Vintage Smart-Dog Blog
Bridal and vintage bridal
One thing I have learnt since starting my business 'Vintage Smart' is that photoshoots are much more complicated to arrange than I had imagined!
As a new business it is often a catch22 situation. You know you need to invest in some fabulous photos to promote your products but there are so many financial pressures initially, it is not always possible to finance the professional shoot you might want.
Although I was frustrated by this, I am now rather glad that I built up to the full professional shoot in stages, because I learnt more that way.
I will always be eternally grateful to my first model Hope Whittington, who modelled for free and spent the entire day in and out of outfits with nothing to eat or drink all day (because we were so engrossed) - well I was anyway! She looked great and I was pleased with what we achieved for a first try, although I know the photos are not technically brilliant. I did use a decent camera for this one.
From this shoot I learnt- EVERYTHING TAKES LONGER THAN YOU THINK IT WILL
- Work out a realistic schedule
- Visit the venue first if at all possible and plan your shots before-hand, making sure the background is clear of distractions and unwanted items. It takes much longer to clear these things on the day with the model hanging around in the dress ( which would be expensive if you were paying them and a photographer, by the hour)
- Arrange for proper styling of hair and make-up. On the first shoot I did not allow enough time for this.
- If shooting several outfits, more than one model is essential.
- At least one other person is needed to help to change/arrange model/s
- Too much light bleaches out the detail of dresses. Shadow works well.
- Make sure regular refreshments and toilet facilities are available for those involved.
Hestercombe House and Gardens.
It is always a good idea to take advantage of the backdrop of a fantastic venue for a few shots.
This impromptu 'shoot' was part of a venue open day at Hestercombe House in Somerset, where I had been invited to exhibit. I had arranged a model and created a hand-painted 30's style dress especially for the event. The weather forecast for the day was shocking, so it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be not pouring down. The gardens at Hestercombe are lovely and worth exploring with a model and camera. These pics were just experiments really. It was a windy day.The light was not brilliant and the lovely model (Fay Venner) was pretty chilly but cheerful. It was fun though and I was quite pleased with the pics.
Photos my Meryl Smart
One incidental thing I learned from this shoot was, take a blanket or something for the model to sit on if going around a garden venue: bird poo on the dress is not a good look!
For my next shoot I was lucky enough to have a professional photographer(Clayton-Jane Photography), who had volunteered his services and the venue - and brought another photographer Lucy Driver and assistant. So, having learnt a little from my previous experience, I lined up three models of different heights, sizes and looks, with varying degrees of experience, who were willing to model for free - as a favour and for the fun of it.
Rebecca-Jane (Vintage stylist) Sue Keates Fay Venner (Beautician)
Photos by Lucy Driver
I spent ages planning the outfits and accessories and shoes to go with each. I didn't know the venue but got there early and had a look around. This was a collaborative shoot and because I did not consider myself an expert and was not paying for it, did not feel that I could 'call the shots'. I was busy changing the models into one outfit after another throughout the day and saw very little of the actual shoot. This was a BIG mistake. It was a fun, busy day and everyone got on really well. There were some lovely pictures, but I was wrong to assume that the photographer would take many of the sort of shots I would be able to use.
From this shoot I learnt -
- SOMEBODY NEEDS TO BE IN CHARGE- don't assume that a professional photographer will know what you want.
- HONEST COMMUNICATION. Don't be afraid to say what you want from the shoot, even if it is free because everyone's time and skill is being used; be precise ie. I really wanted some full length shots as well as some that showed the detail of the outfits and accessories.
- Someone with a meticulous eye for detail needs to be at the sharp end to check that the clothes etc are hanging right. Some photographers tend to focus on the composition and the model and don't notice such details that then (to me) become glaringly obvious when seeing the pics.
- Unless you have an army of professionals don't try to shoot too many outfits at one shoot because the styling has less impact. Best to style each one properly, particularly when shooting vintage clothing.
- Allow adequate (plenty of) time for re-touching/styling hair and makeup throughout the day.
- Don't over-use props. Seeing the same things in too many shots lessens the impact of the styling.
- Don't rush. Less is more.
