A Modern Bride’s Guide to Vintage Wedding Dresses

by Mother Huddle Staff
Modern Bride's Guide to Vintage Wedding Dresses

You’ve tried on a hundred dresses, and none speak to you. Or perhaps you value sustainability, and spending thousands on a dress you wear once is stomach-churning. Thankfully, there is a solution.

Finding a vintage wedding dress was once an impossible task. Not anymore. Brides have the world at their fingertips and can browse vintage wedding dresses as easily as new ones.

For a dress to qualify as vintage, it must be at least 20 years old. This guide will show you what to look for when buying your vintage wedding dress.


There is a silhouette for everyone in vintage dresses. From the loose-fitting dresses of the 1920s and 70s to the ultra-tight fittings of the 50s and 90s.

The silhouette you choose should flatter your body. You may love the glamour of old Hollywood, but if the slight drop waist doesn’t look right, it isn’t the vintage dress for you.

The silhouette you choose will help you focus on an era. So think about what makes you comfortable and is the most flattering when deciding on a vintage dress era.


Expect to see a lot of lace used on vintage wedding dresses. Throughout the decades, lace has been a recurring fabric. Another common fabric you will see is a dramatic brocade.

This is a material where the pattern is a raised design woven directly into the fabric. It creates an elegant illusion of embellishment.

Chiffon and crepe are also common fabrics. These materials have a light and airy feel that creates a romantic and almost whimsical feel.

Finally, hand-woven silk is the ultimate luxury for vintage wedding dresses. This luxurious fabric feels and looks elegant as it drapes across your body.

Necklines and Sleeves

Previous generations practiced more modesty than people today. You will find that vintage wedding dresses tend to cover more of the body. If this is something you want, then great!

If not, you can work with a tailor to modify the dress. They can increase the height of the slit, bring down a neckline, or adjust the sleeves.


Not all vintage wedding dresses have embellishments. Depending on the era and the specific design, the entire dress could have embellishments covering every inch. In contrast, it could not have a single one.

Typically, the older the dress, the more luxurious the embellishments. Dressmakers did not have access to modern manufacturing and materials used for modern wedding dresses. Your embellishments will be even more luxurious on a vintage dress.

Popular Vintage Wedding Dress Eras

Throughout the decades, different types of wedding dresses have come in and out of fashion. Wedding dress trends follow fashion and cultural trends. These are the most popular vintage eras that feature timeless appeal.


Dresses from the 90s moved away from the puff sleeves and tulle of the 80s and embraced minimalism. Brides looking to embrace a sexier look will appreciate the sleek, form-fitting designs.

This is when draped cowl and halter necklines became popular. So embrace the spaghetti straps and get ready to bare your back.


The boho brides will love the vintage wedding dresses from the 70s. Wedding dresses became long and flowy with the hippie movement in full force. Comfort ruled over fashion during this time, with more relaxed silhouettes.

You will see long sleeves that drape in a bell shape. Lace featuring eclectic floral designs could cover the entire dress. Everything has a more relaxed feel and a lot less bling.


Brides of the 50s embraced an ultra-feminine feel with sweet designs. The full princess skirt made its debut during this era. It accentuated the ultra-cinched waist and rounded shoulder that finished the silhouette.

This is also when you start to see the origins of many modern wedding designs. Brides would wear grand ball gowns with an off-the-shoulder sweetheart neckline.


The Great Depression brought a simpler style to wedding dresses. Hollywood also played an impactful role as movie stars began influencing American culture.

Vintage wedding dresses from this time still have a slightly dropped waist, but not as dramatic as the 20s. Dresses became more form-fitting, showing off the bride’s figure.

You will see fewer embellishments and lace. Instead, styles favored creating drama with fabric, such as statement shoulders.


The Roaring 20s were about living excessively, as shown in the vivacious vintage wedding dress styles. You will see plenty of glitz and glam.

The lace will have an Art Deco or geometric motif. There are no soft florals here. Expect to see a drop waist and cap sleeves.

Where to Buy Vintage Wedding Dresses

You can find vintage wedding dresses at a bridal shop that specializes in these dresses. They are typically located in large cities where there are more brides. You can also look online.

You will find websites dedicated to selling vintage wedding dresses. There are also auction or second-hand sites where individuals can sell their wedding dresses.

If you don’t care about getting authentic vintage and are okay with vintage-inspired, you can visit a modern wedding dress boutique for your wedding dress shopping. Look for features and qualities that emulate vintage wedding dresses.

Styling Vintage Wedding Dresses

How you style your vintage wedding dress will depend on its era and specific design. Like modern wedding dresses, you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. A dramatic belt covered in crystals might look elegant on a dress from the 50s but look strangely out of place on a dress from the 20s or 70s.

Floral accessories could look beautiful with your dress from the 70s but look odd on your dress from the 30s or 90s.

The best approach is to look at what brides from that era wore and use this as inspiration for how you will accessorize your dress.

Live Your Vintage Wedding Dress Fantasy

Choosing your wedding dress is one of the most important parts of planning your wedding. For many brides, it becomes essential to find the perfect dress. Vintage wedding dresses are an excellent option for someone looking for a unique dress.

You can find a variety of silhouettes, fabrics, and embellishments to suit your style, taste, and budget.

Feel confident on your wedding day by checking out our other helpful guides.

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