Wedding dress shopping. Wow. That’s the only word for it. Well, other than intense, stressful, emotional and a mission. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been slightly style schizophrenic (I hate being told I can’t do leather trousers one day and a 60’s shift the next) or perhaps it’s the nature of working in my industry but I just can’t decide. Everyone tells you that you just know when you’ve found The One, but that certainly hasn’t been my experience so far. Instead, I’ve spent hours analyzing and reprioritizing the following four questions: “Does it flatter me?” “Does it suit the style of the wedding?” “Will it still look timeless in ten years?” “And do I really want to look vintage/red carpet glamour/that demure on my wedding day?” Oh, and feeling like a child again as women pull dresses and corsets over my head endless. Saying all that, the women pulling dresses and corsets over my head have been super sweet and amazingly helpful at the following places…
1. MIRROR, MIRROR
Certainly if you live in North London, this is a good place to start your search. Stocking everything from wedding dress staple Pronovias to French label Cymbeline , it’s got enough at accessible price points to allow you to flit between Grecian-unstructured-Goddess-look and fairy-princess-fishtail until you decide what works for you. The only downside? You’ll have to be ok with trying on in front of other brides-to-be as you come out into the main room to look in a full length mirror. Can lead to a few cringe moments when you’re slamming the meringue dress you – and she – has on. Prices start at £950
Mirror Mirror Angel Boutique, 56 Penton Street, N1 9QA
2. CHARLIE BREAR VWDC (FORMERLY THE VINTAGE WEDDING DRESS COMPANY)
There’s a reason Charlie Brear is known in the fashion world as the queen of vintage wedding dress shopping – her eye is incredible and, thanks to her connections around the world, there are some amazing vintage finds here. From a 1950’s polka-dot tulle Audrey Hepburn number to a Downton Abbey esque 60’s floor length gown, the whole thing feels like playing dress-up in the best possible way. Look out too, for the Charlie Brear VWDC own designs – silky column dresses that can be dressed/detailed up with sleeves, boleros and ribbons to make a unique dress. Again, so much fun to try.
London, W1T 4RR
020 7637 4898
Oh, to be a Lanvin bride! Tweed white suits teamed with pearls. ‘Married in the sun’ sequin slogan tees paired with tulle full-length skirts. Gauzy silk Grecian gowns embellished with bows… Excellent options too for after-party dresses if you’re looking for a dress-change. Every piece of the French designer’s collection is beautiful. The shopping experience is pretty lush too: in the basement of their Mayfair store it feels more upmarket – and therefore less stressful – than traditional bridal shopping. Saying that, I think you’ve got to be having a specific type of wedding (city-hotel chic or beach) or have a lithe figure to pull off their experimental dresses.
Lanvin, 125 Mount Street, W1K 3NU
020 7491 1839
Check out their dresses on http://www.net-a-porter.com/wedding
4. CANDY ANTHONY
There seems to be a trend for 50’s style dresses at the moment – and if you’re looking for that look you have got to check out Candy Anthony. A tiny little shop under the Oxo Tower it’s run by total 50’s enthusiastic and as a result a total laugh. (They’ll even hook you up for stroll lessons if you decide to run the 50’s theme throughout your wedding). But the dresses? All are that classic 50’s shape that gives you the nipped-in waist look perfectly. But by playing with different overlays (polka dot, vintage lace or tulle) and petticoats (blue! purple!) they’re easy to customize and feel really fun. Prices start at £795.
Candy Anthony, Unit 112-113 first floor courtyard, Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, SE1 9PH
020 7803 0898
5. BROWNS BRIDES
The mother of all bridal shops, this is where basically every fashion-industry person heads first for their dress. It makes sense: from Valentino to Vera Wang via Monique Lhuillier all the major designers are represented and there’s some niche, hard-to-find types like Delphine Manivet too. Everything about the experience is luxe: from the staff who manage to be both superbly knowledgable but also approachable to the changing rooms themselves. It’s a chilled out environment in which to try out some superstar catwalk creations. Prices start at just under £3000 and it's worth looking for bridesmaids dresses there, too - the Monique Lhuillier collection is lovely.
12 Hinde St, London, W1U 3BE
6. FAIRYTALE LONDON
It’s rare for me to venture to Putney (district line and all that…) but whilst googling wedding dress options I stumbled across Spanish designer Rosa Clara. I liked the softness of her dresses and the still-traditional but slightly exotic feel but turns out the only place in the UK that still stocks her dresses is Fairytale London – a small boutique off the Fulham Road. It was worth the trip. There’s a wide selection of her more structured lace numbers but also extensive options from her ‘Soft’ collection, silk Grecian style dresses that look modern but still bridal and feel gorgeous on your skin. If you are going to make the journey though, make sure you ask to see dresses that are in the stock-room too…
6 Fulham High Street
0207 736 7776
7. FUR COAT, NO KNICKERS
The name of this wedding dress shop says it all – it’s got attitude. Set up by Laura and Emma, two former film costume supervisors with a penchant for finding vintage dresses, it’s packed with original pieces spanning the century and some vintage-inspired dresses cut from their most popular shapes. I was particularly impressed with the off-the-wall finds from the 1970s and 1980s so if you’re looking for something really stand-out this is your place. Plus, the owners couldn’t be nicer – they’ll alter any dress until you’re happy with it and have sweet stories to tell you about all the brides pictured on their walls.
Fur Coat No Knickers,
Top Floor, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street
London, W1B 5PW
07814 002 295
All that, and still haven’t found “The One” though. So keep checking back for more additions as and when (I can get an appointment!)…