Photo by Clayton-Jane Photography
I will always be really grateful for all of the people who have been kind enough to participate in the shoots so far. For the next thrilling installment, please see my Blog 'Photoshoot- Kilver Court'.
A great deal of planning goes into weddings to make sure that they run smoothly; the worry taken out of your hands a little if you hire a competent wedding planner! However, in my experience the bride and her family are focussed on the normal 'wedding' things and may not have planned for the little niggles that can sometimes create problems at the last minute, when you are miles away from home at the wedding venue.
I normally carry a capacious handbag, and at weddings this always includes my Wedding Emergency Kit.
- Sewing kit: needle and threads, seam ripper, pins.
Heaven forbid that something goes wrong with the wedding or attendants' dresses or even the grooms trousers! but these things do happen. Best to be prepared to solve the problem with a quick stitch here and there. or......
Trouser hems, broken fly zippers, etc. Trust me, you'll be glad you had a few safety pins!
A real life-saver if those gorgeous new shoes become agony as the day goes on.
- Make-up touch-up kit: lippy, combi foundation/powder compact, blusher, eyeliner.
Normally difficult for bride and even bridesmaids to carry a bag. They are busy with bouquets and having photos taken. It might be a good idea to ask one of your other friends/guests to take to the reception a bag with some of the things you would normally carry and or this kit! Whether because of tears or dancing exertions. The Bride is normally photographed from the beginning of the day to the end, not just by the official photographer but by all of her guests.These days the pics often end up on facebook too.
- Tissues or handkerchief: for teary moments
Sometimes these teary moments happen just before or during the vows when the emotion of the occasion can be overwhelming. Make sure the bride and sometimes the groom have easy access to tissues or a lovely handkerchief.
- Wet wipes: also useful for spillages
That 'ahhh, bliss' feeling of getting those shoes off after a few hours of increasing agony or irritation. Nothing like it! Not so easy for the bride wearing a full-length dress, making a transition from high heels, but sometimes it's just worth it towards the end of a very long day.
This doesn't just happen in films! Having a 'novelty' ring in your bag just in case, could be a classic moment.
- Spare batteries (for camera)/camera charger
I carry a digital camera with replaceable ordinary batteries for weddings because it is so frustrating to be 'caught short' at the church or reception venue with one that requires electrical recharging. Carrying a couple of spare batteries in the handbag is no problem. A charger is a bit more problematic.
- Comb, hair grips and small can of hairspray
It is really useful for the bride to be able to refresh the hairstyle during the day especially if a veil/headress has been worn and removed. These days very small cans of hairspray are readily available.
Unless the weather forecast is reliably 'unbroken sunshine' it is often prudent to take an umberella. I've been to several weddings where it has absolutely poured down. At one, the guests were asked to create an 'avenue' of umberellas to protect the bride from the church door to the car. We all got soaked but she made it to the car dry! I now have this Lulu Guinness see-through beauty.
Whilst by no means an exhaustive list, you may be glad to have some of these things to hand on the big day. If you can think of any I've missed please let me know.........
1930's styling has become increasingly popular for brides in recent years and with the release of the latest re-make of 'The Great Gatsby' the 20s and 30s influence is likely to grow.
If you think you'd like a 1930's style wedding, this blog should help you to recognise, find and complete the look.
This was my grandmother's wedding in the early 30s and still shows influences from the 1920s. The dress itself was made from pale pink lace and worn with a looped string of long pale greeny yellow beads.
pic copyright meryl Smart
The Movies and now TV have always influenced fashion and in the 30s era, the glamour of Hollywood filtered through. The drop-waist of the 20s gave way to more figure flattering dresses with waists in the natural position. The bias cut fluid styles, skimmed the figure but were not tightly fitted or heavily structured with boning. Often accessorised or trimmed with feather or fur for added glamour.
Hollywood glamour meant pin-curl waves, luscious red lips, feathers and furs, slinky fabrics.
Recognising the key features
- Ivory.white,pale pink/peach
- Bias cut- (cutting diagonally across the fabric)
- Flared at hem
- Loosely structured/draped
- Slinky fabrics; satin, crepe, velvet.
