Some women have dreamt about their wedding dress since they were little girls. I wasn’t one of them.
As a child I was too busy climbing trees and I spent my teenage years lecturing my friends on how traditional weddings are sexist, insisting I would marry in a registry office wearing a “normal” outfit – if I bothered with marriage at all (I was a little ray of sunshine, me).
In my early 20s, while going through a phase of watching Don’t Tell The Bride, I did idly fantasise about wearing a big white dress. It was all very abstract though. Getting married was something other people did, people older and more “adult” than me.
Now I AM that “older” person, with a shiny ring on my finger and facing the terrifying prospect of being watched by 100-odd people – so I have to look the part, while also sticking to a tight budget.
I naively assumed that wedding dress shopping would be just like buying any other outfit, except in white. I would walk into a shop, try a few styles on then pick the one I like best and take it home the same day, ready to wear.
Do you have an appointment?”, the bridal boutique assistant asked.
Uh, I need an appointment? Like at the dentist?
Luckily they weren’t busy so the assistant ushered us in. My friend and I stood in the middle of the shop, blinking.
Everything was so shiny and bright – an explosion of white satin, tulle, lace, sparkles and frothiness. It was all so….ladylike. Unlike me.
“Any idea what style you’d want to go for?”, enquired the assistant.
I did, sort of. I could picture myself in something floaty and not too formal.
I picked the two nearest dresses that weren’t covered in sparkles.
“OK, just go into the changing room, pop your clothes and your bra off and I’ll help you into the dresses”, chirped the lady.
No one had warned me about this.
A few minutes later I found myself standing with one hand awkwardly clamped over my nipples, the other trying to conceal my out-of-control bikini line while the assistant forced what felt like several tonnes of fabric over my head.
The dress was certainly very beautiful, with a full skirt, several layers of luxurious material and finely-stitched lace.
Yet on seeing my reflection in the mirror, I felt slightly ridiculous. I looked like something out of a Disney film and I could barely turn without help. The long train felt like lots of cumbersome, unnecessary material gathering dust off the floor.
“Do you have anything…um..less…bridal?”, I asked the assistant.
She stared at me.
What I meant was something pretty but not so constricting and… sort of scary. I have a casual, understated style and this just felt a bit much.
I tried on another few dresses, all in the “too much” camp – there just weren’t any other styles – before I dared enquire about the price.
The cheapest dress was £800. I tried not to faint.
And that wasn’t all. They would have to take detailed measurements, then a dress identical to the sample I tried on would be made in my exact size. But there might still be additional alterations needed afterwards – at an extra cost.
I’d be looking at spending around £1000, and that’s without all the extras – veil, shoes, jewellery etc.
It all seemed like too much faff and expense for an outfit I would only wear once.
I went home determined to find a shortcut. Buying a ready-to-wear dress online seemed like a good option and with many High Street stores offering a bridal service, there was plenty of choice.
I will review the dresses I tried from High Street retailers in the next instalment.