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  1. vintage dress

    How many mums have kept their wedding dress up in the attic, with the thought that perhaps one day, one of their daughters or grand daughters might want to wear the dress again? The reality is that in most cases, the dress is completely out of fashion, and also completely the wrong size. If you do really want to wear a heirloom dress, there are many things that can be done to modernise a dress, but there are also some things that you will have to consider as limiting factors: 

    One of the toughest to correct or match is colour and appearance. You might not think it, but there are tons of shades of white and ivory and in a spectrum of texture, softness, sheen and firmness. With age, there is often also slight discolouration of the dress, which, on a positive note, adds to its vintage character. The old dress does dictate the colour of your soon-to-be updated dress - so for example if the dress is a cool white with white embroidery or lace, it may  not look the best to team this with warmer ivories. This is not a big problem if you don't need to purchase any new fabric for the dress, but, if mum's dress is too small or too short, or if you would like to add additional features such as sleeves, or an over layer (e.g. lace or chiffon) on the bodice or skirt, colour and texture matching to the old dress become essential. 

    Size is a big player. Taking a dress in or making it shorter is a lot easier to making a dress one or two sizes bigger or having to lengthen the skirt. It is possible, but you might have to have some design changes and additional matching fabrics - all of which may also work totally in your favour for a modernisation job.

    The state of the dress: if it is grandma's dress, or a very delicate and fragile version of mum's dress, extra care must be taken by the bridal seamstress to not further damage the dress. The fabric and /or the seams might be weakened with age, which is something to be considered not only for the modifications work, but also for when it will be worn, particularly if it is on the fitted/snug side.

    As a future bride considering to wear a heirloom dress, you will have to consider the previous design carefully and what you wish to keep as a feature or design, and what you are willing to give up. Some brides-to-be want to keep the fabrics or most of the fabrics, and have a redesign of the dress in a more modern version. Others want to keep the dress as close to the original design as possible, with only modernisation features. Between these two extremes, there are a range of options, whereby you keep some of the fabric (e.g. the lace, if any) or some of the features (e.g. the skirt style, the bodice front, etc.). It is possible to rebuild the dress completely with any of these combinations, and in the end, in some cases, the new dress might look totally different to the old one, but you know that it came with much historical wealth.

    modernised vintage dress In the two pictures of this blog, the original dress had the big puffy sleeves of the 80's, which while starting to be trendy again, were replaced by more floaty sleeves, shortened to a length that suited the bride. The lace at the front of the bodice was removed and the bodice re-built for a less cluttered, more modern effect but the beautiful princess waistline and the outer layer embroidered lace were kept. The double layer style was simplified into a cleaner cut, lengthened with a matching satin fabric.

    Wearing the dress of someone dear to you at your own wedding is not everyone's cup of tea, but for the sentimentals of us who are considering it, it does not necessarily have to entail wearing the dress exactly as it was, or fitting into it.

    If you are considering it, have a chat with a bridal seamstress to discuss your options, and who knows, you might be surprised with what can be done!



    Blue Lily Magnolia is based in Nantwich, and specialises in wedding dress alterations, style modifications and bespoke wedding dressmaking. If you would like a chat, please contact Sharon directly on 07766766573 or at [email protected]



  2. sparkly shoes A trip to the shops gives you a pretty much instant idea on the current fashion and accessories trends. Some things are still here from last year: sequins, lots of bling, pleated skirts and animal prints. Last year, I thought that all these sparkly and shiny things were way too much for me, but after a year of it, my eyes have become accustomed to the disco ball look and I am totally embracing it! Animal prints are rather classic, so I will not be surprised if they turn up next autumn winter too. 

    Things that I noticed were new this year: stars, velvet and big sleeves... I'm loving the cute star prints, star jewellery, and luxurious soft velvets on jumpsuits, long dresses, or even trousers, but the big sleeves are my absolute favourite this season. I must admit that the giant shoulders are not quite my thing, being quite petite in height and frame. I don't quite like the look of an inverted triangle, or even a big rectangle or square (if you happen to be a bit more peary in shape). But big sheer sleeves, yes please! Why? Well, for a start, I for once, am a huge fan of 'comfort' winning on style. And in the winter, it's cold! Sleeves are just the thing when going out an evening, without feeling like you will have to cross the tundra before reaching the bar.

    Secondly, my flabby arms are one of the things that I don't like about myself (like many people of course, there are lots of other little niggles that I am unhappy about, but let's not dwell on those!). So sleeves are perfect to hide these little arm imperfections, whether you have bingo wings, big arms, hairy armpits, pasty arms and other arm related issues! And sheer sleeves are even better in my opinion because they give the illusion of having your arms out, without actually revealing much detail. 

    And finally, after years of seeing people's shoulders out - strapless, little straps, complex straps, skinny spaghetti straps, boob tubes and the lot, it's actually lovely to see interesting shapes and textures being added on the arms and shoulders. My favourite is definitely any form of transparent fabric on the arms, whether it's a shape-holding organza for a bit of pouffiness, soft chiffon for boho flow, textured lace for a bit of a more classic look, or pretty embroidered tulle for a bit of quirkiness, I love them all.

    So as a little treat for myself, I made myself a dress for a Christmas party this year. And of course, it included big sleeves (I chose chiffon for a flowy style), velvet, and unsurprisingly for me, it was black. My husband bought me some sparkly shoes to match. And on my Christmas list this year, I've put a cute little star necklace... I'll have to wait and see if it will appear under the tree on Christmas morning!

