You’ve just found ‘the one’, your mum is in tears, your bridesmaids are exclaiming ‘you look like a princess’ and all the while you’re twirling around the shop feeling like Cinderella whilst the shop assistant hands out champagne and foie gras…that’s what it’s like trying on dresses, right….right? Er, no I’m afraid, not necessarily. I do acknowledge that some people do have this experience (not the foie gras that was a joke) in which everyone around them is in floods of tears and it’s (adopts fake Californian accent) ‘like the best day ever’ but I didn’t really. My Mum didn’t shed any tears, which at first I was a bit put out by ( I think ‘why aren’t you crying?’ actually passed my lips, poor Mum) and contrary to popular belief I mostly didn’t get served drinks either which really was fine by me, but don’t be suprised if you’re not offered their finest Moet & Chandon. However, trying on dresses was still one of my favourite parts of planning, but it was also the most stressful, so here’s a few tips from a girl who visited and re-visited about eleven shops in the quest for the perfect wedding dress.
- Keep an open mind. I am short and have stumpy legs and so thought I’d never suit the silk vintage style Jenny Packham slips that I so loved after drooling over them on the internet, so I was pretty much gearing up to buying a short fifties style dress as I thought this would suit me the most. However, whilst I loved the short dresses I tried on, I was surprised (and ecstatic) that the long figure hugging dresses also suited me. The quality and cut of most of the dresses I tried was amazing so they really do amazing things to the figure! So, don’t judge before you try on.
- I’d read somewhere to try on as MANY dresses as possible so, I visited 11 shops in total and at first found around two dresses in each that I fell in love with leaving me very confused. Proof that sometimes there isn’t just ‘one’ and you don’t always know the moment you try ‘the’ dress on. So, my advice would be to go to a select few shops who stock/are the designer you are drawn to the most and work from there. If you love a dress, then don’t do what I did and go hunting for a dress that could be better, I think it leads to sleepless nights!
- Wear the correct underwear- e.g. invisible knickers and flesh coloured bras that have numerous straps just in case. It makes such a difference. I actually found that I didn’t need a bra for most dresses as they hold you in very well and considering I’ve got a fairly large bust (32DD) this suprised me! I actually didn’t wear a bra at all on my wedding day just a couple of nipple patches which did the trick.
- Don’t take an army of fans with you. I recommend one or two people maximum to avoid confusion, people have different tastes and the wedding dress is about YOU. I actually went to most shops on my own at first, as I’m much better shopping on my own. I then decided which dresses I liked the most and got my mum to come with me the second time to look at all the dresses.
- Make sure you are well groomed- If you’re anything like me, having your make-up and hair done nicely is likely to affect how you feel when you look in the mirror. You’ll probably be wearing make-up and having your hair styled on your wedding day, so make sure you get an accurate representation of how the dress will look on the day. You won’t feel good if you’re not looking good (that sounds so cliche but I do believe it)
- If a dress is too expensive and you know you’ll never be able to afford it don’t try it on. It’s just upsetting if it ends up being one of the dresses you love the most. I tried on a few dresses which were potentially out of my price range although I was convinced I’d make it work if I did like them, but I think it’s important to be realistic.
- Leading on from that, when I finally decided on the dress I loved the most (after narrowing down from 4 potential ‘ones’) it happened to be the most expensive. I would have made it work and bought it although it would have meant slashing the budget from somewhere else in the wedding and even if it’s £500-£1000… every little helps! So, I had a look at a site called Preloved just to see if the dress I’d tried on was being sold. I really wasn’t expecting anything, but the very first time I logged on, there she was! Claire Pettibone’s Kristene in all her lovely lacy glory . The lovely girl who was selling was in Ireland and so I couldn’t try it on, but the dress was half the price and so I decided to buy it and if it wasn’t right, sell it again. Luckily for me, the dress was absolutely perfect and so I got an absolute bargain. It was a little tight at first but after some personal training and lots of DVD sessions with Jillian Michaels, the scary US trainer who takes no prisoners, I made it fit like a dream! I would definitely recommend looking for a second hand wedding dress if the dress you want is out of your price league, they’ve only been worn once and so are generally like new plus it’s pretty environmentally friendly. The only downside to buying your wedding dress this way is that in some circumstances, you wouldn’t be able to try on before spending a lot of cash and you don’t get the fittings experience you get in a shop… plus, I had to store the wedding dress for six months before the wedding and I was terrified something would happen to it so make sure it’s safe and secure and you buy a quality storage bag or box. I found some tips on the Brides Magazine website here
- Here’s some of the shops I visited and highly recommend. They’re all in London, but if you’re not based here then there are regional shops that stock these designer too. I had a lovely time in each and the dresses they stock/design are just heavenly. TEMPERLEY- an incredible collection, really helpful staff and a lovely shop. I fell in love with one of the Long Honeysuckle styles that was embellished with beads and silver sequins all over. The train was to die for and almost almost went for it. ( I thought about it a loooong time afterwards!) The 2012 collection is available now.
JENNY PACKHAM– As with Temperley, a beautiful collection, modern vintage with gorgeous embellishments and materials. I fell in love with ‘Eden’ in platinum and this was another dress I almost bought and decided against. I still think about her today and wish I had enough money to buy it so I could wear it for an awesome event (sniff)
BLACKBURN BRIDAL COUTURE I visited Blackburn Bridal and really enjoyed the experience, the assistants were friendly and knowledgable and there were so many gorgeous designers to choose from! It’s here that I first tried Claire Pettibone’s Kristene. They also stock Jenny Packham, Belle and Bunty and Sarah Janks,(amongst others) an Australian designer whose dresses I fell in love with when I originally tried them on in a London shop called Les Trois Seurs. The Sarah Janks dress I tried on was incredible, similar to Jenny Packham in style. Lots of embellishments and the cut of the dress was beautiful. Her dresses as well as Belle and Bunty whom I also love and do modern vintage very well are absolutely worth a look.
FUR COAT NO KNICKERS The girls in this shop do an awesome job of sourcing vintage wedding dresses and then altering them to your desire if needs be! I tried on quite a few short circle 1950’s dresses in this shop, they had a really good selection as well as stocking Rachel Simpson shoes and I found them to be very friendly.
CANDY ANTHONY– An amazing choice if you’re looking for a quirky short dress. Lots of options and different colours, if you fancy something other than white. I was assisted by an uber stylish assistant too complete with fifties hair and outfit, gotta love it. We were also served tea here, if memory serves correct in a lovely cup too… well, it’s the little things isn’t it? After visiting their website I also noticed that they have reduced their prices which is great as I know some brides were put off by the prices.
There are quite a lot more to mention but these were my favourite and all in all, I had a good experience. There were a couple of shops I hated and couldn’t wait to run away… not naming names, but one was a rather big shop that have a good reputation but I found it very impersonable and the assistant seemed like she couldn’t be bothered. Another was an independent designer. I absolutely loved her collection and designs from her website, but she was so rude when me and my mum got to the shop I genuinely wanted to cry. I’d already told her my budget over the phone, but when we got to the shop, my budget clearly wasn’t big enough and after a lot of sighing she pulled out her ‘least expensive’ dresses for me to try on whilst name dropping who she’d designed for in the past at the same time! Anyway, you win some, you lose some…