ages
Misc Updates

A Decade Wiser?

At work a few days ago, we were researching UK based fashion bloggers in their early 30s. These are my peers, and I should have been able to list dozens, but struggled to find more than a handful. It seems like this age is not catered for in quite the way I expected. I’ve seen so many of my favourite bloggers write soul-searching posts in the last few months about the state of blogging and where we go from here. The general feeling? So many of us who’ve been doing this for years feel a bit disillusioned. Amazing young talents are snapping at our heels, and it’s easy to feel a bit burned out.

The fact that young bloggers are dominating large parts of the industry does make sense. They had the head-start that they grew up knowing what blogs are. They can see what the trailblazers did, learn from it, and improve on it. Young people also have a hell of a lot of enthusiasm and drive; I am first to admit I don’t put nearly as much time into my personal blog now as I did when I was 21. They’re also fearless, whereas I feel like my anxiety has got worse the older I’ve got.

There are some obvious commercial reasons too; the way we consume information on the internet has become a lot more visual, and when it comes to Instagram in particular, young and pretty sells – let’s not pretend it doesn’t. But I also think as you grow older your interests widen and your lifestyle changes. I’d wager there are a lot of women my age who started out with fashion blogs who simply don’t have the inclination to blog about clothes any more. They’re too busy working, having babies, travelling, making a home. Their blogs expand as their lives do, which is why most thirtysomething blogs aren’t topic-specific. I know I’ve widened the net just about every year. The irony is when I started blogging at about 16, I wrote about anything. I don’t know when it was that I suddenly thought I had to stick to one topic in case people thought my posts were “irrelevant”.

The point of this post? Realising I am actually NOT blogging in a saturated market has spurred me on to take this blog a little more seriously in 2015. I have so much more to share now than I did 10 years ago, I need to stop being too scared to press ‘publish’. You won’t be seeing outfit posts featuring floppy hats and crop tops. I will not be getting ombre hair. But I will be blogging more openly and more honestly. To help I’ve stripped things right back, got a snazzy new responsive design for the new year, and I’m going to endeavour to post a little more often.

I hope you’ll be here when I do.

niggle
DD+, Lingerie, Sponsored Posts

Improving Your Life One Niggle At a Time

You may have already stumbled across Triumph’s latest lingerie campaign, which is all about fixing the little niggles that make life more difficult. You know what I’m talking about, when you make a delicious meal and realise too late that you’re out of the one herb or spice you need to bring it all together, when you ladder your tights as you’re walking out the door, when you find yourself on public transport face-to-armpit with a man wearing yesterday’s shirt…just take a look at the video for more. I think we’ve all been there!

 

Of course, as a bra obsessive and advocate of the perfect fit when it comes to clothes, the heart of this campaign is close to my heart. Ill-fitting bras are definitely one of my niggles! But even if you’re wearing the right size, wires can dig over time, shift about during the day, and cause discomfort and temporary marks (if the marks start to become permanent, it’s definitely time for a fitting and a new bra). But the alternative – a non-wired bra – isn’t an option for many of us when it comes to support. I can think of only one viable non-wired D+ bra that even exists!

So I’m intrigued by Triumph’s new Magic Wire bra, which seems to offer the best of both world. It’s seamless, and looks a little sexier than some non-wired offering, but the new silicone ‘wire’ provides the support that many of us need. Size wise, it goes up to an E or F cup depending on the band size, so while it’s not technically a fuller bust option, it does cater to much more than the usual A-D range available in most non-wired options.

What’s more fun, though, is the #nigglefix campaign, which really got me thinking about those little things that drive me mad. I’m talking people who stop in the middle of a busy street with no warning, skinny jeans that sag at the knees, flat shoes that suddenly start rubbing the backs of your heels despite the fact you’ve been wearing them for months, rucksacks on public transport, when someone pronounces it “expresso”, and absolutely everything about self-service checkouts.

I’m only scratching the surface here, but I’m sure you have plenty more to share. You can share them with Triumph using the hashtag #nigglefix – you might make it onto the microsite, and maybe someone can help fix your niggle?

