Tag Archives: dress

Victorian Lace Shawl

When I was initially starting to think about the wedding, I imagined I would make my own dress. However, at that point I was also thinking the wedding would be in March 2012. But by early March 2011 – three months after we got engaged – we had set the date for 20th August, this year. That gave us little over five months to plan our wedding – and this meant that making a wedding dress seemed like just too big a task. So, instead I chose a lovely ivory silk satin and silk chiffon one shouldered number from Anoushka G at House of Fraser in Westfield’s, London. It was simple – no train and certainly no bodice. Just what a wedding in the City Hall and the garden calls for, I think. And one which, according to many guests, turned me in to “a Greek Goddess”. I kid you not. (And apologies for the dodgy picture – I will have a nicer one soon hopefully).

But there was one issue. With the dress being so light and the reception being held in a marquee in Yorkshire in August – those British readers out there will agree this is no guarantee for good weather – I thought it best I have a shawl in case it gets chilly.

So, my sister and I took a trip to Loop, a lovely knitting shop in Angel, where I bought Victorian Lace Today. I chose my pattern – Myrtle Leaf Shawl, perfect for the intermediate knitter – and my yarn – a beautiful green 2 ply lace weight baby alpaca, silk and cashmere mix from Juno Fibre Arts.

So, come April I made a start. And crikey, was it difficult! After starting, and having completed 10 rows, I dropped a stitch, lost my place and couldn’t bring it back. So, I lost my patience, threw it on the floor and stormed out of the room. Luckily that happened only on a few occasions (the others being twice with the border). But after weeks and weeks of perseverance, and having lost weekend after weekend to knitting a fiddly pattern with fine and fiddly 2 ply yarn, I completed the shawl, two days before the wedding. And I LOVE it.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any decent photos of me in my shawl at the wedding. But the first photo below, courtesy of Marie-Claire, shows I did wear it! The rest were taken today by my lovely husband Jeffrey in the communal garden.


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Well, for saying that at the start of the month we hadn’t decided on the date of our wedding or the venues for our wedding, we’ve made a fair bit of progress. According to my gantt chart we should have the following under our belts by now:

  • date set
  • ceremony venue booked
  • reception venue booked
  • agreed guest list
  • look at catering options (if we choose a venue without internal catering)
  • make and send out ‘save the date’ cards
  • choose the best man and bridesmaid
  • think about my dress

And it seems we’re not doing too badly.  The date is set for 20 August 2011. That’s 22 weeks today, five months tomorrow or, according to my trusty count down clock on our official wedding website, 154 days. Both venues are booked – Hull City Hall and my parents’ house (more on that soon as I don’t think I’ve yet gone into that on this blog). We’ve agreed the guest list and sent out ‘save the date’ cards. We’ve booked the caterer after a bit of faffing and problem solving by my parents, and I’ve bought a dress.

I chose my bridesmaid in January. Yep, singular. Just the one – my sister. Primarily as it’s a small wedding, but also because I don’t feel the need for a big bridal party despite having some wonderful friends who, if we were having the full wedding works, I’d call up for bridesmaid service in a flash. Last week Jeffrey asked his friend Mike (also known as Tee) to be best man. Again, singular. No need for groomsmen here.

So that’s everything ticked off. And after a long and tiring day round Westfield London I can safely say we’re entirely and completely on top of our plan. Even ahead of it. We’ve done all that above, and more. And that makes me very happy.

Today we rather unexpectedly bought our rings. Both of them. Not matching, but both from Tiffany & Co. I collected my dress – alterations and all – and bought some wedding pants. And finally, Jeffrey bought his rather lovely Hugo Boss suit, had it pinned and is getting it altered ready for collection later in the week. So I’m pleased to say it feels like we’re flying.

Next task? The honeymoon…

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The Running of the Brides

Apparently Running of the Brides is a big deal. A few days a year,  Filene’s Basement holds Running of the Brides days across the US where brides-to-be go to “find their dream dress at a bargain price”. Some people camp out overnight to get through the doors first, whilst others prefer to take their time and arrive later. But everyone goes home with “a treasure trove of memories”.

Filene’s Basement dedicated Running of the Brides webpage helpfully provides us brides-to-be with some top tips to survive the day. My favourites are:

  • know what to expect
  • recruit a team and assign jobs
  • create team unity by wearing something matching – this will also help you find each other in the crowd of insanely annoying hysterical women (ok ok, I added a bit to that one)
  • dress smart
  • leave your handbag at home or pack light

Now, for those of you who need more clarification on what Running of the Brides entails, the BBC has kindly helped us out by featuring ROTB in Boston last week (but sadly the Beeb won’t let me embed this).

