Skip to main content

At the Valentino Sala Bianca Haute Couture show in New York last December, it was evident that fashion’s fixation with the past is not letting up any time soon. Nearly four dozen looks in varying shades of white went down the runway. And while the show wasn’t specifically a wedding presentation (the theme was a nod to the brand’s 1960s pieces), it set the bar for what will be big in bridal this year.

From mod, mini-hemlines to matching dress-and-coat pairings, the pieces were fresh but familiar – and made a strong case for looking to the past for inspiration when it comes to wedding attire.

Nicole Manek, a stylist and the owner of the Toronto vintage boutique Life of Manek, says that the appeal of this era is obvious. “It was a revolutionary time in fashion that brought modernity to woman’s wear and saw the birth of intelligent fashion. I don’t think there’s been as significant a shift since, and those principles, styles and silhouettes are just as relevant today.”

In recent years, some designers have attempted to modernize the wedding dress (sheer paneling, anyone?), but the amount of attention a golden-era celebrity bride like Grace Kelly still receives proves the appeal of enduring style over even innovation. “There is something so special about vintage gowns, accessories and jewellery for one’s wedding day,” says Manek. “The craftsmanship and quality of materials is unparalleled at their price points.” Manek’s selection of wares isn’t focused specifically on vintage bridal, yet she has assisted many brides with finding their special look, be it a beaded cocktail dress from the 1970s or a fringed, flowing kimono. “I encourage women to stay open-minded, to try on dresses from different eras, different cuts and different price points and to go to as many stores and vintage shows as possible.”

A benefit of the artfully curated selection at a vintage shop is the ability it affords to direct attention from the often overwhelming array at a typical bridal boutique and source a dress and accessories with a little more character. “Most women who seek out a vintage wedding dress have a sense of adventure and sentimentality that makes for magical shopping,” says Manek. At her wedding, she wore purple, she says, recalling the appeal of forgoing hard and fast rules. “I’ve had a lot of potential brides disregard a dress on the hanger and, once they’ve put it on, they fall in love with it, much to their amazement.”

Ultimately, the appeal of a vintage wedding look is the statement it makes: a one-of-a-kind dress for a one-of-akind woman. “The attention to detail is often what draws us to these pieces,” Manek notes. “And what is more fitting than this for a bride on her wedding day?”

Photos by Vanessa Heins

Well armed

Many vintage dresses boast ingenious detailing that simply can’t be found in contemporary gowns. The exaggerated sleeves on this sixties-era dress, for example, feature cleverly designed holes for slipping arms through, making it all fun, no fuss.

Dress, $245 at Citizen Vintage ( Veil, $95 at Magwood ( Earrings, $175 at Cat’s Meow ( Ring, $9,200 at Cynthia Findlay Antiques (

Details, details

A bride should stand out on her wedding day – and ruffled cuffs and beaded stripes allow just that.

Dress, $4,000 at Divine Decadence ( Earrings, $275, choker, $275 at The Cat’s Meow. Purse, $48 at Life of Manek. Ring, $6,350 at Cynthia Findlay Antiques.

Ensemble piece

A coat-and-dress duo, such as this silk one by Seaton, is ideal for outdoor weddings. The dress also features strands of crystal and pearls sewn into the neckline.

Coat, $795, dress, $895, purse, $449, tiara, $395, earrings, $395 at The Cat’s Meow. Shoes, $599, shoe clips, $499 at Divine Decadence. Ring, $1,400 at Cynthia Findlay Antiques.

Pattern test

Lace is a familiar way of adding interest to bridal looks. For something more unusual, try a novel sequined pattern.

Dress, $789 at Life of Manek. Shoes, $399, shoe clips, $399, earrings, $599, cocktail ring, $599 at Divine Decadence. Ring, $6,300 at Cynthia Findlay Antiques. Bag, $38 at Cabaret Vintage.


Looking to emulate Grace of Monaco, remembered for her fairy-tale wedding to Prince Rainier? A fanciful tiara (complete with embellished veil) is a regal yet playful option.

Dress, $849, earrings, $115 at Magwood. Headpiece, $75 at Citizen Vintage.

Picture perfect

Dresses don’t have to be floor-length to stand out, as this short and sweet number channelling a young Mia Farrow demonstrates.

Dress, $275, gloves, $35 at Citizen Vintage. Shoes, $59 at Life of Manek ( Hue tights, $16 at Hudson’s Bay ( Bag, $75, headpiece, $18 at Cabaret Vintage. Ring, $9,200 at Cynthia Findlay Antiques. Earrings, $225 at The Cat’s Meow.

Styling by Odessa Paloma Parker. Hair and Makeup by Sheri Stroh for TRESemmé Hair Care/Bite Beauty/Plutino Group. Shot on location at The Drake Devonshire in Prince Edward County, Ont.