Disclosure: Posted in association with Triumph

engagementrings
Wedding

A Guide for Non-Romantics: How To Propose

After getting engaged, I was surprised at the amount of people whose first question was “So, how did it happen?”

I guess I never thought too much about proposals because I was more concerned with the marriage (and, yes, to a lesser extent, the wedding). But after telling the story over and over I realised that it is a lovely part of your relationship story to have a touching, funny, sweet or dramatic proposal story.

What I don’t believe, though, is that you have to stick to tradition, spend a shedload of money, or go big. Sometimes, it’s the little touches that are the best. So when Gemporia, purveyors of gorgeous engagement rings, asked me to share my tips on how to propose, I decided to throw the rulebook out of the window and instead of sharing tips, I’m dispelling myths!

Myth one: You must spend a fortune on a ring

The ‘rule’ is that the person proposing should spend a proportion of his or her income on the ring. Depending on where you look, that figure ranges from one month’s salary to three. Basing what you buy on your earnings does make sense, but perhaps not to this extent. Lest we forget, the original ideas came from a 1930s advertising campaign by De Beers. De Beers sells diamonds. Of course they want you to spend all your money on a ring.

It comes down to two things: circumstances, and the bride’s style.

If my fiance spent three months salary on my ring, we wouldn’t be able to pay our mortgage. We wouldn’t be able to have our beautiful destination wedding. And I would walk around wearing a piece of jewellery so expensive I’d be scared to do anything with my left hand. Of course, there are some women out there who love luxury, expect a big rock, and won’t be truly happy without one. If they are marrying someone who is able to buy them the ring they dream of, then they should go for it. You’re going to wear this rock for the rest of your life. But for me, jewellery has always been more about sentimentality than cost.

I already have two engagement rings on my right hand – my nan’s and my great grandma’s – and I love them. For me it was most important that my ring worked with them as they’re mixed metals. I didn’t want a big, modern style with a huge diamond. After we decided to get married, I picked out two affordable vintage diamond rings on Etsy that had the same feel as the ones I already wear, and my fiancé picked his favourite. Here it is, in situ next to a modern ring from Gemporia.

rings

I adore my ring, everyone has commented on how perfect it is for me, and the money we saved will go towards our honeymoon. As for my wedding ring, I’m going to wear the gold band that matches my nan’s engagement ring. Consider it my ‘something old’.

Myth two: You have to get down on one knee

Though I know my future husband (argh!) wouldn’t want me to go into exact details about the moment we got engaged, I did already reveal that it happened in a lagoon in Thailand, so it wouldn’t take a genius to work out that he probably wasn’t down on one knee at the time. Did this make any difference to the moment? Nope!

While I do believe there should be some ‘ceremony’ to a proposal to make it special if possible, I don’t think it has to be the traditional down-on-one-knee moment, unless that feels right for you as a couple. Getting down on one knee automatically draws attention, not to mention the fact it implies what’s coming next. I would have been beyond embarrassed if I was proposed to in public with the whole shebang!

Myth three: You have to plan everything in advance

Sometimes it’s as simple as picking the perfect moment and jumping in at the deep end when it feels right. If you plan every last detail, the moment something doesn’t go according to plan you could get flustered and ruin things completely. There have been some incredible dramatic proposal (just look on YouTube) and while they’re absolutely amazing, they’re not necessary. What’s necessary is love, commitment, and that feeling of “right now is the right time”. While I doubt many girls would hate a beautiful choreographed proposal, I also think a lot would be happy with just a simple “will you marry me” from the man they love.

Myth four: You have to tell everyone immediately

We didn’t tell anyone about our engagement for almost a week, and it was nice to have that little bit of time just for us, which also allowed us to come up with a (basic) wedding plan before we told parents and friends. Some people may want to share immediately, but if I can give one piece of advice, it’s to make sure ALL close family know (especially the older generations) before you take it to social media. I made a lot of calls before I put up that facebook status change. Not everyone likes to find out about the movements of their nearest and dearest second hand from that random second cousin twice removed who you forgot follows you on instagram.

