Thursday, 5 September 2013

Putting your own stamp on your wedding dress

Recently a bride and her group of helpers visited my shop to try on wedding dresses. After I introduced myself, the very first thing she asked me was whether I had an exclusivity policy in my shop.  She wanted to know if all our dresses were ‘one-offs’ and asked if she bought her dress in my shop, would that mean that my sample would be taken off the rails and not sold to anyone else.
I suggested to her that perhaps she was visiting the wrong type of retailer.  My business wouldn't survive for much longer if I introduced such a policy, so I couldn't even if I wanted to!!  Most bridal boutiques, including my own, sell dresses from their chosen designers’ collections, and not only do we normally sell more than one of each style, but most of the styles we have can be found in bridal boutiques in several other shops in the country, and we have no control over what they sell and to whom.  I suggested that she might be better off visiting a dress designer to have a bespoke dress designed if exclusivity was very important to her (and I pointed out that the price ticket will be much, much higher that she would pay for a dress from a designer’s collection!!  In fact, a one-off designer dress would most likely swallow up the entire wedding budget - at the very least!)

However, there were things we could do to try to help her if she didn't want to pay to get a bespoke dress designed to make her feel more at ease, and we were soon trying on a selection of dresses from the 90+ styles we have in store and feeling more relaxed about the whole thing.  The first thing I told her is that if she had any friends or family that were getting married, then to let us know.  I always joke that I am not psychic and don’t have a crystal ball, so I need to know if Mary Jane is your cousin or that you sit beside Emmy Lou at work (and if they have got their dress with us).  If I get a heads up, I will make sure they don’t buy the same dress as you.  (I have reluctantly broken several girls hearts in the past by refusing to sell them a dress when such a situation did arise)  I never assume that physical proximity means that people are acquainted or if they even know each other.  Two girls that live in the same town may not cross paths in their lives, but two girls who live 40 miles apart may be future sister-in-laws!  Or their mums might be next door neighbours!  And yes – these are things we have encountered!!  So whilst we do not guarantee exclusivity, if we get a heads up that people are closely connected, we wouldn't sell  the same dress to both brides  (although we cannot stop them going and ordering it in another shop... and yes – this is another  situation we have encountered and had no control over whatsoever!!)

I always think that every bride looks different on her big day anyway.  The dress is one part of the look.  There’s the hairstyle, the head dress, the veil, the bouquet  flowers, the bridesmaids standing by her side (and the groom of course!).  The dress is one part of the picture.  And I love it when a bride decides to customise her dress!!  Our seamstresses are always busy making modifications to the dresses (within reason!) – little lace boleros with high necklines that totally transform a strapless dress..... sparkly belts beaded with Swarovski crystals that draw the eye to the waistline.... dainty cap sleeves that drape off the shoulder.... cute little satin cut-away jackets.... lace and beaded appliqués added to plain satin dresses.. a flowered shoulder strap with little beads cascading from silk rosebuds....  there are so many ways to put your stamp on your wedding dress and give it that bespoke feeling for a fraction of the price of a bespoke dress.  Here are a few examples of things that you can do to customise your dress – I hope this inspires you!!!!  And remember, than when you have a consultation at our shop, we can spend time helping you to make your dress your own and help you to to make a little more exclusive if that's something that you are looking for.

Here's the Maggie Sotttero Sabelle  (a strapless dress) shown with cap sleeves and also with a lace jacket - both available to order in our shop. 

These are two of my favourite jackets which can also be purchased separately.  Team these up with a strapless dress and you get a totally different look.

Belts come in a whole variety of different colours with beading, flowers and appliqués.  These can change the whole look of a dress.  We have loads from the likes Maggie Sottero, Essense of Australia and Linzi Jay.
Divina by Maggie Sottero with two different belts.... or maybe you don't want to go the belt at all!!

I love this flowered belt my Maggie Sottero!  Totally transforms this dress!!
Shoulder detail which can change the whole look of a dress...

I hope this blog will help you think outside the box and help you with ideas if you want to make your dress more unique.  Please feel free to add any of your own ideas or pictures!  Ciara.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Top tips for getting the most of out of a one-day wedding dress sale.

Well, it's that time of the year again.  One-day sale time, and this year it is happening on Thursday 26th September from 12 noon until 8pm.

In October, there are going to be big changes at our shop, with a new layout to incorporate our current seamstress's new alteration shop which will take up a big section of our second unit.  (More about that in our blog later this month!)

