Something old, something new: A guest blog by Jan Knibbs

Did anyone get engaged recently? Whether you are frantically planning your wedding, or simply keeping an eye out for ideas, here are a few ways in which you can incorporate some of your family history into your wedding dress. Intrigued? Read on.

We live in an age of mass production, surrounded by a throw-away society. What better time to counteract this than on your own wedding day?

It’s the one day for which you can customise a unique look to showcase your true personality and heritage. Something that screams “This is Me. This is where I come from. These are my roots, beliefs and principles.”

The first thing to do is to investigate what items have been saved by family members from past weddings.

Your mum may still have her dress or veil or your aunt or grandmother may have some lovely pieces of vintage jewellery stashed away somewhere. They may not be to your taste just yet, but they can be upcycled or incorporated into something beautiful and unique.

Wedding dresses can be turned into accessories, garters and jewellery for a fun twist on tradition.

Lace veils are perfect to turn into an embellished hairpiece. Put all your creativity to work here.

Vintage jewellery can be showcased beautifully in a tiara for someone who wants a little sparkle in their hair.


You may be handy with a needle and thread and decide to make your own outfit, but if not, help is at hand at my shop “Atelier 19” in Cheltenham. Over the years I’ve developed a signature style of embroidery. Combine that with with vintage finds and we’re well on the way of creating your dream dress.

Did you know that it is possible to customise all your accessories to match?

We have a lovely selection of handmade shoes as part of our label “Something old…something new”, named after that age old bridal saying.

Even if you already have your dress, I can add any embellishment to it. Your favourite flowers, your names, the date of the wedding or even a favourite poem. The sky’s the limit!

I often work with milliner Gemma Sangwine whose pieces are stocked in “Atelier 19”. Gemma also takes vintage elements such as brooches, feathers and millinery haberdashery to make new and unique headwear.

We can create a complete wedding outfit, often incorporating your personal vintage treasures (or pieces that we have have collected over the years).

Let me give you a real life example. This was done for my son’s wedding two years ago

His bride to be wanted me to be involved in the process and although she already had her dress, she asked me to create her headdress. She found her mother’s veil of which she had fond memories, having dressed up in as a child and wondered if it could be salvaged even though it had seen better days.

I soon realised that I could cut out leaf shapes from the lace and rearrange them to create a machine-embroidered base that could be embellished with hand embroidery and beadwork.

I also created neckpieces, sashes and hair accessories for all the bridesmaids, and as I wanted to tie in with the colour scheme (being the mother of the groom), Gemma and I collaborated on a hairpiece incorporating my silk and ribbon flowers with vintage lace and jewellery from our own collections (which as you can imagine are pretty extensive).

So, as you see, there are many ways of staying true to your ethical principles at your wedding and whilst there are many things you can do yourself, help is at hand from ethically minded designers too.

Don’t be afraid of suggesting things and telling the designers exactly what you want, no matter how individual or quirky. After all, it is your day!

Jan Knibbs is the owner of Atelier 19, a new vintage inspired concept boutique located in the heart of the bohemian, artisan quarter of Cheltenham, known as The Suffolks. Alongside an array of dresses, coats, millinery, original vintage dresses and antique lace and other accessories, there is also an ever changing curated eclectic mix of old and new curios, French antique brocante finds and handmade gifts by a selected group of artists, artisans and craft practitioners. Jan specialises in couture embroidery and makes one-off unique garments and accessories suitable for special occasions, especially vintage/ fairytale/ bohemian weddings. 

Do you have a favourite accessory or perhaps even a whole wedding dress that was upcycled? Let us know in a tweet!

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