I know it’s probably not cool to admit to having a wedding Pinterest board years before an engagement (it can all feel a bit Fatal Attraction can’t it?), but one thing I thought I had an idea about before I did get engaged was the kind of dress I’d want to wear one day- and actually, looking back I wasn’t too far off what I ended up going with, which, looking back- is quite cool!
Whenever I pinned a picture- be it from a Rodarte show, with models adorned with gypsophila and pink tulle, or Luisa Beccaria catwalk’s with floaty fairy-like fabrics (clearly I had something in mind and had BIG IDEAS people)- it would always be pastels, prints and floaty princess tulle (with an occasional Victorian child/prairie/sixties mini dress thrown in for good measure- damn you Bianca Jagger)! So when it came to dress shopping, it really gave me an idea of what I truly loved, and proved a pretty useful starting point (although that’s not to say go rouge, it’s your day after all)…
Dress shopping started in January 2018. Namely because we’d initially decided on a September wedding of that year, but it wasn’t until August I actually found the one. Loaded with armfuls of Brides magazines and some intense Pinterest research, I’d worked out the kind of shops that would be worth booking an appointment in- and more so, the shops that would accommodate for the kind of thing I was looking for.
It’s worth noting some dress shops will take a deposit upon booking (which will come out of your total if you buy your dress from them)- but also means that it can tally up, so its worth doing a bit of research beforehand. There were infamous London dress shops like Brown’s on my list, but after narrowing down the brands I liked- knew it perhaps wasn’t worth going ‘for the sake of it’ or just to tick it off, if in reality I didn’t think I’d find anything there.
In the end I went to about five shops in total- Katya Katya for my first appointment (ethereal and bohemian fairy dresses), Blackburn Bridal in Greenwich (a real variety, and stockist of Alexandra Grecco– one of my favourite NY designers), The Mews in Notting Hill (very chic French cool-girl dresses), Jenny Packham (sparkles! Tulle!) and finally The Wedding Club in Knightsbridge- which is where I eventually got my dress from- gah!
If I’m being honest the thought of going to a boutique in Knightsbridge intimidated me a bit. I’d already decided I probably wasn’t their typical client (‘God, I’m not fancy enough to be in here!’ ‘I FEEL LIKE BRIDGET JONES!’), and almost worried it could veer on a little stuck up- but how wrong I was. The ladies in the store were so incredibly accommodating, warm and made the trying on process a truly fun and exciting experience. I didn’t feel silly for trying things on that were a little ‘out there’, and after picking my dress- I really looked forward to going back there for the handful of fittings, and finally collecting it a month or so before the big day too.
And the process…
I absolutely loved the dress trying on process- but I think it’s important to know where to draw the line- because I could have imagined it going on for an age as well, which may well have become a little exhausting. For me, at the end of the day, what was most important was feeling like me. It sounds obvious and cliché, but I wanted to wear something that felt like something I’d genuinely fall in love with –wedding or not.
Plus, when it came to choosing my wedding dress, I followed my nose. I tried on so many dresses that made me feel like I was dressing up as a bride- so much so, that I bought a cream suit to wear just in case I didn’t end up having any luck (and even ended up bringing along for the evening, on the off chance I wanted to change out of my dress- which I definitely didn’t). I felt too grown up, too sleek or too sophisticated, or too like I was trying to fit the mold of what a ‘bride’ was meant to wear. Although all of the dresses I tried on were beautiful, they were probably not dresses I’d have felt comfortable wearing during any other occasion- so why now? I wanted to feel special, dressed up- but I wanted to feel relaxed too, and like I could seriously slice up the dance floor and not worry for a second about falling out, or tripping up either.
When I saw my dress hanging up in the shop, I didn’t for a second assume it would be my wedding dress. It was something I kept going back to, ‘guys, have you seen this one!? LOOK! IT’S PINK- how beautiful!’ And in the end, before we finished, I insisted on trying it on because I didn’t want to leave without trying on that true ballerina dress that was hanging up. I could have never imagined going for a pink dress- but I know the things I like and what I’m drawn to, and I tried it on because (for me) it was possibly the most beautiful one in the shop- and I couldn’t leave without a little parade around in it (which I definitely did). I felt amazing in it, and although it required going away and having a proper think- I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and went back a couple of weeks later to put my deposit down and have my measurements taken- AHH! It was done!