To get me ready for the new layout (and to take on my next collection) I am having a MASSIVE clearance sale.  It won't be just the usual discontinued lines, but also we will be adding dresses from the current collection which will be reduced for 1 day only.  Some of these dresses will be reduced by as much as £1000, so this is an event not to be missed!

All Discontinued dresses will be £395 or less

Many current collection dresses will be reduced to £495 for the one day only.

People always ask me about sale days and what advice I would give anyone looking to come to one, so here's a list of top tips that I've put together which should help you to on your quest to find a dream dress at a bargain price!

Top tips for attending a sample sale..

1. Get out beforehand and try dresses on.
Don’t make a sample sale your first bridal shopping trip.  The girls who come prepared with ideas from trying on beforehand are the girls who have the most success at getting a bargain.  If the sale day is busy, you will be restricted to the number of dresses you can try on to make it fair for people waiting to use the changing rooms, so you won't have the chance of spending over an hour having a private consultation (as you normally would in a bridal appointment) to try and figure out what shapes and styles you prefer and which ones flatter your figure.  When you come to a bridal sample sale, you should already have a good idea of what style you are looking for, what size you need,  and what suits your shape.

2. Bring a friend

Don’t bring a whole entourage, but bring someone who will be brutally honest. Weddings are expensive and any discount you can get, especially if it’s on your dress, is well worth it - but only if you will be happy with it. Brief your friend to be brutally honest and listen to  her (or him!)  And remember that on a 1 day sale,  you can't go for a look and come back again another day.  So if you need your friend/sister/mum with you to help you make the final decision, then make sure she comes with you to the one day sale event. 
3. Wear the right underwear
This is a wedding dress appointment necessity regardless, but make sure you wear the right undies! You need to do everything you can to see how the dress will fit you.  Also, if it is busy, the dressing rooms will not necessarily be 100% private.  So don't wear skimpy underwear unless you are happy to be seen in them!!
4. Bring your purse!!!!!!!!!!!
You'd be surprised at how many people don't think about this one - remember, it's a one day sale, and we don't hold items over.  So bring your purse (we accept all major credit/debit cards) so that if you do find 'the one' then you can actually buy it!!!
5.  Ask the sales assistants about sizing.
Bridal sizes are generally a bit smaller than high street sizes, so when you are looking, bear that in mind.  But also, don't be afraid of looking at dresses which are a little bit bigger as they can always be taken in.  If in doubt, ask one of our sales assistants for guidance on the sizes.  All dresses will be grouped in sizes to make it easier.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Maggie Sottero Trunk Show

It's that time of year again!!  We are now taking bookings for our annual Maggie Sottero trunk show.

Once a year, we get to show a preview of the new Maggie Sottero collection, and this year the dresses will be coming to us on the last weekend of September.  This year's inspiration comes from the 1920's and 1930's, so it's a must for fans of vintage glamour as well as having gorgeous designs for the modern bride too.  If you're not sure what a trunk show (also known as a designer weekend ) is, then read on.....

When the designers have finished showing the shop owners their new collections, each shop owner gets a chance to take 30 of their favourite dresses to their premises to show them off to their customers.  These are the dresses which are worn by the models at the catwalk shows and are generally size 8 dresses (suitable for trying on for brides size 12 or smaller).

When the dresses come to our shop that weekend, we will be putting away any dresses which are not by Maggie Sottero and the dresses on show during the event will be our current Maggie dresses (ranging from size 10 - 18), plus the 30 dresses that are on loan.  We work strictly by appointment only and all appointments must be confirmed in the week of the event.   Anyone who decides to put a deposit on a Maggie Sottero dress during the event will get a 10% discount on their dress.

Please note that if you fall in love with one of the samples on loan, you will not be able to come back and try it on again as the dress has to be sent back after the event, so it's a good idea to make sure you bring any key decision makers with you that day.  You can't bring your mum or your best friend back the following week for a second opinion!!  So if you can't pick a dress without them, then make sure you bring them with you.

It's always a good idea to have been out looking beforehand so that you feel ready to buy if you do find 'the one' without feeling the need to come back and see it again.  Also, to qualify for the discount, you need to place a deposit of at least £200 on the day.

Key points to remember
- 30 dresses on loan for 1 weekend only.  These can't be re-visited!
- Borrowed dresses are size 8.
- 10% off for orders placed at the event.  £200 minimum deposit.
- Bring your key decision makers with you that day (unless you are going to be making your own choice).
- Have a good idea of what you are looking for before you come.
- Book an appointment in advance.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

An organised bride is a less stressed bride - when should I get my wedding dress?

