This wedding screams timeless beauty and I am all about a celebration that will stand the test of time. Emilia Jane Photography did an impeccable job of capturing this couple’s stylish Signature Room soirée. If you’re a bride on the hunt for a vintage wedding dress, read the bride’s words below and she’ll give you the complete 411 on all things dress shopping. You should definitely head to the full gallery for more fabulousness.

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From the Bride… Philippe and I met at the University of Chicago and knew early on we were right for each other. He surprised me with dinner one night at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building in downtown Chicago. The food was spectacular, the view unparalleled, and something about that building, looking out onto this gem of a city, felt … timeless. Timeless is what we wanted for our wedding, and so we chose the same venue for our wedding. I am a vintage clothing aficionado (and an Etsy vintage retailer). And by “vintage,” I don’t mean retro-inspired frocks (though those can be fun, too); I mean glorious Dior new look-waisted gowns, metal zippers (if not hooks and eyes) and pearl collars. I had to find a true vintage dress.

Finding a vintage dress that’s right for you isn’t the easiest task. Not many brick-and-mortar stores carry vintage wedding gowns because there isn’t a huge demand for them. Online, sizing can be tricky, and because of the fabrics used before the birth of polyester, true vintage gowns can be extremely delicate, which means you’ll have to really watch your moves on the dance floor. Though vintage gowns can be a bargain compared to high-end wedding boutiques, you have to know your tolerance for gown “accents” (ahem, stains, rips, 60-year-old dirt, musk). Buffer in at least $100 for alterations (closer to $300 if you go to a wedding-gown-specific tailor). Not that you wouldn’t need to factor that in with a modern gown, but with a vintage gown, you may need to consider a few more adjustments that a new gown wouldn’t necessarily require: replacing ripped tulle, expanding the waist if you’re not willing to wear some of the extremely restrictive undergarments our ancestors wore, finding matching buttons for the back of your dress (there’s no zipper hiding under those buttons, ladies!). But if you find a vintage dress that is generally in your size (bigger is always better), fits with the mood of your special day and fits your budget, GRAB THAT DRESS because you more than likely will never find it again if someone nabs it before you do. One last piece of advice: ask around and take a chance. I told a girlfriend at work that I was looking for a vintage dress. Out of nowhere, she said her family near Baltimore had an old wedding dress from a church friend. She didn’t remember what it looked like, but she asked if I wanted to see it, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a peek — I’m so glad I did.

The light ivory dress was from the 1950s and had a lace bodice (and I mean that gorgeous lace that’s become a lost art), cap sleeves, a tiny waist and a tulle ballerina gown — all glamour. I didn’t know what size it was, so I slowly stepped into it, limb by limb, until I was fully enveloped and ecstatic that it fit me like a glove. When I looked inside the dress, I found more clues it was the one for me: the store tag said “Marshall Fields & Co.,” which could only mean the gal who first wore the dress got it in Chicago, my hometown and the city we were getting married in. Another tag in the dress told me the brand: “Phillipa.” A feminized version of my fiance’s name … proof enough this dress was the one. I filled it out with a 1950s crinoline, added a period veil, classic pearl jewelry and a vintage mesh bag, insisted on perhaps unusual but era-appropriate hairdo and makeup and celebrated a truly magical night. Oh, and yes, Philippe’s tux was also real vintage (probably late 1940s). 

We were lucky enough to find Emilia Jane in Chicago, whose pictures truly highlighted the timelessness we were going for.  She took the time to understand the mood we wanted to convey through the pictures and floated around the room all night, delivering shots we couldn’t have dreamed of. 

Wedding Photography: Emilia Jane Photography / Wedding Venue: Signature Room at the 95th in Chicago, Illinois / Floral Design: Signature Room / Wedding Invitations: Designed by the Bride / Wedding Dress: A Borrowed Vintage Dress / Bride’s Shoes: Nina

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