- Cape sleeves or sleeveless
- Often with 'Flying panel' attached to dress
- Cowl or V neck
pic copyright meryl Smart
Finding the dress
Some vintage wedding dress suppliers may have authentic vintage dresses from this period. They are becoming more and more rare, the sizes tend to be small and the fabric quite fragile.
Most bridal designers should be able to create your dress in 1930's style
Pettibone Temperley Packham
D.I.Y. If you are comtemplating making your own.....
Patterns for bias cut dresses are also available, from fabric shops and over the internet, although you may not find them in the bridal section. Etsy and e-bay have sellers who specialise in vintage patterns. (sovintagepatterns.com)
Be warned however, if you are not an experienced seamstress, genuine vintage patterns often come with very little detail on the pattern pieces and the sizes do not correspond to modern sizing. (Vintage sizes are much smaller). Resizing a pattern is not an easy task if you are to keep the proportions right. Sewing bias cut seams is also a skill as they are prone to pucker.
Most modern pattern suppliers now offer a small 'vintage' slection, based on vintage originals with more practical pattern details and modern sizing.
The'30's bias cut dress has become a fashion staple in subequent generations. The style is still available on the High Street today, for day and evening wear, in different colours and prints.
Completing the look
In the 1930s Wide brimmed hats for Summer weddings were popular .
Veil Veils often made from beautiful lace were
worn across the head with a band fastened at both sides.
Waved and pin-curled. longer hair would be worn up at the back
- Quite often bouquets were carried sideways
- Corsages were also popular ( see pic >)
- and/or a huge rose bouquet, more as an upright arrangement than posy or hanging bouquet Pic copyright Meryl Smart
pic copyright Meryl Smart
The rounded toe with T-bar is the iconic shoe of this decade,
The Art-Deco period spans the 20s and 30s
Long beaded necklaces were still in vogue. Beaded 'bib' neckalces, strung pearls and rhinestones
These are genuine necklaces from the period.
Modern brides don't feel compelled to be 'historically accurate' in every detail of their day beyond their outfit, but if you do want to arrive in authentic 1930's style. Here is a car of the period too!
The style is undeniably glamorous but also very sophisticated.
Many fashion trends draw on the past for inspiration.The current Hi-Low/ 'Mullet' hem trend is no exception.
Higher at the front than the back - 'Hi-Low' or
'Mullet' like the hairstyle of the '70s and 80s !
It is a flattering style for dresses. The back view is not everywoman's most flattering angle. The hi-low hem offers the benefits of the elegance of a longer gown with the convenience and practicality of a shorter hemline at the front, making it easier to walk without tripping, or the need to hitch up the dress.
The 1920's is remowned for it's uneven hemline but there were also 'hi-low' hems
1920's 1920's 1925 Lanvin
It was also a very popular design feature in the 1950's
VINTAGE 1950'S DIOR
The trend is very strong in BRIDAL wear for the 2013 season
I have been commissioned to make a wedding dress with Hi-low hem for this summer. The dress is 50's style made of ice blue silk Duchesse satin with matching silk organza overlay. It has pockets too!.
I think the trend may be around for a while. Design copyright Meryl Smart 2013
The Hi-low hem was already popular in 2012 and continues in 2013
Hi-Low hems can be stylishly casual too. The trend can be seen all over the High Street in tops. skirts and dresses,
So there is a version for everyone!
Ever had major parasol envy? I saw a lovely vintage parasol on a wedding blog (as you do) I wanted one!
I've had this theatrical prop in my 'collection' ever since I played Eliza Doolitttle in 'Pygmalion' when I was 16. (I never throw anything out!) I knew it would come in handy some day. Now I am a vindicated hoarder.
It came with the original frills but my mum embellished it at the time with crepe paper flowers! Several decades have not been kind to it and the nylon fabric became stained. It was time for a glamourous makeover. I was sure I could use the frame which had a lovely mother of pearl effect crooked handle to create a 'parasol' like the one I now envied so much.
I took the fabric and trimmings off and was left with the frame. I had planned to cover it with panels if silk and then embellish with vintage lace which would be gorgeous....but take absolutely ages, which is why the frame was languishing naked in a corner whilst I then got on with other, more pressing commissions.
