The bridalwear trend inspiring royal weddings and tiktokers alike
words by Georgia Stidwell
November 19, 2021
From Princess Beatrice’s ‘borrowed’ Norman Hartnell gown worn to her wedding in 2020 to viral tiktok wedding dress restoration projects, upcycling your dream dress is very much in vogue.
Wedding dress trends have often reflected the national mood and Princess Beatrice’s wedding, taking place in the midst of the covid pandemic, was no exception. With sustainability and circularity remaining fashion buzzwords it only follows that wedding dress trends would reflect a new and ever more eco-conscious generation of brides. Vintage styles are hugely popular in modern bridalwear design, but before buying new, it is worth raiding your grandmother’s wardrobe!
This is where Julia (aka @_boringbb_ on tiktok) began as she struggled to find a modern wedding dress with the timeless look she was searching for. After a video showcasing her grandmother’s dress designs and her 1950s wedding dress went viral on tiktok, Julia began documenting her 9 month restoration project.
Julia sat down with us to talk through the restoration of her grandmother’s wedding dress which made her a viral tiktok sensation.
Georgia Stidwell: Why did you begin this project?
Julia: I am getting married next June. I had been looking at different dresses and nothing really caught my heart. My grandmother designs dresses, she went to fashion school in the 1950s. I had uploaded a tiktok of them which up and included an image of her wedding gown. I had many comments asking ‘did she make her wedding dress?’ ‘Can we see her wedding dress?’
I asked my mum to get it out. It was damaged and being stored in a trash bag. We were going to throw it out as it was so tattered we didn’t even think that we could donate it. I tried it on and realised I loved the dress. I really wanted to see if we could save it and figured that I could make some videos on the restoration process as there was already interest from sharing my grandma’s designs. I thought there might be the same interest for grandma’s dress.
G: Could you tell me a bit about your grandma and the dress itself – when did she get married?
J – She got married in 1955 but bought the dress before that as she actually fell in love with it before she got married or even engaged! We believe the dress itself is from the 1940s. The back of the dress was what caught her eye – she calls it the peacock feather because the back of the dress has a cascading volume of fabric which looks like a peacock. She tried it on and decided to save the dress for her wedding.
She knew this was her wedding dress regardless of the man. She even thought ‘I’ll find the man later, this is the dress!’
G: I’ve been following your restoration process from early on. I know you started this in January, can you tell me a bit about the process? I know it hasn’t been plain sailing.
J – I knew nothing about restoration or sewing before starting this project and didn’t want to damage the dress further. . The dress had been damaged in a flood and was extremely fragile. I looked into different restoration companies and we went with a local reputable company. When my mother got it back she knew something was wrong. The dress looked frail and brittle, like crinkled up tissue paper. When she took the dress out of the bag, the sleeves were completely ripped and the dress was disintegrating and flaking away. The sleeves needed to go and the neckline had to be majorly reworked.
G: Was the original plan to keep the dress in its original 1950s form?
J – The dress needed slight alterations as my grandma was so much taller and it did not fit me around the bust area, however I wanted to keep the structure and integrity of the garment.
Overall people have responded positively to my videos. I’ve had people say they are going to see if they still have their grandmother’s or mother’s dress. I am really hoping this inspires people, if not to wear their family member’s dress or thrift a dress, at least it can start a fun memory or conversation by asking to see or try on a dress . For me, a vintage wedding dress is an opportunity to connect with the other women in your family.
A vintage wedding dress is an opportunity to connect with the other women in your family.
G: Do you think this is part of a broader societal shift with post-pandemic weddings scaling down?
J -I think people are so much more engaged with thrifting and sustainable fashion or even restoration. People are looking at older garments and styles because so much of fashion right now is consumable quick fixes. So much consumption and fast-fashion has no story and no excitement behind it.
Fast-fashion has no story and no excitement behind it.
Thrifting, vintage fashion and restoration has so much meaning. Many young people see thrifting as a point of pride. With the environment and economy the way they are thrifting, vintage and restoration makes so much sense for so many reasons.
I hope this trend and this interest in sustainable fashion and restoration continues because from my point of view there are very few downsides to finding something that has already been made and giving it a new life versus having it end up in a landfill.
G: Your grandmother’s dress was in a bin bag and you have made something beautiful whilst also telling a story which has resonated with millions of viewers. Do you think it is the story which has caused this project to be so compelling to so many?
J – I think it is because it is a really unique thing to be able to have such a connection with my grandmother that I am making stronger through this restoration process. and a clear story behind what I am doing. I am very lucky that I am so close with my grandmother, before the pandemic I used to see her every single day. She is someone I have looked up to and that also adds to our generational story, with me taking inspiration from her and her passion.
Love talking about vintage and thrift finds? Save Your Wardrobe can help you cultivate your own vintage fashion archive! Read our blog to find out the steps you need to take in order to have your own picture-perfect vintage archive!