It was foreseeable for a long time. Vintage, upcycling and recycling fashion – always the relevant sustainability talk – is celebrating its bridal debut. “Weddings have changed radically in the past year,” Maison Sully founder Melissa Sullivan told TZR. “With micro-weddings and courthouse weddings, people have become very creative with their clothes. Brides have become more open-minded.” Sullivan’s company offers an ever-evolving processing of vintage wedding dresses with an emphasis on handcrafted adjustments. The Maison Sully is located in Los Angeles and the personal studio is in the garden of a private residence in Silverlake.

She chose the right time to open a vintage bridal studio. Aside from the fact that sustainable fashion is at the forefront of the dialogue about climate change, the section of the population advocating vintage clothing – Gen Z – is likely not married yet and will be looking for a wedding dress soon enough. According to Trendalytics, there are an average of 15,000 weekly searches for “vintage wedding dresses”, an increase of 66% over the previous year. And although there have always been ways to get a wedding dress you loved, at this moment it seems as if this decision is finally becoming more and more common.

The Maison Sully Atelier in Silverlake, California. Photo: Jack Seikaly

Sullivan’s background is event production and wedding planning. She graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City with a degree in business. But her talent for collecting vintage started much earlier. “I’m a military brat and I would go out selling real estate with my mom if we move from place to place,” she says. “Finding those little treasures and collecting vintage is something I’ve always loved.” Five years ago she found herself in a small shop with a big idea. “I went to a vintage store with a friend and we found this 1960s wedding dress that was really beautiful. I had just started dating, but I certainly wasn’t getting engaged anytime soon, but we laughed and said, ‘ Oh, maybe I should start collecting wedding dresses – that’s how I did it, “she says. She has been collecting vintage wedding dresses for the past five years and finally had time to work on the project after the pandemic.

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

Sullivan sources pieces that span several decades, starting in the 30s but with an emphasis on the mod and disco eras of the 1960s and 1970s. “Clean lines with bold accents are my opinion at the time,” she says. She nods to icons like Priscilla Presley and Bianca Jagger as inspiration. As her processing is constantly growing, she procures continuously and this process is also evolving. “It’s completely random. Now that I’ve brought this into the universe, people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, do you want my mother’s suit that she wore to her wedding?’ or “that’s really weird, but I have a bag of shoes from my grandmother that I wanted to sell, but I never really got around to it,” and it’s all those vintage Chanel shoes in perfect condition, “she shares. “I think specializing in wedding dresses helps. Occasionally for most vintage retailers [bridal] Piece will come, but it’s hard for them to sell because their clientele doesn’t necessarily come to them, so it’s a bit of sharing inventory [with other vintage dealers] also.”

Dana Ferraro

There are two ways Sullivan approaches the studio. First she sells pieces that she has already collected. Second, work hand in hand with a bride to take a look. “It’s a fun challenge to interpret her modern day inspirational images, find something older and different, and tailor it to her vision,” she says. A recent example of this was a bride who came up to her with Zoe Kravitz’s brief glance at the bridal wheel she was wearing to her rehearsal dinner (if you don’t know, look up right away because it’s so good). “She said, ‘I really want everything to be vintage, but I can’t stop thinking about this look and I don’t know what it means, but I’m open-minded.’ So I could find her this really cute lace dress from the 1970s with those bell sleeves, it was very sparkling and metallic and had the essence of that short biker moment, “she says. “I think a lot of brides who are naturally vintage shopping are a bit open-minded, so I really enjoy that aspect.”

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

Another fluid component of Maison Sully is sizing, which is known not to be inclusive in the vintage range. “I actively try to get a variety of sizes, but when I collect things I keep thinking about what it can be,” she says. An example of this is a Mary McFadden dress that she purchased. “It was beautiful and had that iconic white pleated fabric, but the sleeves were awfully ugly so I thought, OK, that’s great because it’s bigger and the base fabric is really nice. I could take the sleeves off and turn them into little purses , and then you make a nice size 14 dress, “she says. “Or take the fabric apart and use two pieces of two different clothes to make something.”

Dana Ferraro

Sustainability, uniqueness, and inclusivity aside, vintage bridal wear has an innate romantic quality that is difficult to reproduce. “It’s like wearing a piece of history,” explains Sullivan. “It already has a soul, then you give it to yourself. I love learning about the history of a piece, how it was acquired and who wore it. It just feels special in a completely different way.”

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

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Dana Ferraro

If you’re looking to explore vintage options, email is the best way to start the process ([email protected]) and schedule a quick consultation to discuss safety procedures, style preferences, and sizes. At this point, masks (other than taking photos) and social distancing are required during the appointment, and you can bring up to two guests. “It’s so nice to be out in the studio, it feels really calm and peaceful,” says Sullivan. “There are butterflies and hummingbirds … it’s a dreamy, quiet place to be.”

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