Quite by chance. whilst rummaging through my vast collection of vintage paraphernalia for something else entirely (to trim a wedding dress) I unearthed a vintage crochet tablecloth.
I thought it would make a fabulous skirt so I put it to one side to experiment with later.
I had it draped around a mannequin that evening when I had a eureka moment. What if?!...............
Some experimentation revealed that the piece would fit nicely over the frame and dangle attractively over the ends.
The trick was distributing it evenly as there were not exactly enough panels to go with each 'spoke' of the frame. This was achieved through trial and error and using glass headed pins to keep the crochet in place during experimentation. I attached the crochet to the appropriate points by hand stitching.
It was a fairly straightforward process once I had worked out how to stop the spokes slipping completely through the crochet and finish it so that the crochet didn't get caught on the spokes when it opened.
I am really pleased with the end result.
It's a lovely piece and practical because it clicks closed so can be carried in that position.
I love it when a plan comes together
I shall be keeping the parasol for use in photo shoots and fashions shows.
Whilst the parasol is not for sale it will be available to borrow, free, for any brides commissionning a Vintage Smart bridal gown.
I love weddings. I enjoy the ceremony and always feel honoured when I am invited. I also love a good party as much as the next person.
I attended a wedding recently (as a guest) and I was really looking forward to it. The ceremony was at 1pm, in a church. After transportation to the reception venue, photos took until 4pm, when we actually sat down to eat. The food was plentiful and delicious. The wine and champagne flowed freely. The speeches were long and detailed. The other guests were really friendly. At 7pm the 'evening do' started: more people, more delicious food and a band arrived. It was a great day..... and the bride was really flagging.
The Bride, normally an extremely gregarious, fun-loving person, was exhausted before the day even started and seemed unable to simply enjoy the day because she "just wanted to sit down and do nothing for a while". She hadn't realised that all of the beautiful 'location shots' she had discussed with the photographer weeks before at the stunning reception venue, would take her away from most of her guests for two hours. She found it intrusive on the day, but he was only doing what she had requested.
She admitted to me that, the previous day, she had been planning to put together favours for the tables and all sorts of other little things that brides feel pressured to provide, but realised that it was not that important to have sugared almonds or whatever on the tables. Anyway, she simply ran out of time and inclination. It wasn't as if anyone even noticed! We were all too busy having a good time!
The intense preparation, being the centre of attention and the overwhelming emotion of the day itself had taken it's toll. She had reached 'wedding burnout'. Having a reputation as a party animal, she was perhaps the least likely person I know to whom this would happen.
When asked (as I sometimes am in my capacity as a bridal designer), my advice, drawn from attending hundreds of weddings, is kept to a minimum. I suggest to brides-to-be to try to do the wedding their own way, to focus on what is really important and to keep it as simple as possible. Afterall it is their day. Easier said than done though. Inevitably, however well-meant, everyone else's opinion often crowds in and, in an attempt to please everyone and live up to expectations, the enjoyment of the couple's day can be lessened. The burden of being a people pleaser, and often an understandable lack of experience in organising such an event. Sometimes, reflecting on the day weeks later, brides have said to me 'I didn't realise.........', 'If I had known........ I would have done things differently....'
So much time. energy and money goes into weddings these days. So many hopes, dreams and wishes ride on just one day where everything is so public that, perhaps, a percentage of burnout is inevitable. Unless of course you are the sort of bride who relishes all of the choices, decisions, organisation and co-ordination or can afford to hire a wedding planner to take this on for you.
If you'd like to prevent the wedding burnout, it might help not to over-complicate, elaborate, and pile on unreasonable expectations that could take away from the couple's ability to enjoy the simple pleasures and meaning of their special day.
- If it is your wedding.....try to work out how you actually want to do things, rather than base your day on what you think everyone else wants. But also do your best to be realistic. You will never please everyone, and if you try, you may make just yourself miserable, stressed and exhausted. Ambitious, complex ideas may be difficult to achieve in the time you have available to plan, or keep within budget. If you can prioritize those things that are most important to you and are most likely to be enjoyable for you and your guests and leave the rest on a reserve list (that you know you may never get around to, or can easily cross off if you go over budget or run out of time,) this could take off some of the pressure.
