Custom Made Wedding Dresses - Wartime Variations

Today we tend to think of custom made wedding dresses as the ultimate in luxury and self-expression - but in past times they were more of a necessity than a luxury.

In the 1940s, both during and after the Second World War, virtually nothing was available for anything other than progressing the war. Even after 1945, rationing continued for many years and many fabrics and accessories remained hard to come by, or entirely unavailable. So, many women simply didn't have the option of buying an off-the-peg wedding dress and had to use imagination to create what was, essentially, their own custom made wedding dresses. Just a few years ago, our grandmothers were resorting to some extraordinary steps:

• Some claim to have got hold of parachute silk 'somehow' and used it for their dress - though some people say this was myth or rumour.

• A lot of old dresses from mothers and relatives dating back to the 1920s were hastily dug out of the mothballs and re-cycled, with a bit cut off here and there to try and update them to 1940s fashion (V necks and lapels basically).

• Some custom made wedding dresses of the period had previously been much-loved and used 'Sunday best' white tablecloths - many brides claim that nobody could tell the difference!

• Old (and by then old-fashioned) chandelier light fittings and the old 'lustres' from light fittings, were robbed of their glass and crystal beads and hey-presto, that wedding dress had beads and other decorations.

• Lace frills from undergarments were cut off and used for trims on the dress.

• Black shoes were sometimes painted white.

• Hard as it may be to believe, some women claimed to have pressed tissue paper (itself difficult to come by) into service as part of their wedding dress apparel - they must also have presumably hoped against hope that it didn't rain!

• The linings from the backs of curtains were stripped out to make what must have been an 'approximately' white dress.

So, what's the message from this? We know our ancestors went through hardships that would seem unthinkable to us today, yet against all that they continued to try and express their individuality on that very special day. Was it necessary? Would anyone have minded if, given wartime conditions, they had not had something that resembled a wedding dress?

One has to assume not - yet the fact that so many tried just indicates how special a dress is to many brides.

Today, custom made wedding dresses may still make the day just that little bit more special - and you won't have to start dismantling light shades to make it happen!