Featuring an original 1920s wedding gown from the personal collection of Monte Durham
Featuring Monte Durham, Fashion Director on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta • Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Catherine May Taylor • Model: Aubrey Love • Hair: Ashley Peters, The Stylist Abroard • Makeup: Brittany Cretella, Izzy B Makeup • Gown / Hair Piece: Courtesy of the personal collection of Monte Durham • Flowers: Kelly Wilson, Wegmans Alexandria • Venue: American Horticultural Society at River Farm
From dresses to décor, the wedding scene is circling back to this stylish decade when the world let go of its buttoned-up Victorian ways and let it all out. And while it could look a little dated or “costumey” if not done right, the trick to nailing the theme and the feel is to take inspiration from the era and add a modern twist, making it truly 2020 and something your guests will fall head over heels for.
“The best aspects for having a great wedding in 2020 are the dates—think the 20th of the month, so that you’re married on 20/20… And, of course, being surrounded by your loved ones dressed in flapper- and Great Gatsby-inspired clothes,” says Monte Durham, whose expertise in the wedding industry spans decades and have made him a famous face on TLC’s hit television series Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta.
Aside from the fact that it’s more than 100 years old,
what I love most about the dress is the attention to
details and the high quality of the silk.
Monte Durham on The Featured 1920s Vintage Gown
Naturally, the style of the dress you’ve chosen will dictate the way you wear your hair, but one can certainly incorporate a modern take on ’20s hairstyles, especially now that barrettes and embellished combs are back on-trend. “Hairstyles are very individual, so it’s truly up to the bride; but there are essentially only three basic hairstyles: up, half-up, and down,” says Durham, who was once a hairstylist and still considers styling hair a passion. “Of course, there are various way to style within each, and that’s where the inspiration of the 1920s comes into play.” Think finger waves or consider pulling your hair back with a beautiful comb or barrette or wearing a bejeweled headband across your forehead, all of which were once popular in the Jazz Age.
Gowns are somewhat following suit, trending toward more romance and less bling than in previous years. “More brides are wanting a ’20s theme now that we’ve hit this new decade, so the couture bridal market will probably be responding to that with their designs,” Durham predicts, though it still remains to be seen what will be coming down the runways in New York during April’s bridal shows.
Of course, flowers and décor are a huge part of any wedding—regardless of the decade—and ’20s weddings were all abloom with Lily of the Valley. “Bouquets were HUGE and full of greenery, with lots of ribbons tied in love knots,” Durham says.
Create a speakeasy feel at your reception by having guests give a password at the door and have a live band playing the Charleston and other dances that were popular at the time.
Monte Durham on Planning a 1920s-Themed Wedding
And don’t forget the party… “Create a speakeasy feel at your reception by having guests give a password at the door and have a live band playing the Charleston and other dances that were popular at the time,” Durham suggests. “Hire flapper-styled cocktail servers with headbands, smokey eyes, red lips and heavily rouged cheeks as well as beauty marks, thick stockings, gloves, lots of bracelets, T-strap shoes, and short beaded dresses—and let’s not forget bootleg liquor!”
A lover of all the beauty of wedding gowns from decades past, Durham has long been a collector of vintage dresses whose style and elegance captivate his eye. And of all the dresses he has collected, a particular favorite of his is a gown from the 1920’s he found on an eBay auction nearly 20 years ago. “Aside from the fact that it’s more than 100 years old, what I love most about the dress is the attention to details and the high quality of the silk,” says Durham, who has a few prized gowns in his personal collection and is sometimes gifted one by fans who send him their grandmothers’ gowns along with the story of the dress.
“I so enjoy adding those to my collection, but I’ve stopped actively collecting gowns. Mostly I now look for wedding accessories like shoes,” he says. In fact, his collection has recently been reduced to ten, after having donated eight of his gowns to the design and merchandise department at Marymount University for the students to study the style, fabric, and year the gowns were worn and how they were made.
One look at this elegant dress, however, and it takes little to see what so captured him. “I’m not sure who wore it, but from the quality of the silk and the hand-beading, it was clearly a very couture, stylish bride,” Durham supposes. “This gown is a standout simply because of its age and condition—these are few and far between, especially with the shoes and headpiece. The details and fabric alone are amazing; and just looking at it, I can envision the woman who wore it: classic, chic, understated, and very couture.”
Such is the theme to emulate, the style to capture. So however you take inspiration from the 1920s as you celebrate your wedding in 2020, do it with style, elegance, and—above all—an enthusiastic embrace of life and love.