You’re not a waif. You’re not a super model. You’re not as thin as the brides you see in stylized, vintage bridal shoots all over the blogosphere. But damn, you love the look of vintage. You want the look for your wedding day, and yet, you worry that you won’t be able to pull it off. After all, the sizes for vintage gowns seem so small, and the waists so tailored. You’re not the only one fretting; your not-so-skinny bridesmaids will probably kill you if you try to make them wear one of those floral bridesmaid dresses with a fitted waist.

Take heart! Paula Cooperman from Mill Crest Vintage is here to tell you that with good styling advice and a fabulous seamstress, pulling of the vintage look for your wedding indeed be achieved, even if you aren’t a skinny chick!

1. Determine your body type. No matter what the measuring tape says, figuring out one’s shape is much more important than one’s actual size. Are you shaped more like a pear (wider at the bottom than on the top)?  How about an apple shape (wider in the middle than on top or bottom)?  Perhaps you are considered full figured or bust? (hourglass shaped or have an ample bust line with smaller hips)?  Whatever type of figure, choosing the right style for one’s shape is the most important step in choosing the right dress for any woman.

For the pear shaped figure:

Go for A-line dresses, as well as, halter style dresses.  A-line dresses from the 50’s and 60’s look great on the pear shaped figure because the A-line dress is narrow at the top and flares gently at the base thus, drawing attention to the upper body, shoulders and neck while disguising the wider hips and thighs. The halter top style dresses look great on a pear shaped body, especially because the desire is to flatter the bust and draw attention away from the problem area (the wider hip). Choose a halter style dress from the 70’s that nips in at the waist, and flares out into a wider skirt.  Dresses with thin straps or one-asymmetrical shoulder from the 80’s also look great on the pear shaped figure. These allow the dress to drape over the body in such a way that the shoulder line and hip become more symmetrical.

Avoid: Avoid busy patterns and embellishments throughout the entire dress and instead opt for embellishments only in the bodice. Beads, ribbons, ruffles and other decorations on the bust of a form fitting bodice should be chosen over embellishments in the skirt.  Avoid tops that have narrow v-necks, heavily gathered necklines, dolman sleeves and raglan sleeves, which can all reduce the width of your shoulders.

For the apple-shaped figure:

For apple shaped figures, we recommend empire waistlines.  An empire dress from the 60’s or 70’s in the right material work well to elongate the body, drawing attention away from the midsection and still manage to show off the good curves. This style narrows at the top and flares slightly as it cascades toward the bottom, which is why it is flattering for apple figures. Choose a material like cotton or cotton blends, which will skim the body’s silhouette and go for monochromatic color schemes.  The illusion of the empire enhances the curves of the bust and hip in such a way that balance is achieved, while the draping and monochromatic color scheme offers a streamlined effect.

Avoid: Ruffled shoulders or shoulders with padding. Do not wear dresses that feature a lot of busy detail especially near the waist, like ruffles, ruching or other embellishments. This calls attention to the midsection, which is the area apple shapes usually try to minimize.  Also, avoid any rounded flower corsages and opt for a corsage with cascading effects.

For the big-busted figure:

For women with ample bosoms or  for those who are considered full figured, we recommend going with an A-line  dress from the 50’s or 60’s or a wrap dress from the 70’s, as long as the fabric chosen drapes over the curves of the body without cinching or hugging.  The idea is not exactly to reduce size, but instead to enhance the curves and achieve overall balance.   These two styles of dress work for both figure types because each cinch at the waist and offer balance in the hip for the bustier woman, while still complementing the curves of the full figured woman.  We also recommend v-cut necklines and some sleeve, even if only capped, to conceal any spill over from the bust.

 Avoid: Dresses with a straight style and sleeveless dresses.  Also, as some of us know, larger arms sometimes accompany a larger bust-line and more full figured shapes. Adornments and embellishments are fine, but avoid any at the arms, because too much bling at the arm can add width and throw off the balance of the body.  Be sure you wear a proper-fitting plus size bra that gives the breasts optimal support when wearing any style.

No matter what your body type, the key is to go for balance.  The idea is to create the illusion of balance between the shoulder and the hip.  This is the ultimate goal for any woman when considering any dress.  By determining one’s shape, a woman can determine which style of dress will balance out her figure best.

2. Hire a good seamstress. So you figured out your body type and maybe have fallen in love with a vintage dress that would work for your specific figure, but it is many sizes too small.  The first piece of good news is that no matter what size you are, as long as you choose the right style, you are 75% there!   The second piece of good news is that with the right seamstress and some creativity, nearly any vintage piece can be altered to achieve a customized fit.  YES!  Dresses can be made bigger!!!

Bodices can be completely redesigned by taking out the back, changing the neckline and altering sleeves.  For more width in the skirt, insertion panels, decorative illusion sashes, elasticized waistlines, gores and gussets can be added.  Shoulder straps, corsets and internal bras or built in undergarments are the perfect solution to add more support and smooth out the silhouette.  Using vintage laces, ribbons and appliqués will help to keep the integrity of the vintage dress intact.

Now that you know you can pull it off, check out some of the gorgeous vintage dresses at Mill Crest Vintage.