Wedding Dress Shopping – Tops Tips #1

Wedding Dress Shopping – Tops Tips #1

It has been far too long since I’ve written a blog post… Where have the last two months gone?! Safe to say I’ve been super busy, but it is wedding season so only to be expected. I wanted to do a few quick-fire blog posts with some top wedding planning tips, starting with wedding dress shopping.

I’ve touched on this subject before in more than one blog post, but instead of going through a whole load of info I thought I’d quickly put my top tips in one post. Easy to read and easy to refer back to if you need to!

Wedding Dress Shopping Top Tips

So, here we go…

  • Keep an open mind. It’s really good to have an idea of what you want in your head, but don’t be so sure you’ll go for exactly what you think you will. Keep an open mind!
  • Trust, listen to, and take advice from the bridal stylists. It’s their job, they do it every day, and (unless they’re terribly useless) they know what they are talking about. Having worked in bridal fashion, I know first hand how much you learn from even just a couple of years of working with wedding dresses, let alone some stylists who have been doing it 5, 10, 20 years! Unless you think it’s just a sales pitch (avoid those types of shops like the plague), the bridal stylists will genuinely want the best dress for you/your shape/your personality etc. So listen to them!
  • Don’t take many people with you. Seriously, don’t. I know the temptation to take every single one of your friends with you, or all the female family members you have, but trust me when I say you will not enjoy it. Take one or two trusted people with you, who you know will be honest & constructive, but also genuinely elated for you. And if you have some friends you want to include, just do a few more appointments with them instead! You can’t focus with too many people, and everyone will want to have an opinion – you’ll just get confused! (Plus, it’s really annoying from the shop’s point of view…).
wedding dress shopping top tips life with lila bailey blog
  • Research the shop/designers first. Just because you’ve heard a shop is good, it doesn’t mean it’s the one for you. I made the mistake of going to a couple of shops where I hadn’t done my research properly and genuinely hated most of the dresses. It’s a waste of your time and a waste of theirs, too!
  • Enjoy it. This is the only time you’re ever going to get to do this, so just enjoy it! Take your time, and don’t make any decisions without knowing they’re definitely the right ones to be making. Try to relax and not feel the pressure, because it is a very daunting thing. Oh, and bubbles help too!
wedding dress shopping top tips life with lila bailey blog

More Top Tips!

I hope you enjoyed a very brief overview of my top tips for wedding dress shopping. Next up will be some top tips for bridesmaid dress shopping… And if you want to read more on this subject, check out these posts below:

Wedding Dress – Wedding Planning Update

Wedding Dress Shopping Experience #1

Wedding Dress Shopping Experience #2

Local Wedding Dress Shopping Experience

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my mailing list!

Wedding Dress – Wedding Planning Update

Wedding Dress – Wedding Planning Update

Possibly every bride’s favourite thing about their wedding… the wedding dress. Because of my background of wedding dresses galore, I always knew this might be one of my hardest tasks. But, I was prepared for that and it’s not stopped me from enjoying the journey!

Wedding Dress – Where I’m up to (Part 1)

So I have indeed found my dress. Well, sort of!

I’ve always thought I’d design my own wedding dress. I think growing up around wedding dress designers gave me that inspiration. But whatever it was, when it came to actually shopping for my dress it only became more apparent that I really did want to create my own dress.

I’m lucky enough to know Alan & Marguerite, aka the wedding dress designers ‘Alan Hannah’, from working in the industry. British made wedding dresses (or anything for that matter) are – in my opinion – a must, so who better to go to than a company who designs & makes their dresses in London? Before I got in contact with Alan Hannah I thought I’d find a shop or two stocking their dresses so I could try a couple on. This meant I could go to Alan Hannah with a good idea of the fabrics & fit etc of their dresses, and go from there (I could get quite technical but I won’t bore you, for now…).

Wedding Dress – Where I’m up to (Part 2)

wedding dress wedding planning update lila bailey blog
This is the window display at Olivia Hooper

During my search, I found ‘Olivia Hooper’ located about 1hr 45mins from me. This was perfect, and I loved the look of the shop so my mum & I went on a girlie day trip one Saturday. And wow, what an amazing turn of fate! Naomi took my appointment and she totally got what I was trying to say. After a good few hours, we had sketched the dress design I had in my head and made a rough appointment for getting my measurements done in the new year. Naomi has worked with Alan & Marguerite for 25 years so she knew they’d be able to create my dress from scratch, just like I had always dreamed!

