Are you frustrated because you can't find the 1950s wedding dress you've been dreaming of? You're looking for a cocktail or ballerina length full skirted dress and all you're finding are full length gowns? You want strapless and everything has sleeves? That's because dresses like this Jacques Griffe from 1955 were not the norm.
You're more likely to find full skirted tulle dresses in full length.
And you're even more likely to find a dress like this that is far more simple and covered up. In the 1950s, brides were expected to look virginal and modest and churches often required brides to wear a dress with sleeves.
So, how does a bride-to-be find the 1950s style wedding dress she's been dreaming of? Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Stop looking at wedding dresses! What you're really looking for is a 1950s evening gown, cocktail, party, or prom dress that happens to be white or ivory. A party dress is far more likely to have the design details you want, like a strapless bodice, or a full skirt that is shorter than floor length. Use search terms like "1950s white prom dress" or "vintage white evening gown" or "1950s white full skirt dress". By widening your search beyond just wedding dresses, you're far more likely to find a dress that will work for you.
2. Consider a 1950s daytime dress in white or ivory cotton, and add details like rhinestones, lace appliques, or beading to it. A wide satin sash and a bridal tiara would go a long way to making this dress work for a wedding.
3. Consider color. There are lots of 1950s prom dresses and evening gowns in pastel colors like pale pink, soft peach, ice blue, light lilac, or dove gray that would work for a wedding. Do you really have to have white? The red roses could be removed from this pale pink lace gown and it would make a beautiful wedding dress.
4. It's best to leave a vintage evening gown at it's original length. If you're considering buying a gown and having it cut off and shortened, however, be sure to consult with your seamstress before buying to make sure that the design can be shortened. A gown like this would probably look fine if shortened, but the one in the second photo above would look odd if it were to be cut off. (By the way, I never advocate altering a dress by cutting it off, but if you're thinking of doing it, make sure it will work before taking scissors to the dress. And, please, don't tell me about it!)
5. Remember you WILL need to wear a proper foundation garment under your dress. 1950s dresses were designed to be worn with a corset or girdle, and you'll probably need a full, long line corselette, like the one shown here. Need tips on how to find a modern foundation that will work? Check out this post from last year. Keep in mind that the standard difference between the bust and waist measurements of a 1950s dress is 10". For a modern gal, a dress that fits you in the bust is likely to be too small in the waist without a proper corset. Even so, you may need to alter the waistline in order to make it bigger. Be sure to ask your seller if there is room in the seams to do this. It is far easier to alter the waist than the bust.
Here's a great example of what I'm talking about. This is a 1950s strapless prom dress I just listed at Couture Allure that would make a great wedding dress. The white chiffon is lined with a pale lilac-blue taffeta for just a hint of color and the waistband is the same lilac-blue. This was not designed to be a wedding dress, but is perfect for the modern bride who wants a vintage wedding.