The Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Buying Guide

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The Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Buying Guide

Vintage clothing has become increasingly popular in recent years. Whereas clothing manufactured before the 1920s in generally considered antique, clothing made between the 1920s and 1960s is referred to as vintage. These garments are not only fashionable, but an investment too. When purchasing vintage wear, buyers should make sure that the items are original, not reproductions. This is especially important with highly collectible clothing such as bridesmaid dresses which are often expensive.

Vintage bridesmaid dresses are available in a limited array of colours, styles, and fits, depending on the time period of their creation. Most of these dresses have sleeves of varying lengths because modesty was highly valued during the era of vintage wear. The dresses are made of delicate materials and range from simple to intricate in design. Many vintage bridesmaid dresses feature embellishments or embroidery. To buy a vintage bridesmaid dress with confidence, it is helpful to know the styles, and how to date them properly. Vintage bridesmaid dresses may be found in vintage shops and charity shops, as well as online at retailers such as eBay.

Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Styles by Decade

Buyers can often determine the decade of a vintage bridesmaid dress by its style and fit. As fashion trends continued to change over time, dresses shifted between form-fitting and loose flowing gowns.

1920s Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

The 1920s witnessed the emergence of the flapper era and with it, a dramatic change in women’s fashion. Hemlines rose as waistlines fell, resulting in loose, flowing bridesmaid dresses; a huge transformation from the corsets and cinched waists of past decades, where hemlines fell just above the ankles. 1920s dresses are known for their soft, romantic appeal and as such, are made of silk and chiffon.

1930s Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

Many women in the 1930s, the period between the world wars, made their own bridesmaid dresses. These dresses are usually constructed of less expensive, synthetic material such as rayon. Unlike bridesmaid dresses from the 1920s, which featured boyish waistlines, the dresses from this period are well-defined at the natural waistline, and flaunt a woman’s curves.

1940s Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

Vintage bridesmaid dresses from the 1940s are known for their simplicity and romanticism. During this time period, men were away at war and came back for only brief, unannounced periods of time. Weddings were often planned in less than a week. Women wore simple dresses due to wartime rationing. These dresses are modest and fall below the knees. Bridesmaid dresses are typically short or long sleeve and made in block, neutral colours such as navy and grey. It was not uncommon to see bridesmaids in block colour two piece suits. To maintain the vintage look, these 1940s dresses may be complemented by long or short elegant gloves, depending on the length of the dress sleeves, and peep-toed high heels.

1950s Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

Bridesmaid dresses from the 1950s are generally ankle length and featured high necklines, often in a scoop style. To preserve modesty, dresses feature sleeves which typically cover the arms, and were designed for church weddings. Sleeve styles are limited to cap, three-quarter length, and long sleeve, while the shoulder style is round as opposed to square. The upper part of the dress often features a corset which extends from the shoulders to a few inches below the waistline and over the hips. This slender upper part is complemented by a puffy dress skirt, often worn in combination with a petticoat to help the skirt retain its full shape. During this period, heavier fabrics in bright colours were popular as were layered fabrics. It is not uncommon for lace details to be woven into the fabric of bridesmaid dresses. Dresses from the 1950s often contain visible metal zips up the wearer’s back.

1960s Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

Bridesmaid dresses of the 1960s are short and accessorised by chic gloves and pearls. The early 1960s featured dresses that showed off the wearer’s silhouette, but by the mid 1960s, these dresses were replaced by a less form fitting empire or A-line cut. The A-line cut features a fitted top with a flared skirt, whereas the empire waist is cinched just below the bust line and hangs loosely. Bridesmaid dresses have sleeves or straps, as sleeveless dresses were not appropriate for church weddings. These dresses often have decorative details such as a ribbon, bow, or sash. 1960s bridesmaid dresses can be found in an array of colours and fabrics.

Dating Vintage Bridesmaid Dresses

Buyers can often identify whether a bridesmaid dress is vintage by its features. The label, hardware, and unique sizing are all indications that the gown may be vintage.

Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Labels

Care labels were introduced in 1975. If the bridesmaid dress does not contain a care label, this may indicate that the dress was produced before care labels were widely used. However, the label may have just been removed or fallen off, so this should not be the deciding factor.

Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Hardware

Before the mid 1960s, vintage bridesmaid dresses were manufactured with metal zips. Plastic zips were temporarily introduced in the 1920s and 1930s, but were quickly deposed due to their lack of durability. Zips running up the centre of a woman’s back were rarely used before the 1950s. Zips that begin under the sleeve and end at the waist or hem often indicate that the dress was made between the late 1930s and 1960s. Dresses before this time were usually fastened with a button, tie, or clasp.

Vintage Bridesmaid Dress Sizing

When buying a vintage bridesmaid dress, it is important to know the size required. Vintage sizing is different from modern sizing. Generally speaking, vintage sizes are much smaller in comparison to today’s sizes. Armholes during the 1950s were characterised by their narrow width. During the 1940s and 1950s, the waist measurements of dresses were much smaller in relation to hip and bust measurements than in previous and following decades. Women should carefully take their bust, waist, neckline, and shoulder measurements and compare them to the measurements of the dress in order to ensure a proper fit.

Where to Find a Vintage Bridesmaid Dress

Most vintage bridesmaid dresses are sold in vintage shops, charity shops, and possibly at car boot sales. Some vintage shops focus on just vintage clothing, whereas others sell a mixture of vintage and modern reproductions. Buyers looking for vintage bridesmaid dresses can also browse items available from online retailers for an even wider selection. The most desired vintage wear is often sold at auction to the highest bidder. Buyers can also find vintage bridesmaid dresses on eBay.

How to Buy a Vintage Bridesmaid Dress on eBay

When buying vintage bridesmaid dresses on eBay, buyers should begin their search on eBay’s home page. From here, buyers can use the search bar to input any key terms related to the item that they are looking for. Entering "vintage bridesmaid dresses" is likely to return a wide range of search results. For more specific results, buyers should enter more detailed key terms, such as "black vintage bridesmaid dresses" or "1950s vintage bridesmaid dresses". Narrowing down results by colour or size are great search options. Buyers are also free to used eBay’s advanced search feature to further narrow results by condition or price.

Search for a Vintage Bridesmaid Dress with Confidence

Before making a purchase, buyers should always examine all listing photographs for signs of damage to the vintage bridesmaid dress. The photographs in a seller’s item listing can provide helpful information to the buyer and let them know exactly what they are bidding for. If additional images or information is desired, ask the seller. Sellers will usually be happy to provide additional information in order to promote a positive transaction.

Returns Policy

Buyers should only purchase vintage bridesmaid dresses from sellers that accept returns. It is also important to remember that postage and packaging charges are typically non-refundable. Information regarding returns are generally included within an item description. If the description does not discuss the returns policy, buyers should contact the seller before making a bid.


Vintage bridesmaid dresses are recognised by their unique style and features. It may seem difficult to distinguish between vintage wear and a modern reproduction, but with some careful investigation, it is more than possible to find the perfect gown. Once the buyer is familiar with the distinct dress features with respect to different time periods, they can often determine the era in which the dress was created. The hemline, fit, and waistline were features that evolved continually during the vintage era from the 1920s to the 1960s. So, by inspecting the dress carefully for any indications that can provide an insight into the dresses era of fabrication, the buyer can decide whether the dress is vintage or not. Metal zips, and unique sizing are all aspects to consider.

When purchasing online, buyers should always buy from reputable sellers in the eBay community who offer returns in the event that the vintage bridesmaid dress does not fit or is otherwise not appropriate. With so many vintage bridesmaid dresses to choose from, eBay can help any women to find the perfect style for a vintage themed wedding.

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