I’ve now had my measurements taken and my design will be coming to life at the Alan Hannah HQ over the next month or two. I’ll have two calico fittings (basically mock-up drafts of the dress, but in a basic fabric), before the real thing gets made early next year. Eeek! Because I’ve never actually seen my dress in the flesh it’s quite a scary process, but I have sooooo much faith in Naomi & Sarah at Olivia Hooper, and the whole team at Alan Hannah, so I know it’s going to be okay.

Wedding Dress – Shops to visit?

wedding dress wedding planning update lila bailey blog bridal shop
This is bridesmaid Ruby outside The Bridal House of Cornwall (look how cute she is!)

I trekked to a lot of bridal shops (despite never intending to do so!), but it was surprisingly hard to find shops that are actually worth going to. Everyone is different, and will be looking for a different type of dress and/or experience. However, if you do want a lovely trip to a gorgeous bridal shop then below are my recommendations!

Pirouette, Exeter – one of the shops I’ve previously worked in. And it is lovely. A stunning medieval building filled with beautiful dresses from 3-4 different designers. It’s an intimate shop so don’t bring many people with you!

Ellie Rose, Bath – I had the most fabulous appointment at this magic little shop. Super close to the Royal Crescent, and stocking New York designers (including Hayley Paige). Highly recommend!

The Bridal House of Cornwall, Truro – the definition of an experience. I had the best day at this bridal shop, partly because it was the day I asked my bestie to be my bridesmaid. But also because it’s such a wonderful shop with lovely staff who were so enthusiastic & helpful. Plus you get to have a little photo sesh at the end! What’s not to love?!

Olivia Hooper, Wedmore – and of course, the bridal shop to end all bridal shops. Olivia Hopper! A perfect & pristine bridal shop with only the best of British Bridal Designers. Expertise is invaluable, which is what makes this shop even more amazing. I would recommend no shop more than this one

The Bridal House of Cornwall photo sesh!

Wedding Dress Shopping – Top Tips?

Oh how I could go on (and on, and on) about wedding dresses and all the advice I’d give. But I won’t. Instead I’ve picked a handful of my top, top tips!

  • Do your research, but don’t limit yourself. Easy, right? What I mean is search for designers/dresses and find a limited few that you like. Because if you have no idea at all it’s going to be a hard process for both you and the bridal shops you visit! Having said that, still keep an open mind because you never know what you might actually fall in love with.
  • Don’t try on too many dresses. The worst thing you can do is try on so many dresses that your mind starts to explode. By all mean try on different styles, but once you know what you like don’t waste time trying on things you know you won’t fall in love with.
  • Don’t take a huge entourage. I know everyone wants to be involved, and the thought of having everyone squealing around you might seem super cute. It’s not. In fact, it’s usually unhelpful and dampens your experience. I only ever took 1-2 people with me and it was the best decision I made! A lot of bridal shops are catching onto that now and don’t let you bring too many people. So don’t be alarmed if that happens, it’s for your own good.
  • Following on from that, listen to your bridal stylist. Especially if they really do know what they’re doing. These women see brides-to-be trying on dresses every day, so they know how it works. They know what shapes, necklines, and fabrics will best suit your body. And at the end of the day they’re there to help you find the dress of your dreams, so don’t dismiss what they have to say.

I honestly could go on for hours about wedding dress shopping tips, but I think I’d say those are my 4 main ones. If you’re struggling with your dress and want some advice, by all means give me a buzz or comment below!

And, finally…

If you got this far, well done you! That was a long post. You can find my last post about our bridal party here. And super excitingly you can now sign up to my mailing list – yay! Sign up here.

And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram!

The Bridal House of Cornwall – Local Wedding Dress Shopping Experience

The Bridal House of Cornwall – Local Wedding Dress Shopping Experience

On my hunt for the perfect wedding dress, I recently visited The Bridal House of Cornwall in Truro. Whilst Truro isn’t super local to me, it’s still not far. I actually travelled down by train and it was comfortable & easy.

The main reason for visiting The Bridal House of Cornwall was to treat one of my besties to a ‘wedding day out’ as I was going to ask her to be my bridesmaid (not that she knew that of course). I’m a tad fussy when it comes to bridal shops, and after my last experience I knew I didn’t want to just go ‘anywhere’. I wanted it to be really lovely. We were not disappointed!

