Wedding dress shopping

Well, as the wedding is now set for 20 August 2011 and venues are sorted I guess the next thing to worry about had to be the wedding dress. I had been set on making my own dress, having made a few dresses over the past 2 years, and had bought a couple of potential patterns. I was even planning on going to Rolls and Rems fabric shop on Seven Sisters Road last weekend to buy some calico to make a test. But then it dawned on me that the wedding is a mere five and a half months away, and that there’s still a half finished dress sitting on my sewing box that was causing me grief the other week.

I still hoped I could make my dress, but decided to go and try on some dresses to see what style suited me and to hopefully get some inspiration. I managed to get an appointment at Angelica Bridal in Angel for Saturday – quite a feat I am led to believe. I had called one bridal shop (Mirror Mirror in Angel) which had some capital B Beautiful dresses but it turns out, in the world of wedding dress shopping, you can’t just ring up on a Monday and get an appointment for the following Saturday. Nope, instead try two months in advance. But luckily a cancellation for Saturday at Angelica swung an appointment in my favour.

So, on Saturday my friend Emma came round to us at 9.30am to drop off Stéphane for a play date with Jeffrey so that we could head off into Angel.

For those of you who have never been to a bridal shop, they are weird. I had to ring the doorbell, could only go in with an appointment, had to take off my shoes, browse the rails and books then strip down to my nude colour underwear for the woman to help me into the various dresses I had picked out. Apparently the average dress size they use for this is a 12-14 so out come the bulldog clips to pull the dress in in the event you’re smaller than that. Lord knows what they do if you’re bigger. Then you come out, parade in front of whoever it is you have with you, stand on a box and admire yourself and the dress for a good 5-10 minutes. This latter part is especially weird. Seeing yourself for the first time in a dress unlike anything you’ve ever seen yourself in before. The way you hold yourself completely changes. And you feel so grown up. And, I don’t care what any sceptics says, you do feel special in such a beautiful dress.

So, what of the dresses I tried on? Well, for a while I’d been thinking I’d love lace and/or silk, and was thinking I may be able to make myself a dress using these materials. But when I tried on the second dress (the first, and my favourite, I won’t share with you for obvious reasons) my mind was changed. It was made with satin and lace, had maybe three layers and was far too heavy. It rubbed like crazy and was altogether quite ageing. It turns out the shop assistant would never recommend lace for a summer wedding – there you are. A top tip for you!

The third dress I tried was one of Emma’s favourites, her other being the fourth. Here are both:

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really liked these, but there was something not right. The first was satin, the second chiffon. These felt lovely on, and I felt wonderful in them, but they felt just too structured. As our wedding is going to be a pretty relaxed and informal affair I felt these were too formal and restrictive. Plus the long satin train of the first just felt too heavy, and a train wasn’t really on my radar anyway.

So, it seemed I was leaning towards chiffon – nice and light and airy for a summer wedding. That led the assistant bringing out a beautiful Mark Lesley column empire line strapless number, which unfortunately I can’t find online to include here.

I was actually pleasantly surprised at the cost of these dresses. I had seen some ballpark quotes elsewhere ranging from £1.5k upwards so was glad to hear I had chosen some of the cheapest in the shop – ranging from £699 for my favourite, to £899 for the chiffon number above. But, with the wedding being less than 6 months away the designer feels the need to add a 15 per cent “rush cut charge” on the dress, with the bridal shop adding on a final £180-£220 for alteration costs. That would take my favourite up to nigh on a grand! When we’re reluctant to spend more than £6k on the whole wedding day that just seemed a little excessive. But the thought of making my own dress was really starting to make me worry so it seemed it may be the only way to go.

Then on Sunday my sister and I took a trip to the very massive Westfield which, I might add, is so much better for shopping than the West End. Not too many crowds, all the shops in one place, and no cold wind or rain (or annoying tourists/visiting shoppers) to negotiate. Et voila, we found a dress. Sadly not one of the beautiful Biba bridal dresses I tried on (left), but still in House of Fraser of all places. And at a fraction of the price of those I tried on on Saturday. And with great service – we ended up in the personal shopper lounge, with drinks, the personal shopper and as many nice dresses as I wanted to try on, not just a paltry five like in the bridal shops. Plus, I get alterations for free, not by paying an extra £180-220. Which means more money for Jeff’s suit (which he’ll wear many more times), and more dosh for a honeymoon or my Tiffany platinum wedding band to match my engagement ring.

So bosh. Dress done. But I’m not going to share it with you. You’ll just have to wait. Except now, after my trip to Westfield to get the dress pinned for alterations, I’m second guessing my choice. The next must buy item is control underwear, then maybe I’ll feel better.

And I guess in the meantime next on the list to sort is the honeymoon…

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