Keeping It In The Family: Choosing To Wear Your Mother’s (or Grandmother’s) Wedding Dress

Have you read this morning's feature yet? Bride Luciana chose to buy an original 50's vintage gown from Etsy, then have a professional dress-maker tailor it to her modern-day needs.  Many brides these days are choosing to wear a vintage wedding dress over a newer designer gown.  The reasons are many and varied. Vintage gowns are often less expensive than modern-day designs, they represent a one-of-a-kind design that you won't see elsewhere, then there's the whole 'upcycling/recycling' aspect and of course, and many may say 'they don't make 'em like they used to'.  

It's true that there is something ineffably fascinating, magical almost, about stepping inside a gown that has been worn and loved in the past.  These gowns are little pieces of history in their own right.

For some, the notion of wearing a family heirloom wedding dress is important too, and whilst for many brides today this might not be possible, luckily, for bride Kacie Bowles, it was. 

I'm delighted this lunch time to share Kacie's wedding dress story with you – she puts forward a heartfelt case for choosing vintage and wearing an heirloom dress and I adore these images which portray three different generations of women wearing the very same, beautiful, sixty year old gown.

Over to you Kacie…

1950's vintage wedding dress reworn in the 1980s

Kacie's Grandmother in her wedding dress in 1954

I have always admired my mother’s wedding dress. Even when I was younger, I thought it was beautiful. As I got older, I dreamt of wearing the dress for a couple of reasons. First, it is a timeless beauty with the long satin train, the intricate French lace that makes up the bodice, the dainty sleeves, a flattering v-neck cut, and form fitting yet still flowing.

I also wanted to wear the dress because it belonged to my mother and my grandmother. A wedding dress symbolizes so much about marriage, and I couldn’t imagine anything more special than carrying on the legacy of love that my grandparents and parents had and have for each other. I loved knowing that both of these important women in my life would get to see a third generation in their dress walk down the aisle.

1950's vintage wedding dress reworn in the 1980s

Kacie's mother in the same wedding dress in 1986

The dress was originally purchased in 1954 at a little bridal boutique in Louisville, Kentucky. My grandmother says she thinks it cost about one hundred dollars at the time! Can you imagine? My mother then wore it in 1986 at her wedding. She did have to replace some of the lace that had not held up through time, but other than that, kept the dress exactly the same as it was.

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress-8

Kacie on her wedding day, December 2013
Image (and all below) Copyright (c) 2014, Lang Thomas Photography

 It was my turn to wear the dress on December 14, 2013. A seamstress named Cecilia Hardin, who specializes in working with vintage gowns in Louisville, Kentucky, took in the bodice so that it fit snugly to my petite torso.

When my mother wore the dress, the lace trim outlining the bodice stuck out and created little lace pockets.  I did not particularly care for this aspect of the dress, so Cecilia took away this lace and created a flat, seamless border instead. After that, other than a good steaming to release all of the wrinkles, there were no other changes made to the dress.

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Over the last 60 years, the dress had become very off-white, but that is a quality that I quite enjoyed.

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

I really want to get the story out about this wedding dress because I want to encourage other women to consider doing the same thing.  I know that sometimes our mother’s wedding dress may just be too flamboyantly 80’s, or your grandmother’s dress is nowhere to be found, but if you have the opportunity to reuse an old wedding dress, I'd really like to encourage you to consider it!

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

For some, shopping for a dress can be really stressful, especially if you have a tight budget. By re-wearing an old dress, you can almost guarantee that you will save money- likely a lot of money! Beyond the obvious financial logic, a really special moment is created when your mother can zip you up in the dress that she wore on her big day.

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography 

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

There is also an aspect of complete uniqueness in wearing an older dress.  Many modern dresses do look very similar, but by wearing a dress from a different decade, you will have something different to anyone else! In my case, I liked the dress almost exactly as it was – but it would be amazing to turn an old dress (maybe that heinous 80’s thing your mom wore) and make it completely custom to you.

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

It is a blank canvas that you and a good seamstress can do amazing things with! Everyone will be wondering where you got this incredible dress that is so perfectly you.

Fashion truly is cyclical, so brides, please consider wearing an old wedding dress! Don’t be convinced that you have to pick out a brand new designer dress. It’s not a bad thing to do this, but at least give a thought to that dress that’s all boxed up in an attic at your mom’s house…it could be the dress of your dreams.

1950's vintage wedding dress reworn in the 1980s

Original 1950s vintage wedding dress, reworn in the 1980s and December 2013 // Photography by Lang Thomas Photography

Thank you so much Kacie for sharing your lovely story and for encouraging brides to think a little outside the box.  Readers – you might also want to take a look at these vintage wedding dress supplier links; Elizabeth Avey (also read our interview with Elizabeth here), Heavenly Vintage Brides, Dear Golden on Etsy and the Etsy Vintage Wedding pages. 

And if you haven't grabbed yourself a copy yet, you can purchase my book, Style Me Vintage Weddings in all good book stores or via Amazon.

Are you choosing to wear a vintage wedding dress, and if so, why?

Would you consider wearing an heirloom wedding dress – one that might have been worn by your mother or even your grandmother?

Do dress imperfections that have occurred over time matter to you?

Love Annabel

Heart

 

Follow Love My Dress® on Google+

Etsy

Annabel

Annabel View all Annabel's articles

Annabel is the founder of Love My Dress. She has a passion for photography, walking, yoga, nature, and loves to support talented artists and creative businesses. In 2013, she became a published author. Annabel lives in rural North Yorkshire with her husband and business partner Philip, their two daughters Eska and Leanora and menagerie of furry hounds. Annabel supports Philip in the running of the family flower farm at at Moonwind Flowers. She is also co-founder of What About Weddings.

