Something Old, Something New: The Story of. Meets Jane Bourvis

Jane Bourvis’s beautifully crafted bridal-wear is the epitome of sustainable design, lovingly crafted from laces dating back to the 19th century, giving a new lease of life and a unique story to boot. The Story Of. speaks with the eponymous designer and antique-enthusiast on the art of turning something old into something new...

TSO: Tell us a little about yourself and your background… 

My fifteen year career in antique clothing started almost entirely by accident! I’m not trained – but after I left my previous job in menswear, I started pattern cutting and making pieces from vintage clothing for people in the Portobello area. 

It grew from nothing – other than a love for antique clothing and contacts within that world. We now have a lovely shop and workshop in the area and have worked with everyone from luxury fashion houses like Comme des Garcons to creating the veil for Lucy Smith in the new ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ film. It’s grown and grown! 

TSO: What are the benefits of buying vintage over new? 

You’ll have something totally unique. I think that’s much nicer than buying a design that everyone has worn. Antique has such huge history behind it, and it’s lovely to be a part of that.

I’m very romantic about dresses. I think it’s so lovely to pack a piece away and take it out and look at it throughout your life…

"Dresses become more important as time goes on. Each has its own history and memories. There’s a sort of dream element to a bridal dress: it’s an emotional thing; ethereal."

TSO: What’s your favourite era of antique clothing?

The older, the better! It’s challenging to buy antique clothing now. I used to buy and sell the most incredible dresses from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and we still use those eras a lot as inspiration for our silhouettes and accessories. Still, it’s almost impossible to replicate it to the same level as the Victorians. They were the masters of lace. 

"The laces from the Victorian era, in particular, are amazing. The construction behind it and the beading was all achieved by hand. Those pieces are very rare to come by now."

TSO: Where do you source your beautiful materials and pieces?  

I scour vintage fairs, antique fairs and via contacts who work directly with lace. It’s so challenging to get your hands on now. So much of antique clothing is held in museums or in private collections, so it’s very difficult to source. Many of my designs are made up of sections of lace pieced together or replicated from the patterns of designs of the previous eras. 

TSO: What’s been the favourite thing you’ve sourced?

I’ve got a beautiful 1920’s skirt in the shop that has feathers and diamantes running through it – it’s just exquisite. We actually just leant it to a top designer in Paris to replicate the design – I can’t name names!

I’ve got a lot of pieces in the studio that I’ll never part with as they’re just so beautiful. If I ever part with them, I’d never see work like it again. 


TSO: Have you noticed a shift in trend in eras that brides are interested in? 

I suppose the more Edwardian and Victorian styles, as the fit of the dresses, accentuated the female form the most. Brides want the silhouettes to work with their bodies and fit beautifully. Low backs have been popular and fitting-wise, under the bust or waist is also a key request.

However, I very rarely find something I can sell directly, as the bodies of that era were so different from ours today. I have to work on many pieces to re-cut them with contemporary handwriting. 

TSO: Talk us through your process in terms of making a piece… 

I have to cut with what I have available:

I often work with a combination of different antique pieces of lace, a dress that I’m working on now is made from eight separate designs in total.

I’ll take the bodice from one or a skirt from another. I have to be resourceful and match the pieces via colour, style, and types: I have vast boxes of lace in my studio sorted like this. I cut the lace dress – and then we have a completely separate slip piece that goes under the lace, that’s more inspired by slips from the 1930s – cut very close to the body in silk.

TSO: Dare we ask: how long does a dress take you to make?!

The sourcing process takes the longest, as I have to match all the lace pieces together. After that, on average, a couple of days.

TSO: What’s the oldest piece in your collection? 

A few days ago, I was sewing a piece that had a label saying ‘1869’ in it. There are some pieces I’ve sold that are around that era: 1850 or 1860.

TSO: What would be your expert advice to a bride who wants to shop vintage or antique? 

The first thing to do is research precisely what you want in a style that you know suits them. Then, look around and try things on to get a feel for what works on your body. 

If you buy vintage, check the piece for stains, especially around the underarm area. Something that many brides don’t think about when buying vintage is the lining. Vintage dresses were often built around or on the lining, so it could completely throw a dress if you take it out!

Additionally, I often think that Brides get directed or influenced by friends or family. It’s so important that it is about the bride. It’s lovely to go on a spoof run with friends, but I often suggest the bride searches independently too… 

" It’s such a personal experience: you want to feel in your heart that this is how you want to look - not what everyone else wants!"

 Visit Jane in store or online: ( or: Unit 7 Portobello Green Arcade,281 Portobello Road, London, W10 5TZ