Saturday 27 April 2013

Etsy Vintage Wedding Inspiration Mood Boards

I find I am increasingly influenced by memories of my childhood: what I wore, what the adults around me wore and what our house looked like. It’s familiar. I find myself trawling charity shops for replicas of kitchen utensils my grandparents used to have and taffeta and velvet Laura Ashley party dresses.
Anyway, nevermind the psychology behind it, vintage style weddings are in. I have seen some beautiful examples of such weddings and there is a wealth of inspiration out there. If done properly, this can create a beautiful and elegant effect. But get it wrong and you run the risk of making your wedding look like a fancy dress party.
It's important to interpret rather than imitate.
One place I’ve found to be an exceptional source of inspiration is Etsy.
I decided to come up with some mood boards for my favourite eras: Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Twenties, Thirties, Fifties.
First up: three 1950s boards (I'm working backwards). I apologise for the crude attempt at this, but I hope they provide you with some ideas.
Think tulle and pastel shades, but don't believe that a 1950s wedding needs to be about knee length dresses.Grace Kelly's beautiful gown achieved a timeless elegance.


Board 1: Mellow Yellow
Pretty and fresh. A combination of subtle citrus shades and soft tulle and silk combine to create a beautiful vintage look. I particularly love the yellow shoe clips and embroidered gloves -a '50s must!

  • Tulle dress: xtabayvintage
  • Bag: GretchenPretties
  • Bow: FlyGirlVintage
  • Earrings: thecherrychic
  • Shoeclips: sassydoggs
  • Gloves: VieuxOaklandVintage
  • Veil: AgnesHart
Board 2: Something Blue

Rule Britannia! This is probably my favourite colour combination and would look exquisite with a simple lavender and hydrangea boquet. The soft sweetheart neckline gives a nod to the fifties and the layering (see my blog on Heavenly Vintage Brides) is dramatic yet feminine. The upcycled clock is a delightfully kitsch addition and guaranteed to set a regal tone. Well, if you can't pretend to be a princess on your wedding day, when can you?
  • Brooch: PearlsScarletVintage
  • Earrings: Lauriechacha
  • Lilac tulle dress: Missionmod
  • Vintage upcycled clock ReigrucheWerkstatt
Board 3: Grace Kelly
Who doesn't remember the Hollywood icon's wedding - the day a 'normal' woman became a princess. Grace Kelly opted for an exquisite ballgown-style dress together with Juliet cap (very 1950s) and veil. She was the picture of elegance and this style - see Kate Middleton's Sarah Burton wedding dress - is transcendent and classic.
  • Wedding dress: FabGabs
  • Lilac dress: Blue Rose Vintage
  • Juliet cap ErmaAndAgnes
  • Brooch MothandMagpie
Colour swatches from The Little Greene Company.
All images from

Which one is your favourite?



Tuesday 23 April 2013

Pretty Spring Summer Dresses from Toast

I took myself to the park after work today and collapsed on the grass. Admittedly it was soggier than I'd initially thought and my Aquascutum mac will now need to be drycleaned to remove the mud, but it was worth it just to lie back in the late afternoon sun and think of...

Pretty Spring Dresses

As it now appears that order has once again been restored in Narnia and the cold snowy breezes have been banished, it's high time we girls started dressing in something a little lighter and brighter.

Here's my pick this week:

Toast: Eva Dress, £115
Toast: Marianne Tunic, £115
Toast: Tippi Pleated Shirt Dress, £155
Images 1-3: Toast 2013
Plumo: Sicilian Shirtdress, £95
Image: Plumo 2013

Images 1-3: I have a soft spot for all things 'Wales' having attended uni there, so perhaps I'm biased, but I just love Welsh fashion brand, Toast's S/S colour palette. These dresses are guaranteed to bring cheer to the wearer.
In fact, the Tippi dress is my favourite purchase of 2013; it's my new 'adventure dress'.

Their prices do tend to lean towards the expensive end of the scale, but the quality is excellent and I'm a great advocator of my grandmother's mantra: "buy good". 
Style with simple flats or sandals and let the dress do the talking. Diolch yn fawr, Toast!

