Vintage : A Modern Tale

Claire Leese, owner of Archive12, specialise in one of a kind vintage wedding dresses and shares her expert advice on how to shop for a vintage wedding dress. 

For some brides, the word "vintage" is a scary concept when it comes to their wedding. It conjures images of prom dresses, china teacups and chintzy florals. It can also be seen to involve a lot of work, from searching through racks of musty old dresses, to scouring flea markets for the perfect centrepiece. For me, those preconceptions couldn't be further from the truth.

Coming from a fashion and styling background, vintage clothing has always been a part of my life, and my wardrobe. The coolest items I've ever owned have always been vintage, and ironically never go out of style. When I think of the term 'vintage', I see effortlessly cool women like Jane Birkin, Kate Moss and Debbie Harry. I must admit I have a personal penchant for the 1960s/70s style, but I believe you can take elements from any era and style them in a fashion forward way.

When I'm sourcing dresses for the collection, there could be a number of elements that draw me to it - the fabric, the silhouette, the neckline. It has to be beautiful first, wearable second, and lastly vintage. If I see potential then I'll buy it and adapt it later. Sometimes all it takes is shortening the hemline, or adding a lace trim to create a show stopping dress. This also comes into play with my brides, the dresses can be altered or added to, to create the perfect look and fit for each client. Each dress is delicately repaired and cleaned before it is showroom ready. It's so important to me that all my brides feel the excitement and enjoy the full bridal boutique experience at Archive 12.

What my clients love is the scope of variety you get with vintage wedding dresses. Usually there will be dress shapes or styles that they have never seen before, and they are often surprised by what they like. Where else can you find a dress that you can almost guarantee no one else will ever have? Whether it's boho dreamy edwardian lace, the amazingly elegant drape of the 1930s or an uber cool 1970s jumpsuit, whatever type of wedding you are planning, there will undoubtedly be a vintage style to suit it.

That’s why I was so keen to open Archive 12 in Northern Ireland, I wanted to take the hard work out of finding an original vintage dress. By sourcing the dresses, and housing a totally unique collection under one roof, brides have the opportunity to view the finest selection in a single appointment. To get the most out of your vintage bridal appointment be open minded; try on a number of different styles, you may be surprised by what you like. Unlike normal bridal shops where samples are a size 12-14, each dress is a one-off, and may have even been specially hand-made for somebody. But there are usually ways to make even the smallest dress fit a modern bride. Most importantly be opened to making a decision quickly. There is only one of each dress, so if you find something you love, don't risk the possibility that someone else could buy it! Grab it quickly and cherish it forever.

Here are a few of Archive 12's brides rocking their vintage gowns.