Monday, 28 February 2011

Gonna dress you up in my love...

If there is one dress more important than a wedding dress, I know not what the heck it is. Which might explain why I seem to have developed profound wedding dress fear - you know the scene in Sex & the City when Miranda coaxes Carrie into some trampy bridal shop and a wedding dress brings Carrie out in hives? Well, it's something akin to that. A nice swathe of prickly heat across my chest, and a little voice in my head that jeers at me that I'll look like a prize winning fool in most of them: too curve-playing, too much netting, too much bridal bluster or equally too sexpot, fashion-forward or puritan (the jig is up with most brides - very few of us make it down the aisle chaste these days).

A wedding dress is, after all, likely to be the most you will spend on a few acres of silk and lace in your life. Regardless of your budget: this will be the dress that pales any other in significance. It has to stand the test of time, so that on looking back on your wedding photos not only makes you fondly recollect precisely how that dress made you feel, but that it is as timeless as your marriage will hopefully prove to be.

I feel that weddings are ultimately a celebration of you having had the good fortune to stumble across each other in this crazed world, so why wouldn't you wear a glorious, beautiful and yes, possibly extravagant, dress to such an extraordinary party?

Personally, I want my dress to remind my glorious Fiancee why he's marrying me (besides my raging intellect, baking skills and whip sharp wit, that is...pah!). If there's ever a time to take someone's breath away, this is it. It's about being a woman, a wife. Made for loving - and that's just the dress.

Over the past few months, I've been struck by some particularly good dresses, shops and the sheer pleasure that a truly lovely bridal shop assistant can be - and equally by the postcode premium whereby some areas ratchet up their prices dependent upon what they perceive as what local women are willing to pay and might be oblivious to the fact there is a shop just down the way that is easily hundreds of pounds cheaper. Not naming names, as I am a well mannered thing, but I sincerely wish there was some way of informing brides of said shops. It makes me a touch sad to think that they could shave two hundred pounds off their frock, and spend more on some super pretty shoes.

These have been the highlights thus far (and I still don't have my dress...)
  • The White Closet, West Didsbury, Manchester - a delight of a shop, with a happy mix of guileful, bohemian dresses and softly layered fuller dresses. The shop assistant proved herself to be a gift of a girl - warm and witty but enamoured of her dresses. Plus, there's cake.
  • Clifton Brides - the first dresses I fell for after an educational experience in a grotty dress shop in central Bristol where I had gone in pursuit of a Vivienne Westwood knock off (worst incidence of heat rash so far - whole torso, and itching. Nice). Clifton Brides was a revelation - a well chosen collection of refined, sumptuous gowns that felt just as lovely on. The bridal assistants were also fabulous - gentle and generous yet insightful and wise. Dresses here around the £1,000 mark.
  • Vivienne Westwood - there is a reason the grand dame of all things buccaneer and amazing is so revered. Her dresses are so artfully crafted they would have you believe the little seamstress mice had been at them from Beatrix Potter's Tailor of Gloucester, and the weight and quality of the silks speaks of the aristocratic tradition. These made me feel like the quintessential rebel bride I desperately want to be: sadly, the £14,000 price tag means this just isn't going to happen. But, I learnt what I should be looking for in the craft of the dress, and a great deal about spirit and form.
  • There are some corkers on the high street - Monsoon has some swoony Florence Welch appropriate ones for around £200, French Connection some redux glamour 1970's feel dresses with soft pleats for £155, and rumours are that Urban Outfitters' new bridal range will make it's way across the pond next year.
    Monique L'Huillier 2010
  • Dreamy dresses of note from: Paloma Blanca, Ellis bridal, Vera Wang, Jasmine, Charlotte Balbier, Monique L'Huillier, Johanna Hehir, Sincerity, Lusan Mandongus, Jenny Packham...

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