Marchesa mimics vintage
Love that lettuce hem.
In all fairness, Marchesa’s fanciful designs are a higher-end iteration of the 60s and 70s boutique cocktail dresses that inspired them. And yet, it’s a truism of vintage fashion to say “They just don’t make ’em like they used to.” If you covet curlicue wired hems, look to the source material from California designers Jack Bryan and Miss Elliette—a high-quality vintage classic may sate your cravings.
The pink and blue beauty above is currently for sale here.
Buying and search tips
Elliette Ellis started Miss Elliette in 1952; she collaborated with husband Jack Bryan for a time before he formed a label under his own name. Another search term to try is Dupuis (Richard DuPuis followed Bryan from Miss Elliette). Certain Miss Elliette dresses are very common in a rainbow of colors, and some of the 7os tiered versions look a bit dated and “prom.” It’s worth waiting for those with more unique design details like Peter Pan collars or dropped waist flapper styles.
There are also many unlabeled dresses that fit the Bryan/Elliette mold—some of the best deals come from uninformed sellers. To cast the widest net, I search ebay and etsy using the term chiffon dress (in the vintage section of the site) or vintage chiffon dress (beware new knockoffs masquerading as vintage). If you are less obsessive and want to narrow down your results faster, try including the words cocktail, pleat, pleated, mod, beaded, tiered, party or mini, or a color of your choice.
Here are some of my favorites available now: