A woman stands before a mirror and runs her hands over the tulle of her skirt. She sways from side to side, imagining how she would look during their first dance. This is what she’ll wear when she marries the love of her life.

After the big day is over, the dress is dry-cleaned, wrapped up and left to hang in the back of a wardrobe forever.

Lucy Slater, the owner of new Fitzroy store Era Vintage Bride, is digging up these lost dresses so they can be loved all over again.

But before doors opened on Brunswick Street, Slater went hunting for the perfect dresses. “It was a really long time in the making,” she says. “I moved to New Orleans to build up inventory and get supplies, because you need US suppliers if you’re doing vintage.” And it wasn’t without its difficulties. “When I went over, I was hoping I’d find a wholesaler but the problem with wedding dresses is that you really only have one in your life time.” She laughs, “Maybe two.” Slater spent just under a year and half scouring the States. She came home with a list of 25 retailers and a plethora of gowns.

Your wedding is the one day in your life where extravagance is almost expected. So why would anyone choose to wear a pre-owned dress? Slater puts it down to a few reasons. “Lots of the vintage bridal dresses were handmade so they have really amazing finishes that you don’t get in commercial garments. The fabrics are also incredible and they are so much cheaper.” Most of all, a vintage dress is unique. “When you buy a commercial gown, it’s not just yours. Whereas, these ones, I feel, are. You’re not really going to see anyone else in them.”

Slater stocks vintage garments from as early as the 1920s right through to the 1980s. There are some big-name designers on the rack: Nat Kaplan, Emma Domb and Malcolm Starr. While Victorian gowns have proved to be very popular, Slater prefers a bit of bling, herself. “I’m quite partial to anything with sequins and rhinestones.” There are all the accessories you’ll need for the big day too: rhinestone jewellery, crowns, shawls and furs.

If a dress doesn’t quite fit, or you’d prefer it in a different colour, the store also offers a remake service. An important convenience considering that 1920s-style dresses “are not very flattering on about 90 per cent of female bodies,” according to Slater. You can even have a bridesmaid’s dress copied if there is only one in store.

Era Vintage Bride
61 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
0434 571 292

Mon & Tues Appointment only
Wed to Sun 11am–6pm