Image 4: Plumo's black dress is chic and sophisticated. The loose shape is airy, making it ideal post-beach wear, but this looks equally good paired with leather-look leggings or bright cut-off shorts. Be brave and try their Electric shorts. You won't fail to be noticed.
~ x ~

Monday 22 April 2013

Heavenly Vintage Brides London

Wedding Dress Heaven

vintage wedding dressI'd read a lot about this next place in magazines and other blogs and, having caught the bug for wedding dress shopping, promptly arranged a visit to...

Heavenly Vintage Brides

This is a gem and if you haven't already booked yourself in to see the lovely owner, Helena, then do it now. 

Based in her home in Acton, this is a treasure trove of beautiful dresses and accessories dating back as far as the Victorian era. Heavenly Vintage stocks genuine vintage dresses in a range of beautiful designs as well as Helena's own creations which are based on patterns of vintage dresses.

From the moment we walked inside, I felt completely at ease. Helena led us upstairs which, pardon the pun, might as well have been called the Stairway to Heaven. I think the moment she opened the door to her showroom we died and went to wedding dress heaven. Am I gushing?

Setting the Scene...

Along two sides of the room hang a vast array of delicate, unique, and often quirky dresses. Old wedding photographs adorn the walls and sparkling accessories rest on vintage tables. 

Helena sat us on the divine chaise longue and explained the chronological organisation of her dresses. She then offered to make us tea and told us to pick out as many dresses as we liked.

I'd taken three of my close girl friends with me that day and I think they were almost more excited than I was. By the end of our 'selection' we had a choice of nearly twenty dresses!

When Helena returned - with amazingly delicious tea - she gave earnest and frank advice (no hard sell here) and between us we whittled them down to six. 

I was particularly enamoured with this 1950s design. I just love the whimsical, fairy-like skirt which comes together to form a sort of bustle at the back. The layered tulle created the illusion of a fairy-sized waist, too.

Enchanting: ethereal and chic.

Helena has a very good eye for detail and we tried several sashes, brooches and veils in order to judge what worked best with each dress. There was no rushing in and out of the changing room; instead Helena guided us through the histories and stories behind her collection...

Youthful: Pretty shape with feminine rose sash.


Romantic: Sophisticated yet subtly alluring. 
 Carefree: 1930s timelessness.


English country garden: Romantic and demure.

Florence Based on a 1940's wedding dress, has a slightly more A line skirt than 'Violette', and a cross-over subtly sexy neckline. Made  in finest silk satin, shoulder embellishment can be added or kept simple as desired. It has a pretty puff sleeve with a cuff, but can also have a long sleeve, or a small lace sleeve to match the champagne beaded shoulder detail.vintage wedding dress
'Florence': 1940s design from Helena's own collection.

vintage wedding dress
1930s inspired 'Butterfly' - the colour of this dress is absolutely gorgeous and so flattering. It has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

All images courtesy of Heavenly Vintage Brides


The wonderful thing about buying a real vintage dress is the character that inevitably accompanies it - and the knowledge that you're not going to see another bride in anything like it. It's like buying your own piece of fashion history. Don't be put off by vintage sizes either because Helena and her team of seamstresses will adjust the dress to fit you.


My jaw dropped for all the right reasons upon hearing the answer to this question. Vintage dresses start from an astonishing £400 and go up to the region of £1400.

I'm going back for a second look.


Tuesday 16 April 2013

Circa Vintage Brides London

The search for 'The Dress' begins...

Some of you have been asking, 'When is she going dress shopping?'

Molly - late 1940s

Sophia - 1920s Style Bias Cut Silk Lace Wedding Dress
Sophia - 1920s

Well, I have been. My friend phoned me to announce she’d booked us into a bridal boutique a few weeks ago. And the unexpected happened: For the first time in my life I found myself unexcited at the prospect of dress shopping.

