One advantage of a vintage wedding dress is that it need not be an actual wedding gown. It can simply be a charming white dress that reflects the period in which it was designed. Nor are you limited to a white dress. With a vintage wedding dress, you can more easily get away with color, since you have already wandered from the path of tradition.
In the 1940's, for example, rationing and shortages meant that many couples got married in outfits having nothing to do with tradition. The men dressed in service uniforms, while many women chose a military-style suit, something they could continue to wear after the wedding. So, a vintage 1940s wedding dress might actually be a military-style suit! The fun thing about vintage is that you can use it to express yourself in many different ways.
If you have your heart set on a vintage wedding dress, decide exactly what you want. If you don't know, open a fashion magazine and do some research to find the look you relate to most. Once you've nailed down the period and style you want, you can begin your search. Start early! You may luck into the perfect dress immediately, but chances are it will take awhile before you find just the right thing.
Check with consignment, thrift, vintage, antique and online shops for dresses and jewelry that might fit the bill. Even if they only come close, it may be worth your while to have them altered to more closely resemble your vision.
E-bay is a good source for vintage wedding dresses, and don't forget to ask the people you know. Many women keep their wedding dresses all their lives, packing them away without ever thinking of them again. If you can match the style you seek with a woman who wore a dress from the same era, she may be willing to sell it to you. Even with a few alterations, you will still pay less than you would if you bought it retail.
Keep in mind that vintage dress sizes differ from dress sizes today. Someone who now wears a size 0 may have required a size 5 back then. Also, people are taller, so the dress you find on e-bay may be too short and too tight. Before you buy a vintage dress online, take your measurements carefully and make sure they match those of the dress before you order.
You can consult a seamstress, or even with someone you know who can sew and would like to earn some money by helping you out. With a seamstress, your dress can be made-to-order using new fabrics that rival the real thing.
Another option is to buy a vintage wedding dress reproduction. Check with bridal shops to see if any offer reproductions and, if so, the kind of reproductions they offer. You can also post ads online, including Craigslist, for free.
Finally, don't get discouraged. The vintage wedding dress of your dreams is probably out there somewhere. If you start your search early and persevere, you will probably find what you want and maybe something even better.