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My absolutely favorite fashion era is the Edwardian era.  The Edwardian era follows the Victorian period and begins at the death of Queen Victoria and the succession of her son, King Edward VII, corresponding with his reign and encompassing the years of 1901-1919.  At times, historians end the Edwardian period with the King’s death in 1910, but generally it is known to extend beyond his death and including the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the start of World War I in 1914 to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

The beginning of Edwardian era fashion still followed along Victorian fashion lines with leg-of-mutton sleeves, high collars, long skirts — all focusing on an hourglass silhouette.

Early Edwardian wedding gown and trousseau

Many gowns featured long trains and an abundance of beautiful fine lace and luxurious fabrics.  Women still wore corsets, but wore a “health” corset which gave women an S-curve shape, with a full low chest and curvy hips.

Early Edwardian wedding gown

Early Edwardian wedding gown

As the Edwardian era progressed, the high necks got lower and the silhouette became simpler and less full.

Edwardian wedding gown with a simpler silhouette

Edwardian wedding gown

Edwardian wedding gown

Edwardian wedding gown, back view

As the years went by, the sleeves became shorter.

Mid-Edwardian wedding with shorter sleeves

Mid-Edwardian wedding gown

Mid-Edwardian wedding gown

Following is one of my favorite Edwardian wedding gowns, this off-the-shoulder stunner from the Commodore Perry estate and currently for sale at Vintage Textile. I based the bodice of my own wedding gown on this beautiful dress.

Commodore Perry Estate wedding gown, 1908

Back view, Commodore Perry estate wedding gown

The mid-to-late Edwardian period began featuring robed gowns, either faux or with an overdress and cummerbunds or sashes.  This is where “Titanic Era” fashion begins to form with opulent, embellished gowns that are my absolute favorites.

Edwardian wedding gown with robe and sash

Front and back view of an Edwardian wedding gown with robe and sash

The Edwardian tea dress is a favorite of mine as well and lovely enough to be worn as a wedding gown.

Edwardian tea dress

I love the abundance of lace on these gowns paired with the short sleeves and slim silhouette.

Mid-to-Late Edwardian wedding gown

Mid-to-late Edwardian wedding gown

Mid-to-late Edwardian wedding gown

Bodice of mid-to-late Edwardian wedding gown

The Late Edwardian period epitomizes the “Gilded Age” with magnificent attention to details with embroidery, beadwork, lace and luscious textiles.

Bodice of late Edwardian wedding gown

Bodice of Late Edwardian wedding gown

Late Edwardian wedding gown

Bodice of late Edwardian bridesmaid dress, which definitely could double as a wedding gown

As the Edwardian era neared it’s end and the 1920’s came into view, hemlines were shortened and dresses became looser and women began to lose their corsets.

Late Edwardian wedding gown

Late Edwardian wedding gown

If you’re planning an Edwardian  inspired vintage wedding and aren’t lucky enough to posess an heirloom gown, you can either find an original or have one custom made.

Following are a few sites that feature original antique Edwardian gowns:

I’ve also found Edwardian gowns on Etsy and eBay, where it can be possible to get one for a good deal.  I hear others talk about finding them in thrift stores and consignment shops, but I’ve never seen any in my area (although I continue to look!).
As antique gowns are generally very small and most likely in past perfect condition, you are probably better off having a gown custom-made.  If you’re going that route, gather photos of your favorite dresses and highlight what features that you love the most.  Talk with your dressmaker about your vision and make sure that you receive sketches of gown designs.  Ensure that you discuss materials and fabrics and that you see samples and swatches.  It can be difficult these days to find lace of the quality used in Edwardian gowns, so it may take your dressmaker some time to locate.  If you want to mirror Edwardian gowns, be prepared to pay more as most Edwardian era gowns are fashioned of silk fabrics.  Synthetic fabrics can be used for cost-effective alternatives, but will not have the same luxuriousness and opulence of an Edwardian gown.
If you’re wondering about the best way to find a dressmaker for your custom gown, start by doing online searches and asking at local fabric stores or a local alterations shop.  An Edwardian gown can be more tedious, so ensure that your dressmaker is capable of creating such a gown.
And as always, I am available to create the vintage gown of your dreams! Visit my website – tanyamaile.com (launching at the end of February 2012) or email me:  tanya@tanyamaile.com.

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