At recent wedding exhibitions, I have been asked the following question by loads of brides.  'When should I order my dress?'   As a rule, we tell our customers that they should have orders for wedding dresses in 6 to 7 months before the wedding (at the very latest!!! order earlier if you possibly can!)  and 5 months for bridesmaids - stick to that rule and you shouldn't go wrong.  
We always allow a ‘cushion’ of at least 6 weeks between the quoted delivery date and the bride’s wedding.   I like all orders to be in a good bit before the wedding to allow adequate time for a relaxed run-up to the big day for getting things like alterations carried out and accessories picked, so whilst the company are not actually quoting us the full 6 or 7 months, this is the guideline which keeps stressful timescales at bay!
If you can , get ordered a good 8 or 9 months or more in advance.  The earlier you get in your dresses, the sooner you can relax and get organised.  No bride wants to be be getting anxious over how close to her wedding that her order is going to arrive.  Organising a wedding can be stressful enough without having to worry about how close to your wedding your dress will arrive.  And as a busy shop owner, it is a worry that I can do without as I get stressed out over deliveries too!!!!! (especially when they arrive later than what I was expecting)  I often get brides who keep putting it off as they are losing weight, but don't forget, you can always go out looking a year before, and if you find your dress, you can still put a deposit down to secure it and get measured 7 months before the big day to give you a chance to start on your weight loss regime. The dress can always be taken in if you lose any additional weight.  Better to do that than to leave it a couple of months before the wedding and miss out on the dress that you really wanted. My heart sinks when a bride makes an appointment and tells me her wedding is only a few months away as I know she will be limited in her choice of dress.  Every bride should have the liberty of choosing any dress in any size in any colour that we can get.  The more organised you are, the more choice you will have.
In sum, my advice is 'be prepared and get organised!!'  Get out at least a year before your wedding if you can – the earlier you get out the more relaxed the whole experience will be and you won't be feeling pressure to 'panic buy'   Most brides coming to our shop for the first time have over a year until their big day. 
Our entire Essence of Australia range and some of our Maggie Sottero dresses can also be got on rush cuts (additional fees apply to most of these) so if you have left it a bit late, we won't turn you away - we always have options available including the option of buying off the peg (although your choices will be more limited).   Many of our bridesmaid dresses can also be got on a rush cut so don't fret about that either if you have left that task a bit late.    
And one last tip – only go shopping when you feel you are ready to buy..  Our stock is forever evolving.  New dresses coming… dresses being discontinued… dresses being bought off the peg.  So if you do decide to go shopping early, NEVER assume that you will be able to come back and revisit a dress in the future as it may no longer be in the shop or it may be discontinued. This is something I find happens all the time (and I often get grief from brides to be about it!)  so wait until you are ready to go shopping, as opposed to saying ‘Let’s go out for ideas and revisit those ideas in 6 months time or next year’.   It's a bit like you saying that you want to buy a house in 18 months time.  You wouldn't go visiting estate agents or arranging house viewings until you were ready to make a move.  You might have a nosy at websites to get ideas, but you wouldn't throw your energy into house-hunting until the time was right to act on making a purchase.
 And if you do go out early and find ‘the one’, then STOP LOOKING at wedding dresses!! Get it ordered, and when it comes in,  put it away when it comes in and don’t let it lose its magic by looking at it too much!  I get loads of brides visiting my shop who tell me that they have a dress at home that they have went off.  Wedding dresses are too expensive to buy and not wear, so don't fall into that category and be disciplined to tick the box as 'done' when you decide on the one.
Happy (stress free) shopping.x x   Ciara

Monday, 24 June 2013

Losing weight for your wedding - the inch-shrinking body wrap... fact or fiction?

I always seem to have one or two brides at any one point who are holding off on getting the bodice of their dress altered in the run up to their wedding as they are in the process of losing weight.  And I have to say, I've seen some pretty amazing results! It's amazing what the incentive of fitting into a wedding dress can do (although I would never recommend buying a smaller dress with the intention of slimming into it!)  The best way of doing it is pretty obvious (but not easy!!!!!)  Exercising and eating sensibly. Making sure that you use up more calories than what you put into your body.  I've had girls losing those extra pounds by going to boot camp or exercise classes and cutting out the 'rubbish' (as they call it!) and I've viewed the results where they have been fitting perfectly into that dress which wouldn't zip up on them a few weeks ago.  Whether they keep it off is another matter, but they did it without starving themselves and making themselves ill.  And they got into that dress!