- If you are directly related: family, mother of the bride/groom etc.......Try really hard not to inflict too much of your own agenda or tastes. This may not be easy, especially if you are the major financial contributor, but if you can accept the couple's preferences gracefully, even if they may not concur exactly with your own, it will probably be appreciated and aid harmony.
- If it is your friend's wedding......You will probably be asked what you think from time-to-time. If you can bring yourself to offer advice only when asked, seeing things from their point of view, and be appreciative and re-affirming of decisions already made, it will help to give them confidence to do it their own way, without feeling guilty. Try not to create a drama about things like the seating plan or not having your children invited, for example. If you offer to help with anything, make sure you can deliver. Basically, be a good friend.
Above all try not to lose sight of what the day is about. Everyone is there to witness the vows and
to share the couple's special day. Everything else is just decoration.
Text=Copyright. Property of Meryl Smart. 2012 .May not be copied without permission.
As a bridal designer who specializes in Vintage and Vintage-inspired gowns, I am very aware that when a Bride-to-be tells me she wants a 'Vintage wedding dress', this usually means one of four things.
She's looking for
1. An authentic Vintage original from a particular era.
Vintage original late 1920's Vintage original 1956
2. An authentic reproduction of a gown from a particular era
3. An original design with style elements from a particular era
Original design influenced by 1950's styling
Original design with edwardian styling details Original design with 1930's style elements
4. A lacey, romantic dress, with a nostalgic feel ( No specific individual era)
In another blog post, 'What is Vintage', I discuss how I use the term 'Vintage ' on my website, because Vintage 'officianados' are quite particular about that sort of thing, but most bride-to-be s, in my experience, are not.
Sometimes you just know you love it.
Copyright. property of Meryl Smart 2012. May not be copied or otherwise reproduced without permission
Shoes for weddings have sold very well on the website recently and, as part of my forthcoming blog series on Vintage Shoes, I have decided to devote one specifically to wedding shoes.
Advice on selecting your wedding shoes
- Co-ordinate with the dress
Many brides these days have a theme for their wedding. Whether it is colour, era or another kind of style or theme, you may want your shoes to add to the look. The shoes do not necessarily need to match in colour. Dramatic constrast can work really well, particularly with shorter styled dresses where more of the shoes are seen. Some brides decide they want to co-ordinate their shoes with the style of dress in terms of era, particularly if they have chosen a vintage style. At the moment, because of recent fashion trends, it is possible to source many modern vintage-inspired versions of these styles if you know what you are looking for. (I will be giving more 1920's style 'Mary-Jane' shoes
information on this in future blog posts).
You will be on your feet practically all day and possibly dancing into the night too. You wouldn't want to ruin your day by being in agony because of your shoes so, if you are not used to wearing high heels for prolonged periods, either get into training (practice) or go for a more manageable heel height. Platforms with heels are an excellent idea if, like me, you are quite short. This is because the platform means that the angle of the foot is not so extreme and therefore you can achieve height without tottering. However, the higher you go the more careful you need to be. Falling from a great height could result in a broken ankle so, practice is essential. 1920's-30's T-bar shoes
If you are buying new shoes it is a good idea to wear them in; around the house sometimes, with a pair of thin socks or tights until they are less stiff and mould to your feet. Often backs of heels and toes rubbing on peep-toe shoes or sandals can be real issues, that you may not feel after wearing the shoes for 5 mins, but with sweat and pressure, can get really bad. (A good idea to have a couple of plasters available just in case anyway).
What ever you heel/platform height and whatever style your shoe, if you buy previously unworn shoes, make sure you scuff or scratch the soles of the shoes. Aisles in churches and tiled/wooden floors, especially dance floors can be like skating rinks, and slippery, unscratched soles will just help you glide or slip rather than grip!
Please re-visit the blog for more information as future blog posts will give more detail about specific styles of vintage shoe to co-ordinate with particular styles/periods of dress.
