In which our bride-to-be faces her fear and throws herself into the fray of wedding dress shopping
This is the part I’ve been dreading. A wedding dress somehow makes a wedding all the more…weddingy. And we’re still in denial about just how much wedding we’re prepared to have.
I’m not quite sold on the alternatives, however – the non-long or non-pale. While Carrie Bradshaw might be able to pull off a cream Chanel suit with as much flair as a Vivien Westwood meringue, I’m not sure I could do the same.
Still, there’s nothing like grinning and bearing it. So I recruited my mother and my maid of honour to brave Oxford Circus with me one Saturday.
I eased us in gently at Liberty. The first dress I tried on was a lovely full-length gown from Needle and Thread, but it didn’t come in my size and I didn’t adore it quite enough to investigate further (by which I mean online). The second was a vintage silk gown by Ben Reig. It was oyster-coloured and clingy, with subtle beading at the waist. It was nothing like a wedding dress and I loved it.
And then I saw the price tag. After a few photos and an adoring last glance in the mirror, I quickly returned it to the shelf before I could think too much about it.
Still slightly shaky with love for my Ben Reig, it was on to a dressmaker recommended by my maid-of-honour. Beau Monde is housed in a slightly unprepossessing room on the ground floor of a building on Margaret Street, just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of London’s shopping hub.
Sylvia sat us down like a trio of naughty schoolchildren and talked us through her philosophy. She doesn’t charge for appointments, she makes dresses to fit the individual rather than the other way round, and she was a bit reluctant to get into bridalwear in the first place. She had me try on some styles I would never have considered otherwise, pulled and pinned in all the right places, draped lace over satin and helped demystify some of the science of necklines and sleeves and waists.
Equipped with a lot more knowledge and a few ideas, it was on to our final appointment: at Whistles in St Christopher’s Place. I can’t recommend the Whistles bridal experience highly enough: we had the whole of a very roomy dressing area to ourselves and the lovely assistant brought us each a glass of prosecco. Their range is affordable, classic with a contemporary twist, and I nearly fell for the Eve, which fitted perfectly.
But by then I was torn between love for Sylvia and love of the Ben Reig dress. After checking out some photos over coffee, I realised that in fact, Ben didn’t particularly suit me after all. Against my pasty complexion (more lily white than English rose), the colour was just a bit underwhelming. Mercifully, I was able to eliminate that bank-breaking option and resolved to give Sylvia a call the following week.
As you might have guessed, having a dress made from scratch isn’t exactly easy on the purse strings either, but Beau Monde is a more affordable option than most. According to a report by Bridebook, at £1300 the cost of my dress almost exactly equates to the UK average, with a 50% deposit due on confirmation. It still seems like an awful lot (familiar refrain, much?) but to me, it’s worth it if it means I can eliminate dress shopping from all my future Saturdays for now and for ever and ever and all eternity, Amen.
Days remaining: 122
Bridesmaids’ dresses £192
Venue deposit: £730
Dress deposit: £650
The reluctant bride’s tips for dress shopping:
- Make a start earlier rather than later – there may be a few fittings and it will be a weight off your mind once you’ve found what you’re looking for.
- Take your mum, sister or a trusted friend, and get plenty of photos, which will give you a different impression from what you see in the mirror.
- Try on styles you’d never normally go for, just to get a sense of what suits you.
Have you found your dress? Did you choose haute, high street, or second-hand? Share your experience and recommendations in the comments section below.