Why This Isn't The End Of The Vampire's Wife's Story

kate middleton in a vampire's wife dress
This Is Not The End Of The Vampire's Wife's StorySamir Hussein - Getty Images

What makes a really great dress? It’s a question that fashion often poses, interprets differently and receives changing responses to. But somebody who knows the answer unreservedly? Susie Cave, the founder of The Vampire’s Wife.

For the last 10 years, the former model’s dresses have been worn and loved by musicians, actors, royals, fashion insiders, artists and models alike. Each of these women turned (and often more than once) to Cave’s fashion foray with fervour, entirely charmed by her dress-first brand that seemed to produce as close to a perfect item as possible.

london, england february 18 rachel weisz in the press room during the ee british academy film awards baftas held at royal albert hall on february 18, 2018 in london, england photo by mike marslandmike marslandwireimage
Mike Marsland

But, in a shock to most, Cave announced on May 21 that the label would be closing with immediate effect. 'Despite a period of positive growth and sales, the upheaval in the wholesale market has had dramatic implications for the brand,' an announcement read.

The sad news has been felt across the industry, not only by those who have become loyalists of Cave’s unique breed of witchy fashion but by those who wish to see British fashion thrive despite seemingly impossible economic conditions. It follows the downturn and administration of Matches Fashion and the continuing implications of both Brexit and the pandemic, both of which still have a day-to-day impact on brands across the spectrum.


Though The Vampire’s Wife did dabble in accessories (Brad Pitt loves its personalised totes) and other ready-to-wear items, it was dresses that were its thing. The line-up of the notable women (Sienna Miller, Tilda Swinton, Thandiwe Newton, Salma Hayek, Dakota Johnson...) who have worn them over the last decade proves if nothing else their universal appeal, where the styles were undeniably covetable and open to unique interpretation. They looked just as great whether you styled them with lace-up boots or an elegant pump, for instance, or if you were tall and slim or petite with a bust. It's what makes the news that it will close an especially emotional one.

Sure, bags are adored, shoes coveted and jewellery treasured, but there's something about finding a dress that does everything and more than can feel particularly personal to women. Cave's dresses celebrated the female form in slipping over curves, with flattering sleeves that might have helped with insecurities but they were sexy and mysterious, just as happy in the spotlight as they were on the sidelines whether in corduroy or mercurial silks.

Cave’s signature dress, The Falconetti, reached its initial peak in 2018, worn then by Jennifer Aniston and Rachel Weisz, before reaching a new global fame when the now Princess of Wales was painted wearing the emerald green edition for her official portrait by Jamie Coreth in 2022.

Sali Hughes, journalist and broadcaster, chose to wear two of Cave's dresses for her 2017 wedding. ‘I wanted something I would want to wear again and again,' she tells me over email. 'We live in Brighton, and we very much wanted our wedding to reflect our community. At that time, Susie lived here too, and the Vampire's Wife studio and showroom was a minute from my house, so it was a local business. The label hadn't had heaps of attention at that point (2017), but I'd seen a couple of the dresses on Susie and just adored them. I'd never seen one out in the wild, so I knew it would be an unexpected choice for the time.

'I contacted the studio to ask if they might consider making my dress and they couldn't have been lovelier. I had all my fittings at the studio and because they had made up the pattern to fit me exactly, I also ordered another dress in a black floral Liberty print cotton, which I've worn to death. The whole thing was just a very good decision and a wonderful experience.'

a woman in a dress
Sali Hughes

Hughes, like many who fell quickly for Cave's designs, now owns several more. 'There is honestly nothing quite like them. I love the juxtapositions - they're pretty and feminine but edgy, very British, sexy and extremely flattering on the figure without showing everything. Without question, they are the clothes you'll most often get asked about at an event.'

'I think there are vast numbers of us who want to dress up but don't want to show heaps of skin,' Hughes continued. 'The Vampire's Wife launched at a time when everything seemed to be bodycon, with no sleeves, open backs and thigh-high slits. Everything seemed so loudly sexual. It all felt so naff to me and just didn't represent my idea of sexy occasionwear. The Vampire's Wife took a more grown-up, prim and modest approach without ever being twee, frumpy or childish. Covering up seemed almost subversive and cool in that Kardashian climate. It was like a breath of fresh air, and so brilliant to see a British designer having such an impact globally.'

Somebody who was also intrinsic in giving the dress a global platform was stylist Aimee Croysdill, who chose a bespoke dress for her client Charlotte Riley when she attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018. Riley had previously worn a striking red design and enjoyed wearing it so much that it made sense that she should riff on it again for the royal wedding.

‘Susie chose a Liberty archive print that hadn’t been used for this dress before,’ Croysdill tells ELLE, who styled the dress with a custom Philip Treacy hat echoing the florals on the print. ‘There was a close-up of Charlotte and her partner, Tom Hardy, entering the wedding where the innate feminine elegance of the dress oozed from the camera. It really struck a chord with a lot of women that day who went mad for it on the internet. It felt like the perfect English British feminine outfit for obviously one of the most highly publicised weddings of the last kind of five years.’

windsor, united kingdom may 19 charlotte riley and tom hardy arrive for the wedding of prince harry and meghan markle at windsor castle on may 19, 2018 in windsor, england photo by andrew matthews wpa poolgetty images
WPA Pool

What Croysdill highlights here is the woman-led love of The Vampire’s Wife. Much industry discourse has been dominated by the overwhelming number of white men currently heading up the industry’s biggest design houses and yet this brand was the opposite. Cave’s dresses came with a distinctly female point of view, proving the unique allure of wearing pieces designed for women, by women.

‘Looking back now, I can’t quite believe how many women I’ve put in this dress,’ admits Croysdill. ‘At the core of The Vampire’s Wife has always been these pieces that will stand the test of time, and make women feel amazing, which is completely testament to the amount of attention to detail and love that was put into the construction of them from the outset.'

The Vampire’s Wife at its heart was an occasionwear brand, which is how it quickly became popular in the emerging rental landscape. A quick search on Hurr yields over 300 results, while By Rotation tells ELLE that it’s achieved ‘cult’ status on its app. The rental market cannot be held responsible for the shutting of brands, but there is space for the question to be raised as to what impact it might be having. Writ plainly, here would-be customers choose to rent a pre-owned style instead of investing in their own. The positive sustainable impact is well covered, but the economic impact on the brands is less so.

‘Given its retail price point and wow factor, our users have found it more price-accessible to rent (rather than buy) for three days for 10% of its retail value,’ a representative from By Rotation shared. ‘The return on investment for our lenders for such a high-quality brand is also fantastic: a particular lender has made over four times back on the retail value of a dress they have rented out over 25 times.’

‘With the price point being inaccessible to most of us in our circle, it very quickly became a favourite on the By Rotation app,’ says By Rotation founder Eshita Kabra-Davies, who has offered up her own The Vampire’s Wife styles for rent.

‘We are all very sad to learn about The Vampire's Wife sudden closure. I truly hope Susie will make more magic again, and until then we will pay tribute to her wonderful brand by highlighting it further on the By Rotation app which has so many of her wonderful creations from the past decade,' adds Kabra-Davies. 'This is when our social-network-styled rental platform becomes so useful.'

It might be the end of newness launching from The Vampire's Wife but it's not the end of the story. The brand will endure through its classicism and timelessness to prove peerless in its ability to crack the code on what makes a really, really great dress.

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