 

The Bridal House of Cornwall – About the shop

If you know Truro at all then you’ll know what a gorgeous city it is. And The Bridal House of Cornwall, a stunning Georgian Mansion nestled in the heart of the city, was very in-keeping with that.

the bridal house of cornwall ever after blog

They stock a range of designers, from the high-end glitz & glamour queen, Jenny Packham, to the more affordable Spanish brand, Rosa Clara. Plus a bit of everything in between! A personal favourite is London designer, Naomi Neoh, who uses incredible silks and laces to create ultimate elegant wedding dresses.

the bridal house of cornwall dress shopping ever after blogthe bridal house of cornwall dress shopping ever after blog

 

The Bridal House of Cornwall Experience

There are two different options for your appointment. They offer a standard hour long appointment which is free of charge, or an ‘experience’ appointment which I highly recommend. My bridesmaid & I arrived early and were seated in the library and handed a glass of bubbles. The stylist was super friendly and chatty, and made us feel instantly welcome & comfortable.

The library is a gorgeous room. One wall is filled with shelves of shoes & jewellery, and another a bookcase design with vintage teacups and other adorable trinkets. My bridesmaid, Ruby, was in her element (which made me super happy because I wanted her to enjoy the day as much as me). We chatted some more to the stylist before she took us through to the showroom. In my opinion, they have the perfect number of dresses. Not so few that you can’t find any you like, but not so many that you get lost amongst them.

the bridal house of cornwall dress shopping ever after blog

Once we had chosen a handful of dresses, we were taken through to another room (honestly, this place is just fab) where I then tried on the gowns. There is a catwalk which you walk down and the stylist takes pictures for you to look through later. Before the appointment, the thought of a ‘catwalk’ seemed a bit daunting, but it’s not like that at all. The whole appointment was super relaxed and most importantly, fun.

We spent probably around an hour trying on dresses, and I enjoyed every second of it. As did Ruby! Once the dress-trying part was over, we went back into the library to look through the photos and select the ones we wanted to keep. And just when we thought the fun was over, we went back into the showroom where our stylist let us loose on the Photo Booth props and we had a mini photoshoot to document the day!

the bridal house of cornwall dress shopping ever after blog

 

It was honestly the most wonderful experience and I don’t think I’ll have another one like it. Although I didn’t find ‘the’ dress, that didn’t matter to me at all. It’s all these moments which make planning a wedding so exciting & memorable, and I’m so thankful to the team at The Bridal House of Cornwall for making such an important day that bit more special. 100% would recommend!

Wedding Dress Shopping Experience Part 2…

Wedding Dress Shopping Experience Part 2…

So you’ve heard about the wonderful experience, now for the not-so-wonderful… (if you missed my last post then catch up here before reading this one).

 

The Experience…

The bridal stylist sat us down, and at first was quite pleasant and talked us through what I would be doing during our appointment. However, quite quickly our ‘welcome chat’ became a little patronising and almost felt like a dictation of what I will and won’t feel when I put a wedding dress on. I was asked about my wedding and my vision for the day, and I explained in quite substantial detail about what I pictured for the wedding and the dress. I mentioned fabrics and necklines, as well as the overall ‘feel’ of the dress. An error of mine was failing to mention that I was in the wedding industry and had worked with wedding dresses before, plus I had visited the Harrogate Bridal Show every year of my childhood and teens, so my understanding of the wedding industry – in particular wedding dresses – was quite vast. I wonder if this would have made a difference to the way I was treated (not that of course it should have done). Very bluntly, I was asked what my budget for the dress was. I don’t like to discuss money, and despite my bridesmaids being family or as good as, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable talking about my wedding budget in that environment. I gave the stylist a starting figure but said I was aware I will probably be spending more and was okay with that. I explained there was flexibility in my overall wedding budget to spend a little more on a wedding dress if I decided to. She retorted with an incredibly blunt ‘well our dresses start at X which is almost double your budget’ and gave me a look as if to say ‘so what on earth are you still doing sat there’. I replied explaining I’m open to expanding my budget for the right dress, but unfortunately she had already made her (uninformed and incorrect) assumptions about me and frankly wasn’t interested.

Nevertheless, we powered on and went through the collection of lovely dresses, picking out ones in styles I knew I liked from the previous appointment. I selected one dress which was made of a very interesting fabric, and I was curious to try it on as I’d never seen anything like it. Instead of taking that one to the dressing room, the stylist picked another one and ushered me behind the curtain. Once we were in the dressing room, the stylist said ‘the dress you picked out is not in your price range so I’d advise you to not try it on’ I was slightly shocked by her audacity and replied ‘oh that’s okay, I’m really open to trying anything on’ and she looked at me coldly and said ‘we’re talking £12,000plus for this particular dress so I don’t think you should try it’. Her boldness was honestly outstanding.

wedding dress shopping experience part 2

(A Suzanne Neville dress)

The appointment only continued to get worse. I was told to put on these enormous platform heels, which I was fine with. What I was not fine with, however, was stepping into these (rather large) dresses without even a hand to hold onto for support. Keeping in mind (as many of you will know from dress shopping yourselves) you’re not wearing an awful lot when in the dressing room, and for someone to watch you struggle into a dress whilst wearing giant heels (and not a lot else) is nothing short of terribly embarrassing. I cannot tell you how anxious I started to feel as the appointment went on. The stylist made it perfectly clear that she was completely disinterested in the appointment, and if the yawning wasn’t enough, she kept disappearing to have whispered conversations with her colleague behind the front desk.

