushing! I finally did get one through eBay but it arrived completely yellowed and smelling like cigarettes. The Seller described it as "clean". After a cleaning, it was my wedding dress. Thank god, or I wouldn't have had anything to wear at all.

    Have you tried The Hip Zipper? She has tons of dresses in there - some really dreamy sometimes. You could probably even ask her to keep an eye out for you. She's the one who helped me get my dirty dress fixed up. The owner..gosh, I can't remember her name.

    I have seen some great dresses on Etsy too. Some really dreamy ones. A while back, someone on Craigslist had an amazing vintage wedding dress. I bet it's gone now. I'll keep my eyes open!

    I love the idea of colored dresses for brides. And that belly dancing thing! Don't give up the faith and no matter what you do, when you do get that dream dress, don't take it to an alterations person place that doesn't get a million positive reviews. Sometimes alterations people are f'd up.

  7. Ooh! Ahh!


  8. See, all I ever find are HUGE dresses...in my case this is anything above a 27 waist. I'm constantly altering and tailoring to get things smaller. Where are all you guys finding all these great things in my size!!??? So jealous!!!
    As for advice, I'm digging the 'Donna Reed' vibe you're into. Don't know about a coloured dress except maybe for the dusty rosey pink one, but I think a coloured crini would be gorg and slightly edgy under a white dress!
    I'm sure you'll look amazing in whatever you choose!

  9. These are all beyond gorgeous! Have you considered hitting the thrift stores (which are full of wedding dresses) and finding one to alter to a 50's/ 60's type of look?

  10. Ps- They were tiny because they took the good pills... And binged and purged. ;)... Which I don't recommend you do.

  11. What size are you? I just bought a 1950s wedding dress, in perfect condition with a few stains on one of the underskirts. It's too big on me so I was thinking about altering it. But shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to see pictures. If you like it and it would fit you maybe we could work something out :) tamismith1986@gmail.com

  12. I would LOVE a vintage wedding dress, but all the sizes I'm finding are teeny-tiny in the waist and ginormous in the bust, and I am neither of those things. Who are these tiny, bosomy women?

    I think that pale pink one is really beautiful! If I find anything online I'll send you the link!

  13. @Lauren: I tried tapping family resources...my also-six-foot-tall grandmother's 1940's wedding suit is lost to the ages, and my mom's 1982 dress, while pretty, is too poufy sleeved for my frame. Sad. As for the at-the-courthouse wedding, there's something to be said for the efficiency and "done-ness" of it! Because at the end of the day, I mostly just want to be Mrs. Babu. :)

    @Erin, Zombie, Wendy and HazelandMare: THEY WERE SO SMALL. OMG. Also, Hazel, please send links! Would love to have the help! My eyes are actually strained I think from scrolling through 100's of 50's dresses at a time.

    @Amber: Oooh! I will watch it again with that in mind! "Think pastel" is going to be my new mantra.

    @Eartha: THANK GOODNESS someone else has been through this and come out better for it! I've been getting a little bit of the "gee, am I doing something wrong?" feeling, but your story is encouraging. Also, that blue dress is out of control. E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C! I'm leaning more and more towards a statement dress like that, something that pops!

    @Dolly: Lucky gal! You should try etsy and ebay, expensive I know, but EVERYTHING on there is so small. And can be shipped direct to your house! I love the internet.

    @Wendy: I need to be more vigilant. The Goodwills in my area save all their dresses for a "wedding event" (like a bridal show, but all used dresses). I hope I catch the next one before November!

    @Vanessa: Thanks! I wish I could wear 'em all.

    @Tami: YOU ARE SO NICE! Will convo you via email.

  14. Awww, I didn't realize that you had your wedding coming up! Congratulations!

    I would have loved a vintage dress, but did not even want to go there, as I am tall and big. I like the idea of a pretty coloured prom dress, the apple green one is lush. What about buying a vintage pattern and then having it made for you by a good seamstress, one that is not necessarily specializing in wedding dresses? Because we all know that the word 'wedding' makes everything about 600% more expensive...

    Good luck for your search!



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