I’m going to start off this post by shamefully saying that I really, really tried to find the perfect Gunne Sax dress to no avail. When I originally pictured writing this blog, I imagined myself wearing an authentic vintage dress to stroll through the Lakewold Gardens in. Are we very surprised that dresses from the 50s 60s 70s are all teeny tiny? No, I don't think we are. I couldn’t find one that fit ((yet)) so I will forever be on the hunt for one in the wild of thrift store hunting. Until then I did find a very similar dress to the vintage look of a Gunne Sax which we will discuss later
Then and now options of the iconic dress.
Let’s go ahead and talk about the history of Gunne Sax and a few facts about where this classic label started. All of my facts are sourced from Wikipedia and various blog posts that I have listed in the reference links below.
Gunne Sax is a retired clothing label founded by Eleanor Bailey and Carol Miller then a few years later, partnered with Jessica McClintock in the late 1960s. The name Gunne Sax is adapted from Gunny Sack burlap bags. The design was a nod to Victorian and Edwardian style designs with their lace trim, ruffles, and puff sleeves. This is a style I'm happy to say, has continued to live on for centuries and I'm delighted about it. If you are a period drama lover as I am, you'd know these dresses nostalgically remind us of a time when we can romanticize life in a countryside estate as a moody love-stricken novelist.
You can find them long-sleeved or with smaller straps, or even with the ever popular "leg-o' mutton" sleeves that you often used to see on the likes of Queen Elizabeth in the 1500s. This is the sleeve that looks like-well- a leg of lamb you can say. They are thick at the top and skinny toward the wrist. I was shocked when I searched the term leg of mutton sleeve and it actually populated a result for modern-day dresses. I guess I was just surprised that Shein even knew what that was.
What I find interesting is that you can tell what label is from what era based on how it looks so the earliest labels that have the black label on them with the tag Gunne Sax were only made before 1970 so that’s a really rare find. A white heart label was used for a very short time following the 70s so also quite rare, and then during the 70s and 80s, a larger label that had a scrolling design was what you would see onward (and what I saw the most at the vintage store).
I went to our amazing local vintage shop in town called Scorpio Rising to peep the labels and see what the going price is for a rare dress.
As you can see, Scorpio had a plethora of authentic vintage Gunne Sax and my gooooodness they were a sight to see and feel in real life over shopping online. If I don't have a picture of the label and price, it's because the owner actually requests the person working the shop call and discuss the price. I imagine that's because perhaps for very rare pieces, the market can fluctuate. That's my guess.
The dresses felt like holding history in your hand and are so well made you can tell just by the touch and weight of the fabric. So delicate but so sturdy like a grandmother's quilt. It was exciting each time I came across yet another one on the racks. The word that comes to mind the most when describing the design of these dresses is "dreamy romantic".
Since I wasn't able to get my hands on an authentic Gunne, I stubbornly insisted I walk out of there with a dress at least similar and found the perfect replacement- this red vintage Lola dress. I couldn't find too much information about the brand but when you search vintage Lola Hawaiian dresses, you can find very similar dresses to that old Victorian/Rennaissance style.
I love the lace detail and the ruffles so much! I also love the v-shape at the bottom of the dress and how it lengthens me. This will be super cute to style with layers for Autumn/Winter, I can't wait and yes I'm just going to go ahead and say-this dress for Christmas is going to be MEGA.
Now it's time to talk about which dress got to be the star of the photoshoot project for this particular blog post. Drum roll!
The winning dress was this newer label (to me) called Cider. I do find I keep going back to their website and shopping around because they have so many things I like right now. When you search vintage & ruffles this immediately populated. Obviously, it's not hand made nor is it vintage. I would've loved to have worn my red dress for this garden stroll however it was 90 degrees outside and simply too hot for it. This Cider dress is incredibly lightweight so I was staying cool for sure. It has the lace sleeves and ruffles around the bust, and zips up the back. So cute.
My husband and I went to visit Lakewold Gardens, a perfect backdrop for this dress ironically made in 2023, but styled after a dress made in 1970 meant to look like they were from the 1800s. We just have history all up in this, don't we?
If you'd like to see and hear more about this particular garden, I narrate a few historical facts about it in my latest Youtube video dedicated to this very blog.
There were so many beautiful picturesque spots on the grounds of Lakewold I couldn't share just one. The good news I suppose is that even though I couldn't manage to find an official Gunne Sax dress for a Gunne Sax titled post, I was able to find a knockoff that's available for purchase still at this moment. Here's the link if you want one for yourself.
I hope you enjoyed this little stroll through fashion history, perhaps awoke a love for vintage style of this particular era, and maybe helps you know what to keep an eye out for when on your next thrift adventure. I will surely update across all my platforms if I find my own perfect Gunne. You KNOW I will be screaming with excitement when the day comes.