I tried on a dress which was absolutely gorgeous and one I really liked, as did my mum and my bridesmaids. The stylist, however, had other ideas. She hauled me back into the dressing room where she put me in a dress which was wonderful, but just not me. It was very much ‘of the times’, and definitely stylish in a designer sense, but not the timeless wedding dress I was looking for.

wedding dress shopping experience part 2

(Disclaimer – this is not the dress she put me in, but you get the idea…)

As I came out of the changing room she exclaimed ‘this is the dress!’ to my posse of wedding-dress-groupies and started to ramble on about how the last dress was ‘too old’ for me (despite it being strapless with a modern skirt) and how I should be looking for something ‘young & fun’. Without giving anything away, I have certainly not been looking at dresses that are ‘too old’ for me. In fact, quite the opposite. Despite what the stylist (with a blinding complex) thought.

wedding dress shopping experience part 2

(Another Suzanne Neville dress)

It was at this point where 3 other people entered the shop, one of which being a man. At first, I didn’t mind because I assumed they would be taken downstairs. The women were, the man however was invited to sit on a chair right outside my dressing room. If I wasn’t feeling uncomfortable enough by now, this certainly sealed the deal. I might add too that my dressing room was opposite a floor-to-ceiling mirror and the stylist was not discreet with the curtain. Need I say more?

Despite me taking the time at the beginning of the appointment to explain exactly what my wedding vision was, the stylist had paid no attention whatsoever. She kept describing my wedding as ‘rustic’ when I’d said nothing of the sort. Again, forming her own opinions based on the smallest amount of information. At one point she put me in a dress which I instantly hated and said ‘I’m not feeling this at all’ and instead of getting me out of the dress and into something I liked, she left me standing in it and went to chat to her colleague (again). I was stood awkwardly in a dress which didn’t make me feel good for over 5 minutes, trying to make positive comments about it until she got back and put me in something else. It all started to become very frustrating, and I quickly wished we had never come. What started off as the perfect day was turning into a nightmare. By this point I was feeling so completely rubbish that I didn’t even want to smile when in a dress I liked because I thought if I showed any emotion at all I might burst into tears.

wedding dress shopping experience part 2

Whilst all of this was happening, none of us knew how we were all feeling about the appointment. I wanted nothing more than to turn round to my mum and girls and say ‘I’m hating this. I feel so uncomfortable and I’m not having a good time’ but I never had the chance. Even when the stylist left us, she was always in earshot. And because I thought maybe it was just me who was picking up on this awful vibe and atmosphere, I didn’t want to start being rude in case the others thought I was being completely overdramatic (no bridezilla moment I can assure you!). As it turned out, we had all felt exactly the same during the appointment, and we were also all unsure of how each other was feeling at the time. I must have a pretty good pokerface because none of them had any idea I was feeling so miserable! If I could turn back time, I would definitely be far less polite and actually tell her she was making me feel awful. Or failing that, maybe just have given up altogether and left. But, I can’t go back in time so I just have to live with the experience and learn from it. After all, a wedding isn’t just about the day itself, it’s all the moments during the buildup and the things we experience during that time.

wedding dress shopping experience part 2

It was also incredibly interesting to be on the other side of an appointment like that, and it made me realise where the business I used to work in was going so wrong. Whilst we were told to act professional and give the opening spiel to each bride who walked through the door, actually this comes across very negatively and isn’t at all what brides want. Not brides like me, anyway! I much preferred my genuine, down to earth, and relaxing experience at Suzanne Neville where I was made to feel like a princess and my tastes, opinions, and visions were listened to and respected. That’s what a wedding dress appointment should be like.

Suzanne Neville – Dress Shopping Experience Part 1

Suzanne Neville – Dress Shopping Experience Part 1

Possibly the most exciting part of being a bride-to-be is the dress shopping experience. This is especially true for me as I have such an enormous love and passion for wedding dresses, which is why I knew I wanted to visit the London flagship stores of a select few designers. I grew up near London so had often walked past these flagship stores and dreamed about the day it would be me inside. Plus any 90s babies out there will remember the film ‘The Parent Trap’ and how Annie & Hallie’s mother was a London wedding dress designer (mum goals), and the scene in her flagship store was possibly the greatest scene of the 90s… (well, for me anyway).

suzanne neville wedding dress blog post

So, back in May, I told my bridesmaids about the two designers I wanted to visit in London and we got the weekend organised. To say I was excited was an understatement; I was practically bouncing off the walls when we arrived on Sunday and couldn’t sleep that night. Having already worked in bridal fashion, I’m quite clued up on what I want and also know the process is possibly going to be harder for me because of that exact reason.

