Congratulations, you have gotten engaged and you are now planning one of the most important days of your life! There are so many things to consider; venue, flowers, photographer, menu… But surely up high on the list will be the Wedding Dress. Little girls dream of how they will look on their wedding day, how they will feel gliding down the aisle, swathed in folds of white froth with rustling underskirts and a dreamy veil billowing in her wake. Okay, maybe this particular image wasn’t everyone’s, but whatever you imagined in your wistful reverie, now is the time to realise that image. All eyes will be on you and you want to look your absolute best, but also be comfortable on the day in a well-fitting dress.
There are several options when it comes to sourcing your wedding dress, and depending on various factors such as budget, theme and venue, there is most definitely a dress out there to suit you!
Alizee Thevenet in her mother-in-law Carole Middletown’s dress
If you are sentimental perhaps you could wear your mum’s or grandmother’s wedding dress? Maybe by taking it to a good seamstress and updating it and fitting it perfectly to you – while retaining the essence of it – is an option for you? Some of the most beautiful and meaningful wedding dresses have been handed down through the family. Last year Alizee Thevenet wore her mother-in law Carole Middleton’s wedding dress from 1980, and it looked just as beautiful as if it had been made for her. Alizee’s sort-of relation Princess Beatrice popped a pair of sleeves on her grandmother’s old Norman Hartnell-designed 1960’s evening dress for her wedding in 2020, and it was just perfect. It’s not only a great way to go to have an interesting story to tell – it will also save you money.
Princess Beatrice wearing her upcycled Grandmother’s 1960s evening dress
Similarly if you are a super-chilled bride-to-be you might go on the hunt for a vintage or pre-loved dress. If your criteria check-list isn’t too extensive, you might just happen across the perfect blend of quirky and bridal to suit you.
Off-the-Rail is another option. This is basically buying a dress, in your size, from a physical shop or online, as you would any other. It is popped in a bag and you take it home with you there and then, or it is delivered. No long order times, no extra special bridal treatment. This might be an option for the ultra no-fuss girl, or the ones lucky enough to know that whatever they wear, they will look fab, without necessarily spending a small fortune. Leaving aside the myriad horror stories we have all heard about internet buys bearing zero resemblance to the pictures, usually a dress bought like this will need some adjustment.
There are many fabulous specialised bridal boutiques out there. This is where you go if you want that lovely, giggly, girly day out with your mum and bridesmaids (although I daresay Covid has put paid to any more than one or two accompanying guests). Here you will receive dedicated assistance from highly trained and usually delightful sales personnel who will be able to style you and advise as to what shapes work best on your figure. You will have an allotted time where you have privacy and space to choose various styles you would like to try on. If you wish to go for a particular style, you will be told how long the order time is from the manufacturer (in most cases six to nine months is recommended) and what, if any, your options might be with changing details on it, for example lowering the back or heightening the neckline. In many cases, the manufacturers will be able to accommodate special requests.
But in the vast majority of cases, once your dress arrives in-store, it will have to be fitted by an expert seamstress to adjust it to the perfect fit and length for you, usually for an additional charge. Some bridal shops provide this service in-house. All you have to do is arrive for your fittings with your bridal shoes and underwear in a bag, leave it to the experts, and pick it up when it has been altered and is now ready to wear on the Big Day. Other shops outsource the alterations to a specialist dress making service. Remember, these talented people are experienced and highly skilled craftspeople so you will be in safe hands. Alternatively you can source your own alterations person, but beware: there are seamstresses and there are seamstresses! Make sure you are getting someone who understands the intricacies of fine fabrics, lace and beaded embellishments.
For the Rolls Royce of bridalwear choices you can opt to have a couture experience by placing your trust in the hands of a specialised bridal designer. Here you can have an active input into not only the bridal look, but also the very design of your dream wedding dress. Guided by the expert and experienced hand of your couturier, you can choose the shape, style and fabrics in which to have your dress created. If you are the bride who feels great knowing that your wedding dress is a once-off, completely bespoke creation, then this might be the way to go. It helps to have some idea of what you would like, or even something that you definitely don’t like, as a starting point. Or perhaps you’ve done the rounds of the bridal shops and tried on many beautiful dresses, but none of them quite clinched the deal for you. Now you know pretty much what you want, and you can have it designed specifically for you. Couturiers are very particular and exacting craftspeople and you will be assured of a perfect fit, so you will have no add-on alteration charges. Usually the process involves having a toile (a cotton mock-up) made of the design to your specific measurements, to ensure a great fit, before cutting your chosen fabric. You can opt for detachable elements, such as sleeves or a lace overlay, that will allow you to change your bridal look from day to night. Basically, you can have whatever you want (once it is physically possible of course). Your designer wants you to have your dream dress and will accommodate you in any way they can.
Bespoke Margaret Coyne – Ava
Don’t be deterred by the feeling that the cost of a bespoke dress would necessarily be prohibitive. Typically you can expect to pay a similar price to that which you would pay in a mid-to-top range high street bridal shop. And maybe, when you think about it, it is much better value for money? Whatever avenue you choose to go down, allow yourself time to explore all your options, knowing that you will find ‘The One’. And remember, in the words of Taylor Swift, “Happiness and confidence are the prettiest things you can wear on your wedding day”.
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Kelly is a former wedding planner and a lover of anything pink. She believes that any bride can plan her own wedding, with a few tips and helpful tools.