I’d never tried on a wedding dress before. Wedding dresses were for grown-up, flawless, successful, life-plan-worked-out women. I bemoaned my imperfect skin, the fact I hadn't been for a run in [insert number here] months and my limp hair. The thought of seeing myself for the first time in a wedding dress looking anything less than perfect and – yes, I’ll say it – magical was too much to comprehend.

But upon entering the boutique and gushing my apologies to the assistant, I was soothed by the beautiful array of dresses; something Norah Jones-esque playing in the background and the reassuring smiles.

A beautiful boutique in Richmond, London. Astral Sundholm-Hayes is the talented designer behind this label. Her designs are based on vintage dresses but altered to suit the modern woman. What a wonder!

The assistant sat me down and discussed my preferences. I explained I hadn't really given it much thought (tiny fib) and that I was keen to try on anything. So, together we selected dresses from the twenties through to the seventies - excluding the sixties because my body really was not made for that era.

Trying on the dresses:

  1. First tip: DO NOT WEAR FUCHSIA PINK UNDERWEAR. Yes, reader, I speak from experience.
  2. Second tip: Leave your inhibitions at the door. The assistant warned me that “This is where it gets a bit ‘Trinny and Susannah’” and she was right. You will be stood in your underwear for what might seem like a long time if, like me, you’re not much of an exhibitionist - and you will be required to “put your arms up” and “pretend you’re about to dive” while dresses are put on and taken off. But relax and remember they’ve seen it all before.
  3. Do be open to lots of ideas particularly in the early stages.  You might just be surprised.

The dresses:

First up: Eddie

A 1920s-inspired silk satin dress that hangs beautifully and provides an immaculate silhouette. The bust is adorned with delicate French lace and there is a subtle waist and fluted skirt which provides definition and curves in all the right places. You can alter the width of the straps if you like to suit your frame and taste (I personally preferred them when they were slightly thinner). The assistant added a silk sash and brooch which added even more definition to the waist. 
Eddie - 1920s Style Satin and Lace Wedding Dress
Eddie - 1920s

A Veil?

I had absolutely made up my mind about this: no veil. Reasons for this:

  • 1.       Old fashioned,
  • 2.       Cumbersome,
  • 3.       My Dad or fiancĂ© (or both) would mess up my hair,
  • 4.       Ghoulish

With such staunch resolve there was no way my mind would be altered. I am a woman and I know my own mind.

Well, the assistant suggested I try the dress with a simple cathedral veil and, really only to humour her and my friend, I complied.

Then the big moment. You know, that one a la ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ where the bride steps out blindfolded before a mirror and the blindfold is removed and...

Minus the blindfold, I looked at my friend’s face before looking into the mirror. She was crying! And not the tears I’d been crying before, but happy tears. I looked into the mirror and all my previous fears were banished.

I looked like a bride.

Vivienne - Full length
Vivienne - 1930s
I tried other dresses and needless to say I loved the veil with every single one of them. In particular, the 1930s-inspired ‘Vivienne’ stands out as well as Eddie. The georgette scarves add classic glamour and I felt like a Hollywood icon as I sashayed around the shop. This was the dress I was wearing when, trying to conceal the inappropriate fuchsia pink underwear, a couple knocked on the door to tell me how much they liked it on me. I must admit I’ve thought about it a lot since...

Forties vintage wedding dress style - Ava
Ava - 1940s
All images Copyright © Circa Vintage Brides, 2012

As a passionate admirer of dresses I have no desire to pick a dress quickly. Lots of magazines will tell you not to try on too many for fear of clouding your mind, but I say otherwise. 

With prices around the £2,600 mark, Circa was a great place to begin my search.

~ x ~ 

Which one is your favourite?

Sunday 14 April 2013

The Joy of Wedding Fairs

Yesterday was one of those days when you find yourself desperately thinking "I hope the weather isn't like this on my wedding day"; grey dismal skies gave way to pouring rain (the wet kind!) and gales. After a walk around Hyde Park we gave up and went home to discover - much to my excitement - that I'd won two VIP tickets to the Zoe Lem Vintage Wedding Fair courtesy of Alexandra Merri from The Bijou Bride. I'd been planning to go anyway so this was brilliant news. I've not won anything since I was in Year 4 at school so I was especially happy. And so buoyed was I by this success that I even bought a lottery ticket!


