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.
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).
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.
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!