a real vintage wedding masterclass

Mela Mela is one of my favourite shops; an independent vintage boutique, founded by Mel Ellis. Everything sold is original and authentic vintage. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful, shiny and pretty things, which leaves my self-control in shreds! And unlike some other stores around, they don’t exploit the modern fascination with all-things-vintage and charge ridiculous prices.

They have a vast collection of vintage jewellery; with an array of both costume and precious-stone pieces, lining the cabinets. They also have a great selection of beautiful clothes, bags and quirky accessories, from the 1920s and beyond. As well as their beautiful jewellery (great for something old, new or blue), I’m delighted to announce that Mela Mela also stock bridal wear! They have a selection of vintage wedding dresses, veils and head-pieces, as well as the extra-special vintage styling touches, such as lace gloves, clutch bags and intricate shawls.

If you happen to find it difficult to pop into their Teddington based store (in South West London), then have no fear as you can buy selected items online. And even then if you can’t find what you’re looking for or need advice, the lovely Mela Mela ladies will be happy to discuss any requirements you may have, over the phone or via email . I got in touch and asked owner, Mel Ellis (vintage expert and enthusiast extraordinaire!), to share advice and her top tips, for incorporating genuine, vintage styling into your wedding day. Let the masterclass commence…

Where did your passion for vintage come from? And how was Mela Mela born?

My mother was a wonderful seamstress and used to make her own evening gowns and hats in the 1930s and 40s using luxurious fabrics, sequins, jet and beading. When she moved out of our family home they ‘disappeared’ in the move. Sadly, she died soon after and I have been trying to recreate her wardrobe, by buying vintage pieces, ever since. The collection got so huge that Mela Mela was born!

I opened the shop in April 2008. I wanted it to be more like a high end boutique than a smelly vintage jumble shop. I look for vintage pieces that fit into today’s world and that have a valid place amongst current fashion trends. As Bruce Oldfield put it in 1986 ‘Fashion is more usually a gentle progression of revisited ideas’.

For me it’s not all about design names, but more about beautiful vintage pieces, which have secret histories all of their own. I am very particular about quality and condition and everything is laundered and restored to the best of our ability, before it hits the shop floor. Sometimes I buy odd and quirky items because I find them irresistible and they sell very quickly! Of course none of this would be possible without my Mela Mela team, who share my dream and passion for vintage.

What advice would you give to brides who are on the hunt for genuine, vintage wedding accessories?

Accessories are always best bought after you’ve chosen your dress. Vintage shoes, in particular, are difficult to find. Therefore if you see a pair you like and they fit, don’t hesitate, buy immediately! Find something that is comfortable and wear them in a little before the big day.

With headdresses the decisions you will have to make are; do you want a veil? If so, long or short? What sort of headdresses are you thinking about? Tiara, hat, Juliet cap, floral (wax or silk), bands, fascinators, pearl or bead trimmed.

When choosing your wedding jewellery, buy something unique and wonderful that will always remind you of your special day. Diamante and pearls are traditional but you could always include Sapphires as your Something Blue.

Do you have any do’s and don’ts for brides-to-be, who are looking for or considering, buying a real vintage dress?

Do’s:

Try on as many dresses as you can.

Keep an open mind: try on long and short and all colours and shapes. Vintage bridal dresses range in colour from pink and blue to the more traditional ivory and white.

Don’t wear makeup when trying vintage dresses on, as its very hard and costly to remove.

Wear suitable underwear and bring a pair of heels.

Don’ts:

Don’t get fixated on a certain shape or style, because there is a good chance the one you least expected to love will probably look stunning and suit you best.

Don’t buy a dress with a stain on it because if the shop has not been able to remove it you probably won’t be able to either.

Don’t worry if a dress does not fit perfectly, as if you are buying from a good vintage shop, they will have an experienced seamstress on hand, to overcome minor sizing issues.

Never think you can slim into a wedding dress.

What advice do you have for people wanting to buy vintage wedding gifts or for couples who are considering vintage style favours?

Vintage style favours are a great idea, as your guests will have a memory to take away and adds tradition to your vintage style wedding day.

Something old: small diamante brooches and jewellery, pearls, silver sixpence.

Something new: flower and rice confetti, handmade chocolates, personalised initial/heart short breads and cookies, vintage style floral bath bombs, handmade lavender bags, calico embroidered hearts, lustre vases.

Something blue: vintage flowers, vintage lace garter, blue hair adornments.

For wedding gifts, if you are looking for something with a vintage feel here are some of my suggestions: antique champagne glasses, vintage beaded bags, vintage French floral mirrors, dressing table sets, perfume bottles, figurines, 50s/60s shot glasses, silver pin dishes, antique linen, antique silver compacts, silver pill boxes and cufflinks for the men.

(I’m not just saying this, but notonthehighstreet.com have some lovely vintage favour ideas!).

Finally, what is your favourite vintage wedding piece, that you have in stock at the moment?

An exquisite and rare 1920s ivory coloured Ostrich Feather and Tortoise Shell Fan, boxed with an invitation:

“The Lord Chamberlain is commanded by her Majesties to summon” the owner “to a Court at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 25th June 1925 at 9.30 o’clock pm”.

The invite also instructed ladies to dress in the following, “Court dress with feathers and trains”, and the men to wear: “Full court dress”.

How times have changed! This fan would also make a beautiful wedding accessory.

Thank you so much to Mel, who took the time out to speak with us and impart such sterling advice. Hopefully you’ve found it helpful and are now inspired to inject some vintage charm into your wedding styling!

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