    For now, wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a wonderful new year, and looking forward to seeing you in 2020!

    bespoke black velvet dress front  bespoke black velvet dress back


    Blue Lily Magnolia, Nantwich, Cheshire - makes bespoke dresses and accessories for formal occasions, weddings. For any queries on dress making or alterations, please contact Sharon on 07766766573, or email [email protected].

  3. The wedding season is in full swing, but 2019 is not yet over and still plenty of ladies and gents planning ahead for this year and next. Today in my little series of 'Let's talk about', which is about preparing for your wedding, I chat with Yifan Nairn from Yifan Nairn Designs, whom I have known for now over 15 years since our days at the School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University. Yifan and I, in a now distant memory, used to design and make wedding and formal dresses together, but we have now branched out into different areas. Yifan is passionate about helping independent women gain confidence and feel amazing about themselves by styling, designing and making outfits that show their personality. She has been in the fashion industry for over 20 years and has been designing and making bridal dresses in the last 5 years as well as providing colour analysis and wardrobe editing service to ladies who feel trapped in a style that doesn’t reflect who they truly are.

    The topic that we will cover this month is the tricky subject of picking a colour and style for your bridesmaids. If you're lucky enough to find that all your bridesmaids have similar skin tone, hair colour, and body shape, choosing bridemaids outfits is a breeze. In reality, most couples will end up with a range of silhouettes and skin/hair combinations, which in some cases can make it quite tricky for the bride (let's face it, most grooms don't get into the details of bridesmaids planning!). How do you make sure everyone looks and feels great? How do you get your bridesmaids to look amazing and happy next to you? Here are some questions I posed to Yifan:

    What are the popular colours at the moment for weddings and bridesmaids?
    2019 is all about bold colours if you have been paying attention to what’s selling in the shops. The wedding colour palette this year is a mixture of soft hues and pop of colours. The popular colours are Dusty Rose, Dusty Blue, Silver Sage, Mauve, Sunset, Rose/Wine and Yellow. It isn’t uncommon now that bridesmaids mix and match the colours and even different styles.

    What should brides consider when picking a colour theme for their bridesmaids?
    Most of you would book the venue first before carry on with anything else. The venue decides the atmosphere and theme for the whole event. First, I’d suggest you to consider the overall wedding colour theme based on where is the wedding reception is going to be. Is is an outdoor wedding? A barn? A castle? A hotel? The venue sets the tone for the overall wedding colour theme and what you choose for your bridesmaids should fit into the bigger picture. Secondly, consider which season is your wedding day going to be in. The background colours change massively from season to season which will effect how your wedding photo would look like. Last but not the least, make sure your bridesmaids are included in the decision about what colour dress they will be wearing. You do want them to smile on your wedding photos, don’t you? I often use to look for colour inspirations.

    How can they make sure everyone looks great in the choice being made?
    This question makes me laugh, thinking about the film ’27 Dresses’. If you realise you’re going to look at your wedding photos for the next 50+ years, you’d know the decision on bridesmaids dresses is just as important as choosing your own wedding dress. It’s a good idea to make these lovely ladies look and feel wonderful so that they smile even when they don’t think they’re being photographed! If you have more than two bridesmaids, it can be tricky to get everyone agree on one colour and style. You’re very lucky if you do! We all have different skin undertones, features, body shapes and personality. So if you struggle to agree on colours, consider to choose from one of these universal colours which means these colours suit just about everyone.
    - Teal
    - Purple
    - Emerald Turquoise
    - Lilac (or lavender)
    These colours are also perfect for gentlemen’s waistcoats, napkins, stationery, flowers etc.
    If you prefer all your bridesmaids to wear the same colour and you manage to agree on one, congratulations! Job’s almost done. If you've agreed on one colour, you can maybe be a little bit more relaxed about the style if your bridesmaids are more specific about the styles that suit them. I’d stick to either same colour with different styles or same style with different colours, otherwise it can look messy and hard to pull off.

    Can you share some basic colour rules for our readers?
    If you’re going for mixed colours for your bridesmaids dresses, I’d stay in the same tint, tone or shade. For example, lilac and sage go well together because they have similar level of white in them. If you’re choosing bold colours for the bridesmaids dresses, the same rule applies, try to keep them in the same shade. Always picture how the colours would look like with the backdrop. It’s like designing your own magazine cover. Make it fun!

    And for the final words, any advice for brides on choosing a style for their bridesmaids?
    There isn’t one style fits all magic pill because we all have different body shapes. Certain style looks fantastic on one bridesmaids might be the others’ worst nightmare. If you must choose only one style, wrap dress or empire dress style would be your best bet because they look okay on just about any body shapes. Try not to force a girl into a sleeveless dress when she’s conscious about her arms. In terms of necklines, halter neck has become
    popular but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. As long as you keep an element of unity, such as skirt length or colour, even with different necklines and silhouettes you’ll look fabulously put together.

    To contact Yifan, pop over to her website or email her directly at [email protected].

    Yifan1-min Yifan Nairn Colour Consultant

    Yifan Nairn Designs offers bespoke bridal party colour & style package. It’s a get-together mini party: bride, groom, mother of bride/groom, bridesmaids, best man, ushers etc. Along with some bubblies, you’ll be receiving advice on wedding colour theme, outfits colours on all bridal parties including hints and tips on jewellery, shoes, button-holes, flowers, make-up, hair accessories, handbags, hair colours etc.


    This blog is compiled by Blue Lily Magnolia, provider of bespoke and alteration services for wedding and bridesmaid dresses and accessories. Photography has been supplied by Yifan, with permission to share.