Myth five: You should never propose on a birthday, anniversary, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day or at someone else’s wedding

One person’s tacky is another’s sweet and sentimental. Do whatever the hell you like! The latter is the most controversial, but I’ve known it happen, everyone’s still married, everyone’s still friends. As with everything, it depends on the people!

Myth six: You should propose after a certain period of dating (18 months, 2 years, etc)

As much as I would like to say “absolutely not” to this, I think the real answer is “it depends on who you’re proposing to”. Some people have certain expectations, and if you’re in a relationship with a traditionalist who has a life plan, there may come a time when you feel pressured to put a ring on a it. But it’s 2014, and each relationship is different. Don’t let outside pressure force you into proposing unless you genuinely want to be engaged and eventually get married. Because the moment that ring is on the finger, people will start asking about the wedding!

Myth seven: The man has to propose to the woman

Firstly, who says a marriage has to be between a man and a woman? Secondly, if you are a woman who likes to take control of the situation, there is nothing to stop you from being the one to pop the question. If you want a seriously awesome story to tell people when they ask you how you got engaged, they don’t really get any better than “I asked him”.

Myth eight: You have to ‘propose’

Sometimes it’s as simple as sitting down, having a conversation about the future, and deciding mutually that you want to get married. While a nice proposal story is lovely, it’s not vital!

Disclosure: I wasn’t paid to write this post, but Gemporia did gift me the ring in the picture.

ocampa
Wedding

All The Wedding Dresses That Almost Made The Cut

I’ve chosen my wedding dress! After numerous appointments, lots of different styles and a little bit of soul-searching, I finally made a decision. It won’t surprise any of you that I ended up picking one of the first few that I tried, but it took a long time to convince myself that the right dress really was one of the cheapest and definitely the least like the picture I’d had in my head when I started looking. During my search I tried on around 40 dresses over six appointments (I know) and as I could only pick one, I wanted to share some of the other great styles I tried and loved. There were so many great designers on offer that I really wanted to do a little focus on them for any other brides currently on (or planning) their search!

elizajanehowell

Eliza by Eliza Jane Howell

(tried at Boa Boutique, Richmond)

Eliza Jane Howell was one of the first designers that I identified as being “the one”, and I deliberately booked appointments at two boutiques that stocked her dresses. She essentially makes nothing but the exact Old Hollywood style gowns I’d imagined myself wearing, and I fell in love with her beautiful ’40s designs. Unfortunately, my body didn’t. I tried 2 or 3 dresses but the only one that worked on me was this, the Eliza.

elizadress

This was the dress I agonised over the most. I loved it, but it would need serious alterations to the shoulders, sleeves and hem, I kept tripping over the incredibly delicate tulle train, and in hindsight, it was far too fussy and embellished for a beach wedding. I came away on the day seriously considering splashing out on this. But when I look back at these pictures it looks too much, overwhelming me with all the detail.

lusanmandongus-silk
Lusan Mandongus

(tried at TeoKath, Wimbledon)

This is another dress that made it onto my pinterest board very early on. I was completely in love with it from the photos and knew that the style was perfect for the beach; a bit sexy, with the vintage feel I love. But there was one big issue, and I knew this before I even tried it on. This is not a dress for a girl who has E cup boobs! I didn’t let this stop me trying it, and actually it looked a lot better on than I expected, but it wasn’t the one. No amount of sewn-in cups can make a slinky dress like this work on a less-than-slinky figure. On to the next…

annsuly-eldean

Annasul Y

(tried at Teokath, Wimbledon)

I never would have picked this dress up myself, least of all because at this point I was still against anything strapless, but after trying similar shapes with sleeves, I started to realise the fuss around the shoulders wasn’t actually doing me any favours (as I plan to wear my hair down). So the consultant suggested I try this, and it ended up being my favourite in the shop. It was hard to work out from the small sample how flattering it would be, but I loved the delicate details like the lace trim on the hem of the skirt, the soft pleated tulle at the waist, and the simple shape with very soft layers.

