Thursday, 19 February 2009
Vintage wedding challenge
Right, I've got my wedding dress - a gorgeous 1930's art deco gown. Ankle length, halter necked and backless, it's peach silk and cotton with black deco detailing on the bust. The thing is, like a lot of 1930's gowns it's a bit on the see-through side so I need a peach silk half slip to go under it. I'd also like some silk cami knickers in vintage style and some shoes that would fit the period and are elegant and pretty but have a not-too-high heel as I will be walking on grass for most of the day! For all these things I am open to either vintage or new as long as the style is right.
There's no hurry though - I've got until July to find these things! And just for you, you should check out www.vivienofholloway.com for dresses that I know you will love. I have one in red and white spots with a circle skirt and I think I'm going to get another with a pencil skirt.
Cerian is a friend of mine from acting school - a stunning blonde who is completely lovely and down-to-earth, as well as incredibly stylish. Silk underwear will really make the outfit feel special - and I'd guess that's pretty important for a bride. But what at first seemed to me a relatively interesting task that would throw up lots of options has proved tricky. Peach isn't so popular at the moment, and then of course most underwear is in poly-satin, rather than silk.
'High end' silk undies tend to come in seasonal collections - drawing on the designer's feelings for colour and style in the contemporary fashion. I saw some lovely french knickers in chocolate silk with pistachio trims, but not the classic elegance Cerian wants. Prices are somewhat eyewatering too - One of my closest finds was this Roseanna Ansaloni peach cami and french knickers set - is £85 - reduced from £120 - and is absolutely at the cheap end of 'designer'. It's only available in a size 12 (not sure what size Cerian is) and anyway she doesn't need the camisole - pretty as it is. Back to the drawing board.
french knickers for a cheap 7.50 but they're rather boyish and a very pinky peach (I'm cheating anyway - they call that colour 'petal'). The option above right is by Lepel (£18), and while the colour is better, they're super-modern.
So if we want somthing older, howabout vintage? Both these pairs are unworn but original garments. The one on the left is from the twenties, and the other the forties, but things haven't changed terribly much in between. By the way, when my grandmother was a teenager they used to call this style of knickers 'easy feelers', which is rather fabulous, I think. The down side of vintage is threefold. Firstly, the biggest dealers in vintage undies are based in America, so shipping will be extra (although... how much can they weigh?) Secondly, these are rare items and priced accordingly. The older pair are $70, the other $45, and the exchange rate isn't what it was. Lastly, vintage clothes are individual items. The choice of size is the size they happen to be. Measure carefully before you buy: dress sizes have changed hugely over the years, and remember these have no elastic.
So if we're considering a transatlantic import, can I find the perfect items stateside? Not really. I like these, I really do - they're probably the loveliest modern french knickers (or 'tap pants' as they're known across the pond) I've seen in my quest, but the fact remains, they aren't peach: they're frappe, and we all know that means coffee.
No, I haven't really solved this one. I like the vintage ones, but getting a matching slip would be hard. Indeed, believe it or not I found only one long peach silk half slip on the entire net. And I'm not going to post a photo, because it's just horrible. They can make it in peach silk but the photo shows encrusting with nasty scratchy cheap lace. Have a link if you must: custom slip £50. I've discounted a couple of knickers for that reason too.
But I will not be beaten, so this is my suugestion: make your own.
My research has taught me that french knickers are pretty simple to sew, and a half slip must be easier than that. I really like the idea of sewing part of your trousseau, in an old fashioned kind of way - but if not, it's the sort of job an accommodating relation or local seamstress would be able to take on with no problem. Choose a beautiful silk - the perfect colour, weight, finish - and sew it to a vintage pattern. There are specialist websites like the one linked to, selling absolutely authentic patterns - but I rather think this more modern pattern is just the thing, combining as it does the slip and knickers in one coherant design. The patterns instruct a flattering and authenticly thirties bias cut, and Cerian can embellish it with some gorgeous old lace if she wants - or leave it plain for the smoothest line under her dress. If the size isn't right, there are some straightforward instructions on scaling patterns up and down on the internet.