This kind of crap fills me with dread. Here’s why:

  • I don’t believe there’s a “dress of my dreams”
  • I don’t want to look at 3000 dresses
  • I couldn’t handle hoards of screaming, running women
  • I have no interest in grabbing “everything that we can get” to try on
  • Or fighting over “any single dress”
  • I like to know which way I should go
  • I don’t want to take lots of women for their opinion
  • I don’t have a Grandma to get the opinion of
  • I don’t want to try on 125 dresses and subsequently start “losing count”
  • I don’t want to “get extremely anxious or overwhelmed”
  • I don’t need my friends to squeal when I find “the dress”
  • I certainly don’t need to tell my friends to “squeal” when I find “the dress”
  • And I don’t need “the dress to add to my wonderful day of marrying my **chiché alert** ‘soulmate'”

I think I’ll make do with my quiet trip to House of Fraser thanks.


***addition – courtesy of my sister, Lisa, here’s the Friends episode where Monica, Phoebe and Rachel go to a Running of the Bride event***:

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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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If I had a shed load of cash…

Well, I’ve been looking at wedding dresses. But more on that later in the week. First I wanted to share a few dresses that, if I had a shed load of cash to waste on a wedding and dress, I’d be more than tempted to try on.

First up would most certainly be Vera Wang. And Maybe I’d stop there and not bother to go to any other designers. She designs so many beautiful dresses that I just find myself looking at in awe. My favourites are Erica, Lana and Farrah (the first three below).

If I did make it past Vera Wang I’d head to look at Temperley’s Aurelea and Ramona; Belita, Berkley and Minerva from Jenny Packham; Balcony from Lela Rose; and finally Gemma from Marchesa.

But, alas, I don’t have several thousand pounds to spend on a wedding dress, so these are only mine in my wildest dreams. But they are beautiful to look at.






























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Guest blog – choosing ‘the one’

Jeffrey and I were in my home county of East Yorkshire over the weekend and ventured to the small seaside town of Hornsea with our friends Hannah and Martin on Saturday for fish and chips and some good old fresh North Sea air.

After munching on some lovely fish and chips and having a stroll on the beach we drove to the very bizarre Hornsea Freeport – “the UK’s first designer outlet” – for a wander. Whilst there, we thought it might be fun to look in the Wedding Collection where Jeffrey and Martin took it upon themselves to hunt out the perfect dresses for me and Hannah. They found this tough, and so did we. There was nothing that appealed to us and we came to the conclusion finding a wedding dress must be hard work. 

With a vast array of wedding dresses available, how does a bride-to-be choose ‘the one’ – if there is such a thing? That’s the very question one bride struggled to overcome. The result? She bought 20 dresses and wore nine of them on her big day. Bride-to-be and friend of mine Kirsty Anderson discusses wedding dress shopping in the first of (hopefully) a series of guest blogs from friends tying the knot.

I think the act of choosing a wedding dress is symbolic of how many women approach their whole wedding. As with this article, there are some women who get just a touch carried away and the day becomes more about what you’re wearing and less about celebrating your love. On the other hand there are others, such as a woman I work with, who is keeping her wedding small and intimate and her mum is making her dress (albeit she’s a fashion designer!)

My hunt for a dress began with a very moral assurance that I wanted to get it from the Oxfam wedding shop – I’ve never been one for caring too much about my clothes and the thought of a designer dress, bought at a quarter of the price with the money going to a good cause was tempting. However, laziness got in the way and with no Oxfam wedding shop in easy travelling distance and nothing on their website that grabbed my attention, that plan was abandoned. But I still wanted my dress to be bought from somewhere that meant something to me. After visiting a few shops in London and not having found ‘the one’ I went up to Derbyshire (where I grew up and where I’m getting married) and found a lovely little shop that swept me away. I’m a bit cynical about sales people, and try to resist their tactics – but this shop is so delightful and made me feel like the only person in the world getting married that I was sold hook, line and sinker! With my mum and sister there for advice, I spent about 2 hours trying on a host of dresses and fell into the old cliché that when I tried on my dress, I just knew it was the one.

I’m not entirely sure what this says about my wedding. Possibly that it is important there is meaning to the day, not to spend too long fretting about what you wear or the colour of the napkins, because you’ll still have a great day, but also to enjoy some of the girl-hood fantasies of a wedding and dressing up like a princess! 

Image – Oxfam Bridal

Oxfam has eleven bridal departments across the UK, all of which offer a warm welcome, specialist advice and a wide selection of bridal wear and accessories. Many dresses are donated by designers, so you can buy the wedding dress of your dreams for much less that you would expect. A smaller range is also available online.

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