pronovias-ledurne

Pronovias Ledurne

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

And now for something completely different! I loved the ridiculous drama of this dress, though it wasn’t exactly my mum’s favourite. The bust has feathers pointing upwards, which I thought would be really fun in Antigua where the resident hummingbirds have actually inspired the overall theme of the wedding. The mermaid shape looks much better on me than I ever expected (and there’s great fun in looking like a mermaid for a beach wedding) but the full skirt with all the layers and pleats made this too heavy, and virtually impossible to pack for travel. I still love it for its drama though!

watters-brooke

Watters Brooke

(tried at Emma Elizabeth Bridal, Twickenham)

I think before I even tried it on that I knew this dress wasn’t quite right, but my mum hadn’t seen me in a full-on princess dress and I thought it would be fun to see how it looked. The great thing about these styles is that they make the upper body look incredible. I loved the twisted bodice and the fit of the corset top and this was actually one of the most flattering styles I tried. The skirt was surprisingly beautiful and didn’t look as crazy as it does in photos, but I knew that it’d be a step too far for my wedding (and more importantly, my fiancé, who is a less-is-more man). It was very light, though, despite all the layers, and I think if I was a few years younger, I might have considered it!

Fashion, Portrait, Wedding, Commercial & Event Photographer

Terry Fox Silver Siren

(tried at Boa Boutique, Richmond)

If I was getting married in Winter, in London, I would probably be wearing this dress. I absolutely LOVED how simple and sophisticated it was. Satin wasn’t top of my list when it came to fabrics when I started my search, because it’s so famous for being unflattering. But Terry Fox uses high quality, beautiful fabrics that float, rather than cling.

terryfox-dress

Unfortunately the sample was too small for me (see the back view!) so I couldn’t really get a true idea of how it would fit, but I loved the seaming detail around the hips, the keyhole neckline, and the ’30s inspired silhouette. Terry Fox makes dresses to the bride’s custom measurements, which would promise an incredible fit. I felt like a glamourpuss in this dress, but I just couldn’t see it on a beach. I’m so glad I tried it on though, because I now know if I ever have a big event that styles like this do work on curvier figures, you just need to invest in a good cut!

miamiatamara

Mia Mia Tamara

(tried at Emma Elizabeth Bridal, Twickenham)

I’d tried a lot of lace the day I tried this, and as more and more of the dresses didn’t work, I knew I needed to try something completely different to get myself out of the funk. This dress was the antithesis; full skirted, no embellishment, just a really beautiful heavy silk with a sheer panel at the top. The fit was an absolute dream, and when Emma added a floral sash in my exact colour scheme, I did find myself wondering for a nanosecond if I really could get a dress this big and heavy into a hand luggage box. The answer, of course, was “probably not”. But if you are having a more traditional wedding and want something along the Grace Kelly / Maria Von Trapp lines with no silly sparkle but plenty of class, please try this dress. It’s a total winner and makes your waist look absolutely incredible.

pronoviaocampa

Pronovias Ocampa

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

This was the first wedding dress my mum got to see me in, and I think it set the bar pretty high. Pronovias was one of the labels I’d known about for years but always thought was out of my price range (along with Claire Pettibone and Jenny Packham) but I was surprised to discover that many of the dresses are under £2000. That’s still an obscene amount of money to pay for a dress you’ll wear for one day, but a drop in the ocean compared to the likes of Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier and co. Ocampa combined a few of the things I loved; drop waist, tulle skirt, lace detail, not strapless…but overall it was just too much. Close, but no cigar!

enzoani-harmony

Enzoani Harmony

(tried at The Wedding Dress Shop, Wimbledon Park)

I tried this in a size 12 which was a little on the tight side, which could go some way to explaining why I let it go so quickly. Looking back, this is one of the dresses I feel the most excited about, but the simple truth was it just felt too much like a party dress, and too sexy for a wedding. You can’t tell so much on the model, but there’s a split to the thigh which shows Angelina Jolie levels of leg when you move. It’d be easy enough to stitch it down, but it still felt a bit too Marilyn Monroe. The waist hugs really tight, the top shows a lot of cleavage and the back is low, emphasising the hips and bum. I have a crazy waist to hip ratio, and a dress like this on a body like mine is just a bit too badonk-a-donk for a wedding. After all, the in laws will be there!

