Fashion: Wedding dresses for the wild at heart

The Zena, with long split sleeves, backless, �990, by Rolling in Roses. Picture by James Melia on www.meliamelia.com.
The Zena, with long split sleeves, backless, �990, by Rolling in Roses. Picture by James Melia on www.meliamelia.com.
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Rolling in Roses is a new made-to-order wedding collection for non-conformist brides. Stephanie Smith meets its founder, Hayley Neil.

“There’s brambles in your hair, you been rolling in roses...” These words, from a poem by “godmother of punk” Patti Smith, inspired the name of Rolling in Roses, a bridalwear label for the offbeat, sophisticated, fiercely independent bride – “the dreamers, the poets, the music-makers, the lovers…”

An original dress from Glory Days, as seen at the real-life wedding of Eleanor & Robert Needham at Camp Katur. Picture by Ryan from Shutter Go Click (http://shuttergoclick.photoshelter.com/index).

An original dress from Glory Days, as seen at the real-life wedding of Eleanor & Robert Needham at Camp Katur. Picture by Ryan from Shutter Go Click (http://shuttergoclick.photoshelter.com/index).

Based in York, Rolling in Roses is a collection of free-spirited wedding dresses which are proving to be a welcome alternative for brides who do not want the modern, standard, fit-and-flare meringue.

“Pretty much every buyer who comes through the door is looking for something different,” says Hayley Neil, Rolling in Roses’ owner, founder and chief designer.

The label was launched earlier this year, and the gowns are simple, understated and chic. Hayley says: “I take inspiration from bygone ages, which is my thing, but bring it up to date, so people can accessorise them to look quite vintage or quite contemporary – it’s really fluid.” Hayley works from her bright and airy top-floor studio, fitting room and showroom on Micklegate in the heart of York. She moved there 18 months ago from her vintage shop, Glory Days on Walmgate, having focused on becoming purely bridal. She is now appointment only, so she no longer needs a shop.

It all began when she was trying to help her sister Kate find the ’60s prom-style wedding dress of her dreams. When they had to go to London, Hayley realised there was a gap in the market.

The Faith dress, �1,070 with cape. Picture by James Melia.

The Faith dress, �1,070 with cape. Picture by James Melia.

A costume designer by training, Hayley has always loved vintage clothes for their quality and their ingenious cuts and use of fabrics in the days before Lycra. She opened Glory Days four years ago, naming it after the Pulp song she walked down the aisle to when she married her husband, Matthew Punton, nine years ago (she made both her own Edwardian-style dress and Matthew’s three-piece suit). They met at school and live in Howden, East Yorkshire, with Matthew working at family hardware business Puntons, in Snaith.

Hayley trained in costume design at Edinburgh Art College, after which she worked for theatrical costume-makers Homburgs in Leeds and then became a freelance costume designer for theatre, film and TV. She’s worked on The King’s Speech, styled Jake Bugg for the video of his song Slumville Sunrise and at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.

Glory Days is the name of the main part of Hayley’s bridal business offering original vintage wedding dresses, for which customers travel far and wide for fittings and to choose their own pre-loved vintage gown. Most are priced between £300 and £700, a cost-effective alternative to new. They are arranged chronologically on rails in the showroom, from the 1920s to the 1970s. Hayley sources them from vintage dealers and people also bring them in. They are all cleaned and restored. “You get quite a lot in good condition because if people will take care of anything, they’ll take care of their wedding dress,” she says.

Hayley is an expert on vintage bridal fashion. The most expensive (£1,400) and rare dress is a 1920s silk one, dropped waist and just below-the-knee in length with a long train and detachable sleeves. “In the ’20s they used to often make the dress with detachable sleeves so you could use it as an evening dress afterwards,” she says. Hayley bought it from the original bride’s granddaughter.

The further back in time you go, the smaller the dresses tend to become. It’s rare to find a vintage dress larger than a size 16, but then comes another strand to Hayley’s business, the bespoke service, through which any dress can be replicated. “My passion is designing and making and I like to make things to a certain standard,” she says. She asks for at least six months to make a bespoke dress, as fittings and each step, from pattern to fabric sourcing, can take a while. Bespoke dresses start at around £1,300.

Also in Hayley’s showroom are samples from the new Rolling in Roses label, her first for made-to-order gowns. The debut range is called Zena May, after her grandmother, and there are six styles, all named after female family members.

“People try them on and order in whatever size and colour they want,” Hayley says. Priced range from £800 to £1,100, with all dresses made of silk and some with bamboo linings. Fabrics come from Whaleys in Bradford and the lace comes from Nottingham. The skill and beauty lie not only in the design and the quality of the silk and lace, but also in the way Hayley can craft them to suit all brides.

“They are all based on ’30s and ’40s styles with a modern twist,” she says. “People are quite often scared by the bias cut, but actually it can be so flattering if it’s done the right way.”

An original dress from Glory Days, as seen at the real-life wedding of Samantha. Picture by Neil Jackson Photographic (http://www.njphotographic.co.uk/).

An original dress from Glory Days, as seen at the real-life wedding of Samantha. Picture by Neil Jackson Photographic (http://www.njphotographic.co.uk/).

Hayley is now working on the next Rolling in Roses collection, which will be based on ’60s and ’70s designs. Again, simplicity will be key. “My brides tend to want to be more stylish and comfortable – dresses that don’t wear you.”

To contact Rolling in Roses telephone 01904 452892 or go to rollinginroses.co.uk or www.glorydaysyork.co.uk. Glory Days Bridal is on the same number and both are based at 31 Micklegate in York.

The Pearl dress with bias-cut silk crepe and separate lace bolero, �685 for dress, �930 with bolero. Picture by James Melia.

The Pearl dress with bias-cut silk crepe and separate lace bolero, �685 for dress, �930 with bolero. Picture by James Melia.

Hayley Neil in her studio at her premises on Micklegate in York where she has both her Rolling in Roses made to order collection, the dresses pictured, and also Glory Days, with hundreds of original vintage wedding  gowns to choose from.

Hayley Neil in her studio at her premises on Micklegate in York where she has both her Rolling in Roses made to order collection, the dresses pictured, and also Glory Days, with hundreds of original vintage wedding gowns to choose from.

VICTORIA HALL SALTAIRE: Hannah wears: 1970s silver lurex top �10; 1980s black and silver A-line party skirt, �15; shoes, stylists own.

 All clothing and accessories from Rose & Brown Vintage. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

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