(Text and pictures are the property of Meryl Smart and may not be copied or otherwise published without permission)
Choosing your wedding dress is often one of the most exciting elements of preparing for your big day. There is certainly a mind-boggling choice, and a lot of advice on offer in magazines and wedding blogs. In addition to looking through these, prospective brides will also, usually, take some time to see what is available in high street bridal stores, where a made-to-order service is offered.
Made-to-order is not the same as made-to-measure. If you order from a sample dress that you have tried on in a shop, even if it is a 'designer gown', that style is then made up in the standard size that is closest to your measurements. Any adjustments needed because you do not fit the standard size precisely in height or other variations, would mean alteration, normally charged in addition to the purchase price.
Having a dress made-to-measure means that you can choose. The style is exactly what you want; the beautiful fit is included in the price and achieved by fittings at each stage of construction. You will feel pampered and special, as you see your gown 'evolve' thoughout the exciting creative process.
Whether your dress is made-to-order, Vintage or, made-to-measure, all good suppliers should be able to give you confident answers to the following questions.
- Who will conduct my appointment
- Is there a time-limit to my appointment?
- Is there a limit to how many dresses I can try on?
- Can I bring other people with me when I try on dresses and for fittings?
- Should I bring my accessories with me to the appointment?
- How long does it take to have a dress made?
- Where will my dress be made? and who will be making it?
- What will my dress be made of?
- How many fittings are needed?
- How much desposit do I need to pay and can I pay in instalments?
- Do I have to pay extra for alterations or any other charges.?
- Will my dress be delivered or do I collect it?
at Vintage Smart
you are guaranteed a warm welcome and friendly service
Most brides come to Vintage Smart if they have strong ideas about the style of dress they would like; because they simply can't find a gown with the combination of style features they are looking for, or because they realise they want something unique; different to what they have found on offer elsewhere.
Whilst I specialize in Vintage and Vintage-inspired gowns, I can make you anything you want. With over 20 years experience in designing and making stunning gowns, I can also offer informed advice to help you with your choice.
- All appointments are conducted by Meryl Smart - Designer at Vintage Smart.
- 1hr -1hr30mins is usually sufficient for an initial consultation, including trying on a number of dresses . Although this time is not rigid, normally a 2 hr slot is allocated, which includes re-organising the space for the following appointment.
- Before trying on dresses I talk to the bride to find out preferences in terms of style etc. Then we can select from my collection, those items that most closely fulfil that brief. I will also suggest other gowns that might suit or inspire the bride. Much can be discovered from trying on two or three dresses with different features, but of course it is possible to try on more.
- Brides are welcome to bring others to the appointment. This is best limited to 3 because of space.
- If you already have accessories: shoes, bra, head-dress etc. it is ideal to bring them to the appointment so that you can check they co-ordinate or create the look you are after, particularly if you are looking for a ready-made Vintage dress.
- The time needed to have a dress made will depend on style and fabric choices, as well as your availability for fittings. Whilst it may be possible to make your dress in a matter of weeks, it is best to allow a minimum of 2-3 months.
- At Vintage Smart, all made-to-measure gowns are individually hand-made by Meryl at her workshop in Taunton.
- Fabrics for your made-to-measure gown will be discussed at the design consultation where you will be able to choose from samples.
- Initial consultation is followed up with design drawings and costings. Final choices are detailed when the commission is confirmed.
- With Vintage gowns the fabric is identified as accurately as possible and advice given about cleaning. Buying a genuine Vintage gown means you are buying into history. Sizes tend to be smaller than the modern equivalent. However, styling and size can often still be adjusted.
- After the initial consultation, 3-4 fittings are normally sufficient to complete a made-to-measure gown. More may be needed if the design is complex. These will normally take place at the Vintage Smart studio in Taunton, although Meryl will travel for fittings by special arrangement.
- For made-to-measure, a deposit of half the total amount is payable to confirm the commision, with the balance payable in instalments at each fitting.
- For made-to-measure gowns, all fittings are included.
- For Vintage gowns, the full price is due at time of purchase. If your ready-to-wear Vintage gown requires adjustment, this will incur extra cost, charged at an hourly rate. An estimate will be given for individual items as required, with payment for the alteration on completion.
- Completed dresses are normally collected from the Vintage Smart studio in Taunton.
I make dresses for Bridesmaids and other occasions too!