I’ve listed all the bridal boutiques I visited for any future brides looking for South London shops to explore. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the lot in terms of service, but really it comes down to the styles and designers you’re looking for. One piece of advice I would give: if you like a specific dress from a specific designer, call ahead to check they stock it (and find out what size the sample is) to avoid disappointment. I was lucky and there was only one dress I didn’t track down, but it’s not always that easy!

antiguafine
Rants

I am Fine.

On Monday I will be 31 years old, and it has taken me this long to realise one simple thing. I am fine.

finegif

I may never be a supermodel, I may never be a millionaire, I may never work out how to stop my hair from frizzing, or write the Great British Novel, or learn how to eat carrots like a grown-up rather than picking them out of every meal. I may never have a 26 inch waist. But I am safe, I am happy, I am fine.

To some extent, I’ve spent my whole life wishing I was something different. More confident, more vivacious, more tanned. Better at driving, less anxious, able to leave the house for a trip without checking every plug socket twice. Less prone to sticking myself to the walls at press events because I’m not one of the cool kids. Able to have a conversation with someone I admire without worrying that they think I’m a total bore (more importantly, not caring if they do). Able to participate in a pub quiz without coming across as an insufferable know-it-all. Able to live my life so I don’t feel like I’m faking it half of the time. Thinner, without the chubby ankles, the short torso and the dot-to-dot moles. With higher boobs, bigger lips, slimmer hips.

This level of self-obsession is not a good thing. Yes, we should always strive to be the best we can be. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be a better person. But so many of my hang-ups have to do with my body. That is ridiculous. I am more than that, and my body really isn’t that bad. Yeah, I have wobbly bits. I’ll never look like Miranda Kerr in a bikini. Sometimes, depending on which way my weight is fluctuating at the time, I step on the scales and the number tells me that (by someone’s fairly random calculations) I’m a bit overweight. That doesn’t suddenly make me a worse person. I am fine.

Partially, I blame fashion for my terrible body image. Fashion has made me feel left out my entire life. I don’t say that to elicit pity. Quite the opposite, in fact. I say it because you’ve probably felt the same way. After all, it’s what large parts of the industry thrive on. The only difference is I’m the idiot who decided to pursue a career in the exact industry that made me feel inferior at every turn. Well, I do love a challenge.

It’s easy to feel like fashion designers, retailers and the media don’t cater to your specific needs. Fashion thrives on aspiration and making women feel like they’re not good enough without the must have item. Whether you’re tall, short, plus size, slim, big busted, small busted, have a big waist, or a small waist, or a big bum, or no bum, or short legs or long legs…whatever. If you’re any woman I’ve spoken to in my entire adult life, you’ve struggled with fashion sometimes. When you go shopping, you have to dig and hunt to find the things that work for you. All clothes don’t work for all women. It’s rare that you see an ad campaign and think “I’d totally wear that, just like she does right there.” You’re more likely to read articles in magazines or on websites and think “well, this is all well and good, but what about women like me?” The fact that I’ve felt like that over and over again doesn’t make me special. It makes me exactly like everyone else.

I think it’s important to say at this point that I don’t hate my job. I love it. My decision to become a fashion writer was always more about clothes than it was about ‘fashion’. I have always been obsessed with clothing. Even before I really knew what ‘fashion’ was, I liked dressing up, and most of my strongest memories focus around items of clothing or outfits I had as a child. Trends were fun, but I loved clothes because they were the tool I used to make myself feel better, or become a different person, or make a statement. That’s the irony. Fashion made me feel bad and clothes made me feel better. Like most people, my teenage years were full of awkward moments. The right clothes could change and mould me into the girl I wanted to be. They were my armour. I have never really been bullied, but there have always been comments. Stupid people go for the easiest insults and “fat” is a pretty safe bet for me. I’ve been around a size 14 since I was about 15 years old, and it’s taken me half a lifetime to realise that doesn’t make me some kind of failure. My body is fine. I am fine. In fact, just as I look at other women and wish I had what they have, I now realise that others do that with me.

