Wedding fashion: The magic of vintage

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Since it opened in York two years ago, Glory Days vintage wedding shop has found extraordinary success. Stephanie Smith talks to its owner Hayley Neil.

THERE is a magic to vintage wedding dresses – magic and history. Which is exactly what many modern brides are looking to capture for their special day.

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

Hayley Neil realised this when she was trying to help her sister Kate find the 60s prom-style wedding dress of her dreams. They couldn’t find one locally, so went to London. “It was on that trip that I had the epiphany,” Hayley says. “Standing in one of the shops. I thought, ‘Ah, a gap in the market’.”

Hayley is passionate about vintage clothes and has worn them “forever”.

“There’s a real magic to them,” she says. “The fabrics are much better quality than most of the stuff you get nowadays. From a technical point of view, it’s the cut of them that’s so different. So much modern stuff relies on elasticated fabrics, and they didn’t really have that then, so a lot of them are so ingeniously cut to make use of the fabrics, and I think it makes for a more interesting garment.”

Two years ago, Hayley opened Glory Days, her vintage wedding dress shop on Walmgate in York, naming it after the Pulp song she walked down the aisle to when she married her husband, Matthew Punton, seven years ago. For this wedding, Hayley, a trained costume designer, made both her own Edwardian-style dress and Matthew’s three-piece suit.

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

Now 31 and living in Howden, East Yorkshire, Hayley grew up in Cowick in Snaith, trained in costume design at Edinburgh Art College, then worked in theatrical costume-makers Homburgs in Leeds before going freelance, making and designing costumes for theatre, film and TV. She’s worked on The King’s Speech, for Warp Films in Sheffield and also for the music industry, last year styling Jake Bugg for the video of his song Slumville Sunrise (in a comedy shell suit).

The best place she has ever worked, she says, is the West Yorkshire Playhouse. “Their standards are so high. I learned so much. I have not worked with anyone in film, TV or theatre with better standards than the people there.”

Such is the success of Glory Days, Hayley has little time now for film and theatre. When she started the shop, she stocked both general vintage clothing and wedding attire, but it’s the wedding side that has really taken off.

“They are all so different,” she says of the dresses, adding that brides looking for something different or unusual find it difficult in an average wedding shop, where dresses can be rather “samey”. Vintage dresses, she points out, are cheaper and better for the environment, because they’re not shipped in from overseas.

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

Replica wedding dress by Hayley Neil

With prices ranging from £200-£650, Glory Days’ vintage wedding gowns are indeed a great deal cheaper than most 
new ones. Many come with their 
original headpieces and veils – again, at £50-£100, these are much cheaper than new.

She sources dresses from dealers, the internet and has an aunt in America who helps source too. “Sometimes people bring them into the shop, which is lovely because generally that means it’s a personal one, either their own or their mum’s, and sometimes they have a picture of the original bride, which is amazing.”

Customers come from far and wide, especially Scotland and the North East, and brides-to-be who come up for the day from London for fittings.

Not every bride, however, can squeeze into an original vintage gown – and it is here that Hayley’s couture expertise offers solutions. “It’s very rare to get a vintage dress in more than a size 16, so that’s the biggest problem,” she says. “But then it’s nice that I can offer the bespoke service, so people can have any dress replicated.”

Not only can Hayley can make a replica of any dress, she can also make ingenious alterations to original gowns. Bespoke prices start at £800 plus fabric and the process can take about six months.

Gowns from the 1930s (long, satin and bias-cut) and 50s (shorter lace prom-style dresses) are most popular, she says, and last year’s release of The Great Gatsby led to a rise in 20s-style dresses. Then there are the narrower styles of the 40s and the floaty, hippy styles of the 1970s.

Something for everyone. And, as Hayley says: “Every dress is different.”

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ

Glory Days Vintage is at 22 Walmgate in York. See Hayley will be taking part in the Festival of Vintage at York Racecourse, April 27-28,