How about shopping for “The One”? That one special dress that you have dreamt of since you were a little girl in your Cinderalla dress and plastic sparkle shoes running around like a princess in a castle. That “One” special dress where you and your entire entourage are supposed to explode with unstoppable tears and emotion as you finally step out of the changing rooms wearing a beautiful satin or lace number?
I didn't know what to expect when I went wedding dress shopping. Sadly all the idealistic dreams of being handed a glass of champagne on arrival and being helped and aided by a really lovely bridal assistant who new what style suited my body shape, just didn’t happen! I’d seen it all in the movies and I really did think this would be reality but sadly it wasn't. I quizzed my sister over her experiences in bridal shops as she'd been bridesmaid for a few of her close friends and helped them to choose their dresses. She burst my bubble when she told me how she had never even been offered so much as a cup of tea! That's really sad seeing as she should have been on commission given the amount of recommendations she had made!
I was aware that I had to be fairly realistic with my timescale. I didn’t have long to get my dress given that there was only 12 weeks until the wedding and I didn’t have much time to even go shopping what with work and other commitments. I only had a Monday to choose my dress and most of the bridal shops were closed or you had to book an appointment to visit. My friends had filled me with horror stories about over eager sales assistants who were fighting amongst themselves for the sale and commission. I’d also read about people being pressurised into leaving deposits against dresses that they didn’t want because the shop owners had been too pushy. I didn’t want any of that! So I went to a bridal warehouse where they sold ex samples or one offs at reduced prices. I knew that I would be able to take a dress away with me on the day if I found one I liked. I tried on about 5 dresses and settled on a Sophia Tolli ivory satin dress with a long train and beautiful beaded embroidery to the bodice and train. I later checked it out online and it was about 50% cheaper than other shops still had it for sale for. I was happy!
The shop didn’t do alterations but I needed it taking up as I’m only 4ft 10” and so I decided to take it to someone local as the shop was over an hours drive away.
I took my dress to a lovely local lady who told me she had been sewing for 30 years. I was a little apprehensive as I entered her tiny little flat but I relaxed a little bit when I saw other bridesmaid dresses hanging from cupboards and wardrobes. I tried the dress on squashed between her bed and wardrobe but she seemed to know what she was doing, pinning the bottom up as we talked. She took even more phone calls and bookings whilst I was there so I never questioned her ability. I mean, a busy woman must be good right? I couldn't have been more Wrong!
I collected my wedding dress a week later after she had finished the alterations. I couldn't wait to get it home and try it on again. Taking it out of the bag in my bedroom, the diamantes glistened in the sunlight and I felt so happy with what I'd chosen. I quickly stepped into the dress and pulled it up around me. Suddenly I was overcome with massive sadness and disappointment and immediately burst into uncontrollable tears! It didn’t fit! She’d the bottom of the dress at the front but it wasn't right. It wasn't straight! To make matters worse she’d ironed the crease in too. Being a delicate material there was no chance of getting the creases out.
I panicked. What was I supposed to do now? I though my dress was ruined. To make matters worse, In a mad upset panic trying to take it off, I tore the dress at the bottom of the corset too. I felt hopeless. I just didn't know what to do.
The next day after I had calmed down a bit I took to Google to find another seamstress. Luckily, l found what I could only describe as my fairy godmother. I phoned a seamstress who worked within a bridal shop and explained to her what had happened. An appointment was made for a week later with Debbie, my new wedding dress seamstress. She was the answer to all of my prayers and I kicked myself for not visiting her first.
At my dress fitting, Debbie suggested that I try a hoop. I was quite shocked that the sales girls in the wedding dress shop had never even mentioned this. A hoop is basically an underskirt which has at least one stiffened ring. She explained that it would lift up my dress slightly giving it a different shape and moving it away from my legs slightly allowing me to walk better. Luckily for me, the hoop almost hid the wrong alteration at the front.
Debbie also was able to hide the rip in my wedding dress by removing an embellishment from another part of the dress and adding it over the rip. She assured me that I wouldn't even notice where it had been removed from and in the end I couldn't see it at all.
Debbie was also concerned that the dress didn't fit me properly around the waist. I had chosen a corset back so there was a little bit of give in it. She questioned why I had bought a size bigger than my dress size and I mentioned that the girls in the shop suggested that this is what I needed to do. As it turned out, this wasn't necessary. The corset style back when fastened, didn't show the fitting off to its full potential and the pieces at the top were touching. It needed to be altered.
We also discussed a bustle. Not only had I bought a dress a size too big, but the so called bustle that the sales assistant had shown me was nothing more than a hanging ribbon to keep the train off the floor in the shop! I felt really stupid at this point, but it’s not every day a girl goes shopping for a wedding dress. I had 3 small hooks fitted to the train which attached to the bodice. Not only did it lift the huge train from the floor allowing me to dance, but it still hung beautifully too.
I'm not going to lie, between the fittings I really was having second doubts about my dress. I'd lost all confidence after the first disastrous seamstress. It did cross my mind on a few occasions that I should buy another one just in case. But when I returned to see Debbie for my final fitting all my fears and worries were solved. I fell in love all over again. Debbie altered my wedding dress to perfection and she really did make me feel like Cinderella.
So the moral of my story? Do your research. I was lucky that I did end up with a beautiful wedding dress eventually and still at almost half the original price even after all the alterations. Find a good wedding dress shop and a good seamstress. It will make all the difference. If I had to do it all over again I'd look for somewhere that offered the complete package. At least I'd have someone to fall back on if it all went wrong.
Watch out for the next blog post where I'll talk about what we did to keep the wedding guests entertained.