I write this now because I’m finally getting to a place where I don’t look at photos of myself and immediately pick out all the flaws. I still see my body as a work in progress, but I’m striving to ensure that anything I do to change it has to be about being healthy and happy, not necessarily about being a certain dress size. I hate that I put my weight above so many other things, but it’s a daily struggle not to. I am obsessed. And it’s not an easy job to reverse twenty-something years of habit and learned behaviour.

But I’m trying, and I want you to try too. Stop beating yourself up, stop tearing yourself down. Leave that to the trolls. I’m not saying give up, we should all strive to be our best, fittest, happiest and healthiest selves. But the best and most long-lasting changes (if they are needed or desired by you and you alone) can only be made when you’re starting from a good place. Next time you look in the mirror, instead of focusing on the things you hate, pick out one thing you love. The next time, pick out something else. If you’re struggling to find anything, keep looking and really force yourself to consider all the amazing things that make up you.

Because you are fine. And fine is good enough for now.

debs
Wedding

Wedding Dress Shopping at Debenhams

On my quest for the perfect bridal gown I ended up visiting six shops. Though my final dress may have been one of the first I tried on, I’m glad I gave myself the experience of visiting lots of shops and trying lots of different brands. Not only did I really learn what works on my body, I also discovered a lot about the process I can share with my fellow brides-to-be.

The first thing I would advise is to stagger appointments slightly. I think it’s important to really enjoy each appointment and give yourself some time to think between gowns. I made the mistake of making four appointments in one day (because my mum and bridesmaid were in town) but the result of that was that we were rushed off our feet all day with little time to think! By the time I made it to the lovely guys at Debenhams, who invited me to the Berketex Bridal salon in the Oxford Circus store, I was knackered, confused, and ready for a sit down.

Luckily, this was the right place to go when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed. Like David’s Bridal who I wrote about previously, this salon offers a slightly more relaxed setting for trying dresses. They have the big, roomy fitting rooms, the helpful shop assistants and the privacy of a “brides only” space. But it also felt less rushed, they had gowns in plenty of sizes, and also plenty of dresses at a more realistic price tag.

berketex-bride-dresses

By the time I got to Debenhams I had a better idea of what suited my figure. The days of dreamily choosing fussy lace designs with delicate sleeves, illusion overlays and trumpet hems were gone. I’d had to face the fact they looked frumpy and ill-fitting on me. The relaxed, diaphanous 30s gowns I loved looked like I’d slipped on a dress belonging to a woman twice my age. I’d quickly learned that the things I thought I didn’t want (strapless, sexy) worked much better on my body and made me look like a bride. So I went straight to the mannequin that held the Sasha Perez ‘Tori’ dress (£999).

sashpereztori

This was the only sample but the assistant had no issues taking it off the mannequin for me to try. I also grabbed a whole host of other dresses, from princess to column, from £200 to £2000. The Tori was my favourite, but some of the others came a close second. My main aim was to really compare the two price tags and see if you can spot the difference, and I was pleasantly surprised by what you could get on the lower end.

However, what I would say is this – when you’re buying a lower priced dress, it won’t necessarily look cheap, but only if you keep it simple. The more detail, beading, sparkle, applique, gathering, pleating and embroidery you want, the bigger your budget needs to be. If you’re looking for loads of bling and embroidery and beading on a £250 dress, this is when you run into problems, because the materials are obviously cheaper and the attention to detail a little lower. If you keep it fairly simple, you might be surprised. I tried on a £200 a-line gown which looked like it cost twice that. I was also impressed that some of the lower priced gowns (like the Marissa) had lace-up backs, as this is usually the first thing to go in favour of a zip when you’re trying to keep prices down…but is important to me because it give you some wiggle room (literally) and can save on expensive fittings.

debsbridal

I came away from the Berketex salon feeling surprised at what they had on offer right there in a department store, but then we stumbled across Debenhams own bridal gowns (not part of the salon) and realised we’d just scratched the surface! As well as carrying Phase Eight (whose vintage-inspired wedding dresses I love even if they don’t love me back) the Debut collection offers up some great dresses, from tea length ’50s frocks to pretty grecian styles that would be perfect for the beach. The joy of these dresses, aside from low price points, is that you don’t need an appointment to try them on, and you can buy them off the rack then and there, making them perfect for rushed weddings, last minute nuptials and “oh God, I hate my dress and I’m getting married tomorrow” moments. I’m sorely tempted to pop back and grab myself a reception dress for under £200!

