I began my quest by looking for ideas on the confetti dress search. They have hundreds of different designs to look through, and it took me a whole afternoon to get through all the designs. By the end of the day, I had a good idea of what I wanted: a simple design with long, medieval sleeves and a nice full skirt.
I decided to go dress shopping in Liverpool, as there are lots of bridal boutiques to look round. I made sure I booked a few appointments as I knew we’d have to do it on a Saturday, and I didn’t want to be disappointed. When the day finally came, I did my hair carefully, and put on some special make‐up, so I’d have a good idea what the dresses might look like on the day. I also made sure I wore some posh, white underwear, as I knew I’d be getting changed in front of shop assistants, and I was sure they didn’t want to see any tatty pants!
Mum came to meet me at Paul’s house, and his sister, Barbara came with us too. We drove into town, and had a look at our schedule. First up was the plushest of the boutiques ‐ we had booked a full hours appointment with them, so we could have a thorough consultation. They were really friendly and helpful, and they put us all at ease. Trying on a wedding dress for the first time was a pretty nerve‐wracking experience, but they made me feel totally relaxed.
They worked by taking three dresses. The shop assistants chose the first two, and I had to try each one on and say what I did and didn’t like about them. Mum and Barbara chose the last dress, and they picked it out using the comments I had made so far.
This one was a lovely dress ‐ it had a boned bodice, with a v‐shaped waist and neckline. It had fitted sleeves and a big, a‐line skirt. It looked fabulous, and they asked me to walk around the shop in it. I tried it with some flowers, a tiara and a veil, and when I looked at the mirror, we all started crying! The wedding suddenly seemed very real.
I felt great in that dress, but it still wasn’t quite ‘the one’. The beading was a little too much, and the sleeves weren’t the right shape. We thanked the ladies for their help, and moved on to the next shop. We hadn’t booked an appointment at this shop, as I was told on the phone that we wouldn’t need to. However, when we got there, it was absolutely heaving. The dresses we looked at on the peg were rather tatty, and the shop itself seemed very chaotic. It was over half an hour before a sales assistant even spoke to us. I wasn’t impressed at all, and we left the shop without trying a single dress on.
The third shop we went to was much better, and the assistants were far more helpful. I tried on a couple of dresses, which were so beautiful ‐ but again ‐ they weren’t quite what I wanted. By the end of the day, we were all absolutely exhausted. I was completely overwhelmed with ideas, and I kept having visions of chiffon and organza and duchess satin flying through my mind…
In the end, mum and I had a head to head, and we decided that we’d actually make my dress ourselves. It was beginning to look like I just wouldn’t find the style I wanted in the shops, and all the dressmakers we spoke to were far too expensive for our budget. By being our own dressmakers, we’d have more control over things like materials, fittings and details. Luckily, mum and I are pretty experienced with a needle and thread, as we both spent years making costumes for my dancing lessons when I was younger. However, the thought of making my wedding dress is very daunting.
So what came next…? The dress of course!
Mum has enrolled on a dressmaking course, so that she can make a pattern for the dress I want. Her tutor, Helen, is a star. She’s been guiding us through all the intricate measurements and fittings, and ‐ fingers crossed ‐ we’ll be OK. I think we’ll have to make the bridesmaids’ dresses too, as there are so many of them (eek!), so we’ll really have our work cut out. The wedding is only a few months away now, and it’s a bit scary! My tips for dress shopping? Well, even you’ve decided to make your own dress, or buy a basic one off the rail at a high street store, it’s definitely worth spending a day in the bridal boutiques. It allows you to experiment with sizes and shapes of dress, as well as with different shades and materials. I’d never have thought of having a boned bodice in my dress, if it hadn’t been for the design I tried on in the first shop. Also, make sure you accessorise! Ask the assistants if you can try on different tiaras and veils, and that way you can work out what suits you. Try to style your hair as closely as you can to the way you want it on the day, and then you’ll have a good idea of how each neckline might look.
Finally, take with you two people who you absolutely trust. My mum and Barbara are very close to me, and if I look like I’m wearing a satin sack of spuds, they’ll tell me so! Right, I’m off to the fabric warehouse for a few hundred yards of duchess satin (should be interesting trying to get that home on the bus!!). We’ve got some dressmaking to do!