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Will the royal bride follow vintage trend?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 April 2011 | UPDATED: 12:10 27 April 2011

Bride to be Alice Dalton, left, has her vintage style wedding dress altered by fashion designer, Clair Read, who designed the dress. Picture: Denise Bradley

Bride to be Alice Dalton, left, has her vintage style wedding dress altered by fashion designer, Clair Read, who designed the dress. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

Speculation over who is the designer behind Kate Middleton’s wedding dress has also thrown up another conundrum – will she opt for a modern or vintage style? Emma Harrowing discovers that Norfolk brides are choosing one fashion designer in Norwich known for her signature vintage style to design their dress for their big day.

When fashion designer Claire Read’s Doris Day dress sashayed down the catwalk at Norwich Fashion Week in February the mix of 1950s style with a 1940s floral print sent those with a love of fashion into a frenzy as they rushed out to buy the dress in their chosen vintage fabric. The dress had already made it into the style archives of international style bible Cosmopolitan propelling it to become this year’s must-have item.

As the bookmakers speculate over whether Alexandre McQueen’s Sarah Burton, Jasper Conran or founder of the Libelula studio Sophie Cranston, whose father James Cranston is a farmer in Norfolk, will design the wedding dress of the year, Claire Read’s label Poppy Valentine is proving popular with Norfolk brides looking for vintage style.

“This year I’ve had many brides asking me to design their wedding dress using vintage fabric and in a retro style,” says Claire who owns Poppy Valentine in the Royal Arcade in Norwich.

“I’ve recently had an order to make eight vintage inspired bridesmaid dresses after the vintage wedding fair took place in St Andrew’s Hall. Vintage style weddings are definitely proving popular this year.”

Claire makes her dresses from vintage fabrics she has been collecting for over 25 years. From her studio above her small boutique, Claire works with vintage fabric to make dresses, skirts, bags and her 1940s-style shorts, which are new to the Poppy Valentine collection this season.

However, it is her dresses that are the most sought after item and brides can choose from dresses made from the feminine floral fabric of the 1940s, simple brocade fabric right through to the psychedelic swirls of the 1970s. Each dress is bespoke and due to the limited amount of each vintage fabric available is often a one-off.

“All of my designs are made from vintage fabric and my designs are inspired by styles from the past,” says Claire. “My love of the environment and British heritage is very important to me and for this reason I only use fabric made in the UK.”

Some brides-to-be choose designs that are already made and are on display in the Royal Arcade boutique and others want their dress specially made. Claire is happy to do both and can alter any dress currently for sale in her shop so that it fits like a glove.

It is the individuality of the dress designs that appealed to bride Hilary Hawkins from Norwich. She wore the Doris Day dress made from a gold brocade vintage fabric for her wedding day at St Giles House Hotel in Norwich last weekend.

“I’m not really into the whole vintage look but when I spotted the Doris Day dress in the window of Poppy Valentine I immediately fell in love with the style and knew that this was the type of dress I wanted to wear for my wedding day,” says Hilary.

“I am quite a large person and so I was worried that the dress wouldn’t fit, especially when Claire said that her off the peg designs only went up to a size 14. However, she told me that she could make a Doris Day dress in a size to fit me.

“I didn’t have any idea as to what fabric I wanted the dress made out of and so I left it all to Claire. She sent me a sample of vintage cream and gold brocade fabric and I loved it straight away. The dress made me feel like a princess and I almost cried when I first saw myself in it.

“Everything for my wedding day was sourced locally and I love that my wedding dress was made in Norwich.”

Claire doesn’t just use vintage fabrics in her designs. Occasionally people will come into the shop and ask Claire to design a dress from fabric they have found themselves, like bride-to-be Alice Dalton from Newmarket.

Says Alice: “I didn’t want an off-the-peg dress or one from a catalogue, I wanted a dress that was a one-off and personal to me. When I went to see Claire she let me dictate the design and offered guidance where needed.”

Alice is not getting married until May and so details of her dress are very much under wraps. However, her fiancé picked the fabric for her dress which is a heavy cream silk embroidered with small red poppies.

“I wanted a simple dress with a vintage feel as we are having a small church wedding followed by a band and afternoon tea in a barn, therefore a contemporary wedding dress just wouldn’t suit,” says Alice.

“I have never had a dress that fits so perfectly, each part of the dress from the neckline to where the waistband sits have been perfectly adjusted to suit my shape and I just know that I will not only look good but I will also feel comfortable and will be able to dance to my heart’s content!”

So does Claire think that Kate Middleton will choose a vintage inspired dress for her wedding? Claire laughs: “I haven’t got a clue, but as Kate is considered a style icon a vintage inspired dress would be perfect for her. Whatever the design hopefully it will be something that’s designed and made in England. She’s in a position of great influence and should use it to showcase UK fashion design and manufacturing.”

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