dbs
Wedding

Wedding dress shopping at David’s Bridal

Since getting engaged, I’ve thrown myself into wedding planning. Our wedding is in May next year, so while there’s plenty of time to organise all the details, some bridal shops advise placing an order 9 months (!) before the wedding to allow time for the dress to be made, delivered, and altered, so as much as it pains me to make such a big decision so soon, I do have to start thinking seriously about my dress. With this in mind, I took a trip to Westfield Stratford City to visit David’s Bridal and try my first few dresses.

David’s Bridal offers a halfway house between the full-on salon experience and a less personal off-the-rack purchase. Their dresses can be bought there and then, or you can order a new one to be delivered a few months later. They also hold plenty of samples, so you can try the majority of dresses in your size, which appealed to me for a first stop when I really wanted to get an idea of what suited me. Nothing in the shop costs more than about £1300, which is obviously expensive, but nothing compared to the cost of designer wedding gowns elsewhere. Most importantly, David’s Bridal stocks dresses from two very exciting diffusion lines: White by Vera Wang, and Truly Zac Posen.

davidsbridal

It was the Zac Posen gowns I was most interested in, but I went in with my eyes wide open, willing to try a bit of everything. I had and still have and idea of what I want. But the truth is the soft, diaphanous gowns I love aren’t really made for a girl who’s all boobs and hips, so I guess deep down I knew that I’d need something a little more structured.

davidsbridal1

I kicked off with the biggest Zac Posen dress of the lot, which I’d seen in ads and knew I wanted to try. As you can see from the mirror, the zip didn’t go up – it had actually broken, so we had to use our imagination a little. Zac’s dresses come with a slightly less intricate version of his trademark built-in corsetry to shape the body. You could essentially wear this with no underwear, but I was given a strapless basque to wear underneath (albeit in a very ill-fitting 36C).

davidsbridal2

As fun and princessy as this dress was, I knew it wasn’t right for me. It’s too fussy and heavy, and completely wrong for the occasion, as we’re marrying on the beach in Antigua. So it was on to the next.

Dress two was a wildcard choice, a £1,195 Oleg Cassini dress that was the complete antithesis of what I thought I wanted. Strapless, full-skirted, and coloured, I tried this purely because I’d never seen anything like it and I thought it would be fun. And I have to say, though I won’t be wearing this down the aisle, I did kind of love it. As you can tell from my face!

davidsbridal3

The flower applique on the skirt was really unusual, and the colour (hard to see in the pictures, but it was a kind of brownish pink) was really amazing against my pale, pink-toned skin. But again, it was far too heavy and fussy for the beach, plus the colours felt too autumnal. I almost caved when they pulled out the matching veil though!

davidsbridal5

Then came the surprise. I was keen to try a mermaid dress, as I like the mermaid/beach concept, but I wasn’t expecting to like it as I’m pear-shaped. The one I picked was, once again strapless, but that’s easily solved with added straps or a little lace overlay. I chose it because it was very soft, simple, light and airy, with none of the fuss and drama of the bigger gowns. It had detail, but it was more in the construction than embellishment. Of all the dresses I tried, it was the one that instantly felt right when I put it on. It weighed half what any of the others did, for a start! Though it’s early days and I’m sure I will change my mind and fall in love with other dresses a hundred times before then, I’m not showing pictures of that dress on the small chance it may end up being ‘the one’.