22 thoughts on “Keeping It In The Family: Choosing To Wear Your Mother’s (or Grandmother’s) Wedding Dress

  1. Unfortunately I didn’t have a family heirloom to adapt for my wedding this July but I did find the most beautiful vintage wedding dress in a shop in York. As soon as I tried it on I knew it was the dress for me. It fits perfectly and I absolutely love the thought of wearing a little piece of history, of someone else’s love story.

      1. As soon as I can share pictures I’ll be posting them everywhere. It’s killing me keeping it a secret!

  2. I wore a vintage 1930s lace dress which belonged to my grandmother’s step-mother (complicated!), over another second-hand silk dress bought in Oxfam! Aside from the obvious financial benefits (we were on a very tight budget), I loved the thought that I was re-using two beautiful dresses which would normally only be worn and seen once! I loved wearing the lace dress, even though it was so old by the time I wore it (5/1/13) that there were little holes all over the lace – it didn’t matter! Lucie

  3. What an absolutely stunning dress. I definitely would be wearing my mother/grandmothers dress if it were that beautiful!

  4. I tried on my Granny’s dress which she wore at her wedding in 1949. She loved getting it out to show me. The dress was actually her Mum’s so was first worn in 1913. It did up at the front and has a train the attaches at the shoulders. I’m sure it was the height of fashion back then! Unfortunately it didn’t quite fit across the bust!

    So in the end, I’ve decided to buy my own dress but wear my Mum’s veil that my Granny made so they’re still all involved. It goes so well together, you’d never know it was 28 years old!

      1. I saw that wedding, the dress is absolutely divine, and that train is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!

  5. I can’t use any of my foremothers’ dresses, but I have just had my 1940s vintage dress delivered! Another great etsy find and it fits perfectly. I won’t be changing anything except possibly adding a bustle – but I’ll definitely be looping the long slipper satin train over my wrist for our first dance.

    I first started looking at dresses when my sister got married a couple of years ago and I quickly discovered that vintage was the only way to go for me. I wear a lot of 30s-50s dresses on a daily basis, so new wedding dresses just felt wrong. Plus, I have 1940s engagement ring, so getting a dress of the same vintage just fit perfectly!

  6. What a lovely story to read and gorgeous photos. My dress is my partners mums dress, sadly she passed away 6 years ago. I took the dress out of a curtain box in January this year, as it been in the box since December 1965 and it hadn’t been cleaned! So! It was dry cleaned, tried on and it fitted!! Spooky! I’m only having the zips changed on the sleeves. The strangest thing was the dress I fell in love with was a Jesus Piero dress and the dress I’ll be wearing is practically identical!
    All I need to do now is find bridesmaids dress (in black) which is not an easy job!!

  7. I love reading articles like this, since I’m planning on wearing my mom’s dress. It helps that it’s a beautiful dress with clean lines from 1977 instead of an 80s monstrosity. We’re planning on reworking it a bit to make it more my style, but the original dress makes a great, classic base to work from.

  8. I love this! Doesn’t the featured bride look like her grandmother too!! When I got married I really wanted to wear something from my mother or my grandmother but neither had kept anything. I felt very sad about that. I have now kept my dress, veil & jewellery so that my daughters can have choices! Plus as I had two dresses they can both have one!

  9. For many brides, their wedding dress is their favourite memento. You may only wear it once, but it reflects on of the happiest days of your life. And, so many women hold on to their dress just in case their future daughter may want to use it as part of their wedding. With that in mind, it’s important that your dress gets the right care it deserves. Here’s how to take care of your wedding dress from dressmebridal.co.uk.

  10. My mother was married in 1994, so it’s not so much a heinous 80s, but a dress with those huge sleeves and a very large bow on the back. I’ve known for years that one day when I walk down the aisle I’ll be wearing it. She still thinks I’ll eventually change my mind and go with something newer, but I’ve got my heart set on it and can’t wait to see her face when the day does come. It needs a few modifications because our body styles are completely different, but I’ve always loved the thought of wearing it!!

  11. I have had my heart set on wearing my mother’s wedding dress ever since I was a little girl. The first day she pulled it out of the box when I just 6 years old, I knew that one day I would wear it. This dress is truly a one of a kind. My mother sketched up the design, and then handed that to my Granny who then hand made it! Because my Granny (who passed when I was 5 years old) hand made my mother’s wedding dress, there is no way I could ever imagine myself wearing another dress. New dresses do not give me the feeling I get when I see my mother look at me in this dress. The only imperfection about this 1980’s dress is the yellowish color. Which this also does not bother me, because I cannot see myself in anything other than this family heirloom!

  12. My mom was a size 4 when she married my dad in a golden yellow chiffon dress (2nd marriage). I was a size 20. That dress had long disappeared. My MIL offered hers but she was a size 6. So I bought a new simple gown. But we bought a massively lacy 1980s dress that had yards of wide satin and pearl lace wrapped around it. For $8 that dress provided 30 yards of lace that would’ve cost me $75 a yard. Mom and I made me a chapel length Mantilla veil with a detachable blusher. It would’ve cost more than my dress to buy. We made it for less than $50 including a few mess up veils that became hairpieces for the flower girls and noisemaker attendant.

    So worth it!! So many people loved my veil. It elevated my simple gown to fantastic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close
Top