It was a beautifully sunny day as we entered the Bloomsbury Ballroom, a fabulous Art Deco styled venue, for Zoe Lem's fifth Vintage Wedding Fair. Goodbye hectic modern world; hello bygone glamour. Amongst a haze of beads, feathers and sparkles lay a vintage wedding emporium.

My highlight was the catwalk. It reminded me of the "Beautiful Girl" piece from 'Singin in the Rain'. Models swished down the runway in elegant dresses encapsulating all the glamour and allure from the twenties through to the fifties.

Basking in our inspiration we then explored the exhibition upstairs. I fell in love with a gold headdress from Lila. It was also great to see some of the dresses I'm interested to try on in the flesh prior to the actual appointments. It was lovely to meet Charlotte Casadejus at her stand and, although the dress I love (Maimuna) was not there, there was a similar sleeveless design. It simply served to make me love the dress all the more. I can't wait to try it at Luella's Boudoir. I also saw the 'Alice' dress by Sanyukta Shrestha. There's a great piece on this new designer here.

Photography Copyright (c) 2013, Charlotte Casadejus
Vintage style wedding dresses by Sanyukta Shrestha of London

Photography Copyright (c) 2013, Sanyukta Shrestha 

Did I buy?

Guilty. I went a bit off-piste and bought a wonderful jade coloured vintage velvet frock coat (pics to follow) from Vintage London for £140. As we're having an Autumn wedding in Northumberland, I need something to wear over my dress. I know what you're thinking: she hasn't bought her dress, but she's bought something to wear over it. Well, I love this and my dress will just have to work around it...

If you're a bride-to-be I completely recommend attending a wedding fair. Attend several! They're a wonderful source of inspiration and you get to meet so many talented people, plus they're good fun. 

We attended the Miss Vintage Wedding Fair in Battersea where I discovered Lucy Says I Do. The designer, Lucy Clark, creates beautiful stationary and I defy anyone to look at her designs and not love them. The next Miss Vintage event is in October.
If you're chomping at the bit (I confess I am) then next weekend get yourself along to A Most Curious Wedding Fair.

Sadly I did not win millions on the lottery, but I did get a pair of SPANX in the goody bag so I'm happy. Thanks again to Alexandra @BijouBride and @ZoeLem1 for an inspirational Sunday.


Wednesday 10 April 2013

Wedding Budget

The 'B' Word
I'm really trying not to get swept away by wedding planning. I have a job. I must remember I have a job.

And there's the 'B-word'.

The Budget has taken me on an emotional roller coaster since we announced our engagement. My thoughts about what sort of wedding I'd like have swung wildly from 'intimate, small, rustic' to 'grand, black tie ball' to 'summer, floral, vintage', but the 'B' word lingers overhead like a grim overcast day.

I don't consider myself to be very materialistic. I lived on an island with only 1700 other people for a year and that taught me (occasionally the hard way) to realign my priorities when it comes to consumerism.
That year the bulk of my food shopping came from honesty boxes.

But there's something about the word 'wedding' that can cause a form of madness.

A girl I know who earns around £20k per annum spent £30k on her wedding. That is madness. That is one irrationally expensive day.

And when we were on the train to Paris last week we met a couple of newlyweds. When the topic of their wedding budget arose, the husband physically winced. The hostile silence that followed was punctuated by his wife's brisk reproach; "It's the most important day of your life so we really don't care how much it cost. Do we, babe?"

I can see how it happens. All the features in magazines and blogs about 'dream weddings' and suddenly you've been sucked in. You were going to make your invitations, but the ones that cost £5 each look better. You were going to make your cake, but the one that costs £450 would make an amazing centrepiece.

And then there's the bitterness: I work hard and I want to have a wonderful day so I'll pay whatever it takes. I deserve it.

It's as though there are stages of this madness. A beautifully lit aisle littered with diamante and over-priced wedding favours and before you know it you've reached bridezilla-dom.

Did you know the average UK wedding costs nearly £21,000?

