How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look


Did you know? This article we wrote was featured in County Wedding Magazine! Read it here!

VINTAGE continues to be one of the most popular wedding styles for the 2016 season. In this article we look at how you can combine beautiful accessories from bygone eras to complement your bridal look.

What does vintage mean?

The term “vintage” can be confusing. Especially if you’re not sure about different design eras.

To put it simply, when we speak of vintage, we’re usually describing a style or time period that has come into fashion again.

For example, the Roaring Twenties with its distinctive flapper look. Or 1950’s Old Hollywood glamour.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

Start with the dress

This is a no-brainer. If you’re going to style any bridal look, choose the dress before you pick the accessories to go with it. It’s particularly important with vintage styles as they can vary greatly.

Once you know what style of dress you look good in, the accessories will be much easier to narrow down. Let the dress material, colour, neckline and details guide you to create your overall look.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

Sticking to a specific design era

If you want a very defined vintage look, you’ll need to focus on one design period. Start by scouring bridal websites to find out which style you’re most drawn to. Below are some popular references to get you started.

Watch our ‘Vintage Wedding Styles’ slideshow for inspiration:

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If you’d rather read than watch, here are some style tips for each period:

  • Rococo/Late Baroque: Outragous hoop skirts, big hair, “more is more”
  • Victorian: Corsets, pearls and feminine up-do’s
  • Edwardian: Modest high-neck dresses, bustles and lace
  • 1920’s: The flapper look, Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey
  • 1930’s: Finger curled hair, nipped waist, silk column dresses
  • 1940’s: Feminine wartime silhouettes, gloves, puffed shoulders
  • 1950’s: Shin length pencil dresses, pink Cadillacs, Marilyn Monroe
  • 1960’s: Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • 1970’s: Flower power, hippies, maxi dresses, empire waistlines
  • 1980’s: Big hair, colourful accessories, geometric shapes

To remain true to one style, don’t mix eras – retro 50’s hair won’t look right with a long 70’s hippy dress. You can make small allowances, combining periods close in time and style. For example, a Victorian corset dress would work with ornate Edwardian antique earrings.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

For just a touch of vintage

If you don’t want to create a specific vintage look, adding just a touch of old fashioned charm can make your wedding day style stand out. There are two materials that will achieve this for you easily.

Lace gives an instant antique feel to almost any dress shape. You can also use it in your headpiece or to decorate your bouquet.

Pearls are the ultimate vintage accessory. Whether sewn on to your dress or headpiece, or worn around your neck or on your ears, their soft shimmer suits all antique styles.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

Vintage jewellery guides

Once you know the design era, shape and neckline of your dress, choosing the right jewellery to complement it will be easier. Always combine your jewellery with your wedding dress neckline.

High necks and halternecks look best with drop earrings. An ornate, sparkly dress bust should be balanced with a small, understated pendant. A simple dress with a V-neck or a sweetheart neckline can be combined with a big necklace.

You also need to take into account that certain jewellery styles were more prominent during different eras:

  • 18th century jewellery was most often made with ellow gold, silver and colourful gems, which were more available than diamonds. Pendants, especially crosses, were popular.
  • Late Victorian and early Edwardian jewellery was lavish. Romantic nature-inspired motifs like hearts and flowers, rose gold, lockets and pearls were common.
  • The Art Deco design era lasted from 1920 to 1950. It featured exotic designs, where diamonds were used abundantly but styled into strict geometric patterns.

We have two helpful articles that will guide you to choose the right jewellery for your wedding:

  1. Read how to match jewellery to your wedding dress here
  2. Read our Guide to Vintage Jewellery Styles to understand design eras

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

Where to buy

If you love shopping, you’ll have a ball searching for antique accessories. Vintage clothing shops, antique markets, Etsy and Ebay are great places to look. Or you may already own a dear old jewellery piece inherited from your grandmother.

What many brides find though, is that the idea of vintage is not always the same as the reality. A genuine antique item may not look as good on as it did on the shelf or on a hanger. It can also be hard to find genuine vintage items that aren’t damaged or yellowed.

If that’s your experience, the best bet is to buy items that are “vintage inspired”. There are plenty of bridal retailers, shoe makers and jewellers who offer specific contemporary looks adapted to suit any vintage style.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

Vintage bridal look styling tips

For an opulent 19th century look go for eye-catching accessories: an extravagant diamond necklace or a cathedral veil. But be careful not to add too many big  items all at once. Especially if your dress already has lots of ruffles or sparkle. Otherwise it may all look “too much”.

For a pretty Victorian feel, think pearls, ribbon, lace and British garden flowers. The idea here is to add delicate vintage touches without the accessories overpowering the dress (or the woman).

Brides going for The Roaring Twenties (Great Gatsby/Downton Abbey) era can choose a flapper-style dress. A forehead band really evokes the style of this era. Feathers, sequins or a clutch bag with pearl detail would also go well with this style.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

For a sophisticated 1930’s bride, a long flowing silk gown, pressed hair waves and a side comb capture this simple but elegant era perfectly. Don’t forget the diamonds – the 1930’s were heavily influenced by the American ideal of Hollywood beauty.

Are you wearing a short or below-the-knee 1940’s to 1950’s prom-style dress? A small hat with a “birdcage veil” (with netting that only covers the face) and red lipstick will add quirkiness and glamour.

A 1970’s bride wearing a long boho dress will want an alice band or wreath made with real flowers. Jewellery should show ethnic or hippy influences, like Hamsas, florals, and hearts.

How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

A final bit of advice…

Whatever you choose, do respect your personal style. Whether you love statement jewellery or simple items, your bridal look should reflect who you are.

Your wedding is not the time to choose accessories that you’re not 100% comfortable wearing.

The key is to go with your heart. Consider how the each piece makes you feel. If you feel excited and can’t wait to wear them on your wedding day, you can’t go wrong!


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How to Style a Vintage Bridal Look

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