Whitby-based Annabel Beeforth’s search for a wedding gown changed her life. Stephanie Smith reports.
No bride wants to imagine herself looking back at her wedding album, say in 10 or 20 years, and thinking, “What WAS I wearing?”
All the same, it happens. Indeed, it’s a far more common experience than many brides might realise, as they exhaust themselves in their search for the perfect dress.
“The feelings a woman experiences on finding THE wedding dress are a mix of excitement, exhilaration, wonderment and awe,” says Whitby-based wedding style expert Annabel Beeforth. “If you could bottle the feeling, you’d be a sure-fire millionaire.”
But fashions come and go … unless, that is, you go for something with timeless appeal – and many modern brides are finding that vintage holds the key.
For Annabel, the search for her own wedding dress led to a complete career change, beginning with a 15-month journey as she planned her own nuptials in 2009. She was living in Gateshead and working as an administrator at Northumbria University in Newcastle when Philip proposed on Christmas Eve 2007. Immediately, thoughts turned to the dress.
“I wanted something that would flatter me, with Hollywood glamour, sweeping, floor-length,” she says. After much research, she chose a Jenny Packham gown that was new, but inspired by the 1930s. “I was drawn to that very slinky, silky aesthetic.”
The hunt inspired her to write a blog – Love My Dress – all about vintage and vintage-style wedding dresses, and where to find them, plus lots of other vintage ideas for nuptials. Soon, brides were sending in photos and wedding suppliers were wanting to sponsor and advertise. In 2011, Annabel, 38, left her university job to concentrate on the blog. Last year she moved from Gateshead to just outside Whitby with her husband, Philip, a gardener with his own business, and their two daughters, Eska, seven, and Leonora, two.
“Philip grew up near Whitby and we came to spend romantic weekends here,” Annabel says. “We wanted to get married here and retire here, but you realise that you shouldn’t put off life.” Eska’s name was inspired by the river that empties into the North Sea at Whitby.
Philip is a fashion design graduate. “He has heavily influenced my approach. I have a much better understanding of the aesthetics and how it all works,” Annabel says. Her blog is visited by 250,000 readers a month, mostly brides looking for inspiration. “We are part of the wedding industry, with me going to fairs now,” she says.
Annabel has also written a book on weddings as part of the Style Me Vintage series. In it, she highlights dresses, accessories and other wedding ideas inspired by eras from the Edwardian through the Twenties to the Seventies. The Twenties is very popular right now, thanks to The Great Gatsby film release. “There’s Gatsby fever, and a lot of brides are influenced by that, wanting beautiful, sparkling, beaded dresses and head pieces.”
Certain era looks tend to favour particular body shapes, says Annabel. “The more loose, dropped-waist looks of the 1920s tend to better suit a more slender frame and smaller bust; the fluid, bias-cut styles of the 1930s suit tall slender figures, but also look amazing on curves; and the fuller-skirted, layered petticoat look that became popular in the 1950s will flatter the fuller figure.”
As most vintage wedding dresses were produced before mass commercial manufacture, the craftsmanship and attention to detail can be exquisite, yet they are usually far cheaper than modern day new dresses, although some designer vintage bridal gowns, whose provenance can be traced, can be very expensive indeed – quite an investment.
Annabel says: “Given that a wedding dress is probably the most expensive item of clothing most women will ever buy, it holds great emotional significance. It will steal the limelight on the wedding day and be talked about for years after.”
Style Me Vintage Weddings, by Annabel Beeforth, is published by Pavilion at £14.99. Love My Dress is at www.lovemydress.net