The Guardian provided a list of tips on how to cut the cost including e-invites and a shop-bought cake. Having 'e-' at the beginning of anything sounds to me like ripping the heart out of my wedding.

A wedding really shouldn't come down to money all the time. It shouldn't be about what you or your respective families can or can't afford. This is a time to be thankful. 

String up some fairy lights, pour the wine, strike up the band and you're going to have the best day of your lives even if it's in a shed.

My Dad suggested I write down what is important to us about our wedding. So I did:

People we love
Making things with Mam and the girls
Twinkling lights

So, with that in mind, we decided that our budget will not exceed £12,999. My fiance has even drafted a spreadsheet (I don't know how to use it) which turns an alarming red if the total rises above that number. In his first draft I was assigned only £600 for my dress. That has been ammended. There are some things I just can't do.

I feel a lot better about this now. Our wedding will be all the more lovely for not costing the Earth.


Monday 8 April 2013

Engagement Party

I've been reading a lot about engagement parties: to have or not to have. The answer to this is simple: HAVE ONE.

My parents very generously announced their desire to host a party for us at the family home. In the past, family parties have often been hosted elsewhere (church hall and rugby club) but last year my parents had an extension built - now known as the FEB, (F***ing Expensive Bit). It comprises a kitchen and orangery and is a stunning addition to the house. Well done, Ma and Pa.

Mam and Dad took to organising the event with gusto. Remember that your families and friends will be excited and eager to be involved with your preparations and, if you're the bride, an engagement party is a wonderful way for your parents to feel like they're a big part of your wedding. Of course times have changed and etiquette no longer demands that the bride's parents host this party, but I recommend you hark back to tradition on this one.

The invitations were sent (isn't it lovely to receive a real life invitation and not a Facebook imitation?) to 40 guests. My mam and grandma cooked the majority of the food - my uncle even cooked a salmon! Caterers were drafted in for other bits and bobs.

Mam decorated The FEB with bunting, fairy lights and balloons and made a cake. Dad created his play list and bought barrels of beer.

The evening was a wonderful mix of northern family and friends. Dad's speech made me tear up - and his entirely accidental slip "no father ever imagines his little girl will be good enough for any man" set the tone for a very merry occasion.


  1. Traditionally the bride's parents should organise the event and it's a lovely way to involve your parents. If this is not possible - say, if you live away - organise your own, or do as we did and have an extra low-key get together with friends nearby.
  2. Send out invitations! You could make them yourselves or buy lovely ones. Guests will appreciate the effort. Expect RSVPs.
  3. Inform guests of the nature of the party - 'party' should suggest that some food will be provided, but some people are often unclear. Make some sort of reference to 'drinks and buffet' or 'buffet reception and dancing'.
  4. Have a cake. No one makes cake like Mam.
  5. Don't expect gifts. If some guests bring them, put the gifts somewhere to be opened later. This is to avoid embarrassing those who do not bring presents. You'll no doubt find that most people bring you something, so make a note of the present to make writing your thank you cards easier.
  6. Mingle. You should ensure you speak to everybody there - avoid being monopolised by anyone.
  7. Buy or present a gift to the organisers/helpers, but present these before or after the party. Doing this during transforms the party into an awards ceremony and may cause embarrassment.

And lastly: smile, laugh and enjoy yourself.

What did I wear?

View the engagement party as a practice-run for your wedding. All eyes will be on the bride and so you and your groom-to-be should be the best dressed there (aren't you always?). Think Kate Middleton in THAT Issa dress.

My engagement ring is made of sapphires and diamonds and is based on an Edwardian design. Therefore I wanted my dress to compliment it, while also looking wonderful.

I found perfection in Charlotte Casadejus' 'Sofia' dress. Charlotte is an extremely talented designer and I'm desperate to try her exquisite Maimuna dress. She successfully captures elements of vintage designs and transforms them into effortlessly chic and chaacterful creations. These are dresses you just know you're going to have wonderful memories of wearing and your daughter will be so glad you kept them.

As an owner of THAT (beautiful) Issa dress, I can honestly say that this dress was so much better. Sorry K-Middz.

