By Helen Le Caplain
A thrifty bride wowed her wedding guests with a stunning vintage lace dress – which she bought from a CAR BOOT SALE for just £30.
Inspired by old-school Hollywood glamour, vintage clothing lover Charlotte Dymock-Newton dreamed of wearing a dress worn by the likes of Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
So when the HR business partner was rifling through rails at The Vintage Classic Car Boot Sale in London last September her eyes lit up when she spotted a white lace dress hanging up at one stall.
Undeterred by its many large yellow and brown stains, tatty-looking bow and tiny tears on the lace, Charlotte slipped it on and was stunned to find the full-length 1950s gown fit her like a glove.
Originally priced at £50, bargain lover Charlotte, 38, drove down the asking price and carried her dream ‘Cinderella’ dress home for £30 – less than the price shoppers usually pay for a high street frock.
Charlotte from Chiswick, west London, said: “I had an idea in my head of what I was looking for. I wanted a dress like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell wore in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
“I usually buy clothes from charity shops, eBay and Etsy. I also sew a lot of my own clothes and expected I would make my wedding dress.
“When I went to this car boot sale in King’s Cross I knew the wedding was coming up and I saw the dress on a hanger.
“It looked around my size, a modern size 12, and threw it on for a laugh as it was just what I was looking for.
“I was stunned when I got it on and it fit perfectly, something unusual when you have a bigger bust.
“It was a magical Cinderella moment to find a vintage dress that fit like a glove, the length I wanted and at this price point – everything came together.
“My friends said ‘you can’t not buy this’ so I went to the stallholder but I only had £30 in cash left which they eventually accepted.”
The bespoke gown is believed to be from the late 1950s due to its style, construction and features including the pointed cuffs.
Mother of the bride Janet Cucksey, 69, undertook the daunting six-week task of transforming the stained and dog-eared gown into a dress worthy of sashaying down the aisle in.
Charlotte, who married partner of five years Will Newton earlier this month, said: “I’m the opposite of a bridezilla, I’m used to having to take garments apart entirely so knowing what needed to be done didn’t faze me at all, instead I felt a flutter of excitement.
“My mum was terribly nervous, but my thinking was that worst-case scenario it was £30 gone and I had plenty of time to arrange something else.
“Having bought the dress in September, it took my mum months to work up the courage to wash it.
“However, she finally bit the bullet in April with advice from family friend Susan Smith who is a textile conservationist.”
The first stage involved taking the dress apart, removing the satin bow and marking where to re-attach it.
The three separate layers – lace, taffeta and linen underskirt – were then washed using an £8 shampoo imported from the US which is ordinarily used to gently clean antique quilts.
Charlotte said: “My mum soaked the dress in the bath and nervously checked on it hourly for the first day.
“The dress spent most of the week in the bath with a further three changes to the water.
“In the meantime she and my step-father were relegated to their en-suite for washing.”
But it wasn’t just the washing that proved a challenge. As Janet tried to lift the delicate water-logged dress out of the bath she put her finger through the lace and was concerned for the rest of the dress.
Janet along with pal Susan gently lifted it out of the bath, cocooned it in a duvet cover and put it on a gentle spin cycle to drain.
It was then left for the day to fully dry in the airing cupboard. Once dry the lace was carefully inspected and repairs were carried out to 40 tears and breaks in the lace using a combination of hand-stitching and iron-on gauze.
It then took both Charlotte and Janet to hold the dress down and carefully press it with an iron before reattaching the satin bow.
Charlotte said: “The restoration process took about six weeks and throughout it there was no way to gauge whether it had shrunk or not until trying it on again.
“On May 12 I tried it on and it fit perfectly. It was the perfect length for my 5ft 5 frame and with little heels it just skimmed the floor.
“Mummy said she had tears in her eyes because seeing it all pristine and fresh was magical.
“It was also out of sheer relief that it had worked out.
“I knew that Will would love the dress. It’s very, very classic which is not necessarily my usual quirky vintage style.
“I was really excited and so happy with the way the dress had turned out. I felt like a princess.”
The couple exchanged vows at a Midsummer Nights’ Dream themed wedding at Usk Castle in South Wales surrounded by 80 friends and family on July 14.
The wedding was completely self-catered thanks to help from Janet’s friends who rustled up food for the entire wedding for £1,200 – just £15 a head.
Charlotte said: “The whole day was just magical, I’m delighted with how the dress turned out.
“I wore a little antique flower crown tiara too which was another car boot sale find from a few years ago, that also cost £30.
“I finished it off with a pair of Miss L Fire shoes which I already had.
“Everything about the day came together perfectly, it was just magical.”
User experience designer Will, who wore a £700 grey wedding suit and a Thomas Pink shirt, said he was bowled over by how stunning Charlotte looked on their big day.
Will, 41, said: “I knew the dress would be vintage, gorgeous and unique but I didn’t know it would be that gorgeous.
“I’d heard it mentioned that it was from a car boot sale before our wedding day.
“You don’t normally put the two things together but I wasn’t worried as she’s forever bringing in mouldy things from vintage shops and transforming them into amazing creations.
“When I saw her walk down the aisle I felt like the luckiest man in the world.”
WHAT THE BRIDE WORE
Vintage wedding gown (from car boot sale) – £30
Vintage floral crown tiara (from car boot sale) – £30
Miss L-Fire shoes (already owned) – £90
TOTAL = £150
WHAT THE GROOM WORE
Wedding suit – £700
Thomas Pink shirt – £100
Dance shoes – £100
TOTAL = £900