Before working at Ever After, I worked at a bridal shop in Plymouth, and before that one in Exeter. Partner that with growing up in the wedding industry, I’ve started my wedding dress shopping journey in quite a unique position. I worked in bridal fashion for 2 years and in that time also studied both beginner and advanced pattern cutting, so my love for wedding dress goes a lot deeper than just ‘loving them’. From working in bridal shops I also know what it takes to create an enjoyable appointment, and that it’s the stylist’s job to make the bride feel comfortable, welcome, and special. Dictating to someone what they should be wearing will never work. You have to watch them in the dresses they select and go from there. As a stylist, it’s your job to listen to the bride’s wedding dress vision, and use your knowledge of the dresses in your store to find the perfect one for her. Any good stylist will be able to look at a woman’s figure and know what will look best on her, but at the same time not be discouraging if she’s choosing shapes that aren’t right for her. Instead it’s important to gently suggest silhouettes and bodices etc and work with her from there. At the end of the day, what the bride chooses is up to her. And even if you think she’d look better in something else, your main priority is making her feel as happy as possible, whatever she is wearing.

Anyway, less about that and more about Suzanne Neville…

Suzanne Neville

suzanne neville wedding dress blog post

The first designer we visited was Suzanne Neville. Because my parents also work in the wedding industry, they remember Suzanne at her very first time exhibiting at Harrogate and have watched her grow into the designer she is now. So my mum was especially excited to visit her store and see what wonderful dresses she has crafted. I was slightly nervous when we arrived at the store, but as soon as we were introduced to our stylist for the appointment, Harriet, I immediately felt better.

Suzanne Neville creates some absolutely stunning gowns, and is known for her corseted bodices and elegant silhouettes. What draws me most to her designs are their timeless elegance, and how she isn’t too ‘OTT’ or bold with her designs, yet still manages to be modern and creative. She combines traditional pattern cutting with contemporary touches; even as small as just a lower cut beneath the arms. Personally, I love the traditional structure of a wedding dress (e.g. the corseted bodices) because it feels like nothing you’ve worn before or probably will ever again. And if a dress is made properly and fits you correctly then it will always be comfortable. If it’s not then it either doesn’t fit right or has been poorly made.

suzanne neville wedding dress blog postsuzanne neville wedding dress blog post

suzanne neville wedding dress blog post

 

The Experience

The shop itself is in Knightsbridge (which is one of the wealthiest areas in London) and only just down the road from Harrods, so I was expecting to feel quite intimidated. However, the store is located on a modest street which itself is very charming and not too intimidating at all. The building is quaint and has character, including a spiral staircase down to the loos and additional dress storage. The room we were in was carpeted and felt so comfortable and inviting. The shelves were stocked with beautiful headpieces and footwear, and the dresses were all accessible and kept in wonderful condition. The changing room was the perfect size; not so small that you felt cramped whilst getting changed, but not so big that you felt exposed and uncomfortable.

suzanne neville wedding dress blog post

Harriet was a dream. She listened to my hopes for the ‘perfect’ wedding dress and did everything she could to help make the vision in my head a reality in the store. I was quite fussy about a few elements of the fit, and Harriet kept finding me dresses until I said ‘this is exactly the fit I mean’. We worked through different necklines by adding jackets or taking away straps, and she even dug out a dress from a collection years ago just so I could sample that particular fabric. I felt like she not only listened to what I had to say, but she cared and genuinely wanted to help me find my perfect wedding dress. She also understood how important the dress is to me (partly because her job is working with wedding dresses as mine used to be, so she totally got where I was coming from). I went into that appointment worried I might never find the perfect wedding dress, and came out genuinely believing that I could find it in there.

Unfortunately, the second appointment could not have been more opposite. For the sake of professionalism, I won’t mention where we went next. It was honestly a heartbreaking experience, not just for me but also for my mum and bridesmaids who came with me. We walked into the shop and I was naturally intimidated by it’s grandeur. It was elaborate and beautiful, and probably exactly how you would picture the ‘perfect’ wedding dress shop. But looks aren’t everything. We were offered champagne, again, a lovey touch which in theory should enhance the experience. But sometimes a bad experience just cannot be enhanced… But more on that in my next post! Stay tuned.