Things to keep in mind…
If there’s one thing I took away from the ‘process’ it’s that choosing my dress assured me of my own tastes. I didn’t pick my dress to be trendy, or cool (although seeing this at the Dior exhibition did send me spare and absolutely cemented my choices) and certainly not to be ‘quirky’ (a worry I had about three days before the wedding where I thought that picking a pink dress would make it seem that way. ‘OH GOD, DOES IT LOOK LIKE I’M TRYING TO BE DIFFERENT??’) I did it because I liked it. Don’t feel you need to conform for the sake of it, and know that whatever you chose- whether it’s a two piece, coloured dress, high-street hero or tailor made gown- it will be beautiful- because you’re the one in it. Don’t worry about what other people will think. Take note of how you feel, because nobody knows your taste quite like you do- despite what watching Say Yes To The Dress might have taught me…
It’s okay if you don’t cry (lol)
During my appointments, there were no hysterical tears, no Bridesmaids style fanfare when I finally said yes and no screaming either- but that doesn’t mean you haven’t found it! I took my mum and a handful of my closest friends and we celebrated with tea afterwards and it was brilliant- we all had a sit-down debrief with cake, and all knew it was probably going to be the one.
If you can, start with the dress
Before I’d started dress shopping, I’d pretty much decided my bridesmaids would be wearing colour and we thought Joe would be in a pale blue- but the moment I found my dress it kind of threw everything off piste. I worried that by going with a pink dress it would make bridesmaid dress shopping difficult (I always thought they’d be the ones in the pink)- but by putting that to one side, I was able to find something I really liked and work everything else around that (even if that did feel a little self-centred). Joe had no idea I’d veered from traditional white or ivory, so it did make navigating suit shopping a bit challenging, but we couldn’t have been more pleased with the end result- and know that just because something wasn’t as you’d expected, doesn’t mean things won’t all come together. My bridesmaids ended up looking completely stunning in white silk Ghost dresses with baby’s breath in their hair, and looking back, I can’t have imagined them in anything else. They looked unbelievable.
Know your taste
Although an open mind is key, knowing what suits you, and what you’d wear in any other instance is a great place to start. When you go out are you a gal that loves a billowing sleeve? Do you love a low back- or are you a silky slip dress kind of lady? Although dress shopping is a chance to step out of your comfort zone if you fancy it, it’s also a chance to feel the most special too- and being comfortable is pretty key in that too.
Go with your gut
Nobody knows your tastes more than you do. People know what they like, and although it’s nice to have feedback- it really can muddy the water, and people’s judgements are so often guided by the way you react too. At the end of the day, the people you go with will be happy if you’re happy- so try not to not be too swayed if they’re not as in love as you are. On my first appointment I only went with a couple of people as to not feel overwhelmed, and then once I’d found my groove bought a few more friends- as I still wanted a bit of a fun try on session too!
Set a budget
This is so boring, but so important. Despite my dress not being cheap, I had a budget. I knew what was feasible, and knew what I was happy to waiver to and from. I tried on some dresses that were so beyond my budget, and although I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a press discount- knew what was doable, and what would be too much. It’s so easy to be swept up in the moment and the excitement of it all- and there will always be the ‘oh but it’s the ONE day’, but know there are so many beautiful dresses for every budget- and it’s totally not worth breaking the bank over.
There will always be other dresses you’ll like- because wedding dresses are designed to like, be really really nice. You might see other ones and think OH GOD MAYBE THAT’S THE ONE after you’ve put down your deposit, but in all honesty you could be looking forever if you wanted to. There will always be other dresses you’ll love- just like how you always see something new on Instagram you get overly excited about for the next occasion coming up- but know that’s normal, and don’t confuse thinking something is lovely for you having gone for the wrong thing- otherwise your mind could be changing endlessly. Whatever you pick will be beautiful, and as long as you feel happy, comfortable and like you- the rest will all come together.