Sofia                                                     Maimuna


I accessorised the dress with the blue Paris shoes, antique sapphire earrings which my fiance bought for me two Christmases ago and a gold and diamond bracelet. The bracelet has particular significance in that it was bought by late grandfather who died when I was 11. His intention was to give it to me for my 18th birthday (which my grandma did). I think sentimental jewelry is the best accessory.

If you're having an engagement party, I'd love to hear about it!

Saturday 6 April 2013

Choosing a Venue

The venue you choose will ultimately dictate the sort of wedding you have, so it is well worth spending some time to consider what it really is you want.

The venues fall broadly into the following categories:

Stately home/mansion
Church/Village Hall
Corporate/Function room
Other (well done for being very original!)

You need to choose whether location really is everything. To me it is. My advice to you would be: try to choose somewhere that means something to you (preferably to both of you) because that matters so much more than impressive stately rooms.

We've decided to have an Autumn wedding up in the north east. There's a place in Northumberland which means so much to me and it looks beautiful on a crisp Autumn day (because obviously it's going to be one of those glorious bright and frosty days when we get married); the grey smoke from the chimneys curls through the still air and hangs over the valley and is quite simply stunning. I decided years ago that I'd love to have my wedding there.

The huge spanner in the works?

The venue - henceforth known as Venue X - is a 13th century listed building and is closed until the owners are granted planning permission.

They've been waiting since November.

English Heritage have become involved.


We've visited three other venues as back-ups: Eshott Hall, Longhirst Hall, and Langley Castle. The bathrooms alone at Langley are enough to make me want to have my wedding there (they have hot tubs AND saunas!!) and the regency style of Eshott would allow me to swan around like Elizabeth Bennet.

And all have spectacular views of the Northumberland countryside.

But they're not Venue X.


Le freak, c'est chic!


I've just returned from a lovely long weekend in Paris. Remarkably, this was my first trip; it always just seemed so near and do-able that, in fact, I'd never done it.

Well, I loved it! J'adore Paris! What an amazing city full of cobbles and gargoyles. I really was transfixed by the place and I think I'd like to try to learn French again despite how funny asking locals 'ou est le poisson discotheque?' may be.

Anyway, I digress. I was particularly excited about my trip because it meant I was allowed to SHOP. This might sound exciting in itself, but consider what I felt as I had not been shopping since December 2012. Yes, reader; that's LAST YEAR.


I made a bee-line for Mes Demoiselles.I purchased the beautiful Lily Rose Blue (more lilac) 1920s-inspired dress and a lace top of the same colour. They were a bit of a splurge but I truly love this label. While some of the designs are perhaps a little too boho and whispy for my taste, the overall motif is one of ethereal natural beauty. Plus I love the nod to the roaring '20s. I can pretend to be Daisy Buchanan or Cathy from Singin' in the Rain and float around the streets of London. For me, clothes are as much about the possibilities they conjure as they are the design. And a big bonus with Mes Demoiselles is that their delicate palette compliments pale English skin tones beautifully.


Next, I took a bit of a risk and was also a bit bang-on-trend for my liking. I bought this monochrome striped dress from Sinequanone. I think I'll wear it with a red or dark navy skinny belt as my waist needs all the help it can get. The stripes work for my body type: the horizontal stripes enhance and enlarge a small bust (avoid if you're blessed with boobs) and the vertical stripes elongate the pins. It is so comfortable and I know it will look amazing with a sprinkle of a tan and pumps or wedges in the summer. And some pink or red lipstick.


I spied these gorgeous 'blue suede shoes' in the window of a shop outside our hotel on Rue de Richelieu. These are made by Les Venues. I was torn between the blue and pink, but I decided the blue would go well with my engagement dress (I can't wait to tell you all about that).

I bought these beautifully patterned bowls from Sabre Paris - perfect for fruit and snacks. The muted colours have a lovely vintage oriental feel. I can't wait to show them off at our next dinner party.


Et voila! And there you have it. This is what a girl who hasn't bought anything in three months buys on her first trip to Paris.