But just to show you the mermaid shape, after seeing my eyes light up in that dress, the assistant quickly got me into two more. Both were from the Vera Wang White collection and were bigger, more dramatic versions of the same silhouette. As both were very similar, and neither were right for me, we only got photos of one.

davidsbridal6

Though this is not my dress by any stretch of the imagination, it probably goes some way to show why I fell for the mermaid look. I don’t like the halter neck, the fussiness or texture of the skirt (I prefer those that have a more seamless join from bodice to skirt) but the corsetry and fit of the bodice was just amazing. Now I see why so many brides go strapless. There’s a big difference between wearing this and wearing a cheap bandeau dress. I love the look it gives my upper body, and with the right bra the dreaded back fat wouldn’t be so much of a problem. I genuinely didn’t think my bridal look would ever be ‘sexy’ (and I still want to try romantic, old-fashioned lace) but I was surprised how much I fell for this silhouette.

davidsbridal7

Overall, I was impressed with the amount of fabric you get for your money at David’s Bridal, and the way the underskirts add volume and lift, and the quality of the heavy corsetry in the designer gowns. The dresses feel surprisingly luxurious, and the tops are supportive. But corners have been cut to keep the prices down compared to more custom designs. The biggest issue for me is that most of the gowns have big ugly zips up the back, rather than lacing. This means you’re almost always going to need to get the dress altered unless you are a very standard size. I’m lucky, as my proportions are fairly even but the fit definitely wasn’t perfect. Apparently, you can get the zip replaced with a lace-up back at extra cost (she couldn’t tell me how much). This is something I would definitely do as it’ll allow for a little weight gain / loss and a more custom fit without unnecessary extra fitting costs.

I would also question the quality of these zips in general. One was completely broken on a dress I tried, and they couldn’t get another to zip up (apparently not because the dress was too small – it was just stiff). When you’re spending over £1000 you expect the best quality, right down to the notions. Having tried two dresses with broken zips, and another with makeup all over the lining, I wonder how many people actually walk out of this store with a dress on the day. I would definitely want to order a new one in to get it fresh, clean and pristine, and that can take up to 6 months.

In terms of service, the assistants are helpful but not too pushy, and the shop itself is big and well-designed. It’s not as luxurious as a smaller bridal salon and the experience is less private, but not everyone likes the intense selling environment of a small boutique, and if you’re looking for a dress in a fuss-free setting, David’s Bridal might just be for you.

For me the real appeal was getting to try lots of dresses in my size at the start of my search, to really visualise how the silhouette looks. I know when I visit other shops I will be pinned into size 10 or 12 samples, and from previous experience helping friends choose dresses I know that some bridal shop assistants can be quite frank when it comes to the dress size and weight of their brides-to-be, so I am grateful that at David’s Bridal there was no discussion of my body or any supposed ‘limitations’ it may present. For the record, they go up to a size 30 in many sizes, so it’s a great option for plus sizes too.

Thanks to my friend Darika for taking all the photos and providing excellent dress advice!

joules
Clothing, Sponsored Posts

You Can Take The Girl Out Of The Country…

I’ve lived in London for almost twelve years, but I actually grew up in a rural village, surrounded by countryside. I never really appreciated it when I was there – country walks were just something my dad made me do when I could have been shopping – but I’ve grown to learn how lucky I was that I spent my formative years adopting hedgehogs in the garden, sledging on the common in Winter and attempting to rollerblade through fields in Spring. I’ve been on my fair share of camping trips, played epic games of hide and seek in the grounds of the village castle (really) and can still identify most common birds and butterflies, despite rarely seeing them in Clapham.

The one thing I never really embraced properly as a country girl was traditional country clothing. Ok, I had a gilet once, but that was more to do with wanting to be a member of All Saints than wanting to go to pony school. Some things I wore out of practicality, like a pair of hand-me-down moon boots in the snow, a wax jacket won in a school raffle when I was about 6, a striped rugby top, and the seen-better-days casuals my mum refers to as “scruffs” that I wore on the rare occasions I was dragged away from my sketchbook (and later computer) to help in the garden. But the full-on British prep look wasn’t something I embraced until much later, when country casuals got a pretty, vintage-inspired overhaul.

Country Clothing at Joules

Now, I’m smitten with these styles, all from purveyors of all things country-pretty, Joules. Look at that swimsuit! Check out the twee print on the sundress! This is not the countryside dressing I remember from childhood. This is the country chic dressing of a Richard Curtis film, where everyone’s got double-barrelled surnames and large family estates. And I love it!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.