But the topic of my blog is the the fat-busting or fat-melting body wrap which claim to make you lose inches with no effort at all. I know there are many types of these wraps and they all have different formulas and techniques.  I've always viewed them as a temporary fix.  They de-hydrate you and what you lose is water - not fat - which all goes back to normal once you start drinking.  A local seamstress I know swears by them for a last minute fix when a dress is a bit snug the day before.  So it may help you feel a bit more comfortable in a dress that is a little tight - but only if you get it done the night before the wedding (or better still, the morning of the wedding) and don't be surprised if the dress is feeling really tight by the evening reception as those fat cells swell up again once you put a drink to your mouth!!  I've been reading up a bit about this inch-busting claim miracle treatment online, and my fears seem to have been confirmed that indeed a lot of people are being taken in by convincing sales pitches which get desperate brides (and all sorts of people for that matter) to part with their cash, convinced that they are losing permanent weight.  

I had one such bride in my shop which prompted me to write this blog.  This girl's dress was a little snug, but she insisted that we were going to have to take it in by the time she was getting married as she was going to lose loads of weight.  It was still tight a few weeks before the wedding, so we decided to go ahead and get the seams out a little as there was a let-out allowance.  She came back down a few days later and the dress was a bit big on her despite only being let out a tiny bit... so we took it back in again.  She came back down and it was then too tight!!!  So once again, it was let out only to be too big again.  I was getting really frustrated as I couldn't understand why her weight was yo-yo-ing so rapidly.  It was at this point she told us about her body wraps and we discovered that she had signed up for 6 of these wraps at £50 a go and that she has visited the salon and had the wraps just before two of her fittings which had resulted in her being a bit smaller.... but she was confused then why it was tight on her at one of the other fittings.  The poor girl had been under the illusion that she would permanently lose between half an inch and a full inch with each wrap, so 6 of them would see her waist girth plummet by between 3 and 6 inches.  She was gutted when I revealed to her that those inches that she had lost were being replaced within a day of them 'disappearing' and that that her £50 wraps were only taking out some water and not fat.

It would be lovely if they really did make you lose weight, but please be careful when spending your money on courses of these treatments ladies.  There doesn't seem to be concrete scientific evidence out there for them  doing anything other than de-hydrating your cells.  I am a scientist myself  (yes - I know it's a bit weird - a science degree and I own a bridal shop) and I haven't been convinced.  If you want to do it for the relaxation side of it - go for it!!  I hear they are nice to get done in the salon and make your skin feel good.  They will shrink you a bit for a while, but don't do it for a quick-fix weight loss reason.  It's not a weight loss programme!  Weight loss programmes take a lot of hard work, effort and determination to burn fat off.

I had to put in this photo too of one of these 'fat-melt' wrap adverts which I came across. It is so obvious that the picture on the right is the exact same photo but is photo-shopped!!  But I bet some people still paid money for this!!  I guess it's in our nature to want the easy option!  But fat does not melt by wrapping up :(

Related links.

Reputable health experts — both traditional scientists and alternative medicine specialists — remind consumers that a body wrap is not a weight-loss quick-fix. Because all the weight you lose from a body wrap is the result of dehydration rather than fat loss, the pounds and inches will return within a few days, once you have re-hydrated. The U.S. Food and Drug administration reminds consumers that “fat doesn’t melt,” and any product claiming to “melt” fat or cellulite is making unsubstantiated claims. The Healthy Weight Network advises that you can spot a fraud if they claim quick weight loss without dieting, use testimonials rather than scientific studies and make claims that aren’t listed on the packaging.

Read more:

I found a really good article which is definitely worth a read if you are still not convinced and want to read more.  Follow this link to read it ...

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Sample loan service

I often get phonecalls and emails from brides asking for particular dresses that are designed by the likes of Maggie Sottero, Essense of Australia or Special Day - all labels we carry - but we don't always have the particular dress that they want in store.  I only wish I could carry all the dresses, but I have to carefully select a selection which I feel my brides will like... and more importantly, I have a budget that I need to stick to!! (contrary to what some people might think, we have to buy all our sample dresses at the designer's full price!!!)

If you are looking for a dress that we don't have, we can check with the designer to see if there is any chance we can get it on loan.  Practically all the dresses featured on the designers' websites are available to borrow.  Most, however, are size 8 dresses (with exception of the Beautiful Brides Plus collection and a small range of Maggie Sottero gowns that are kept in plus sizes) so if you are a generous size 12 or more, these dresses might not be suitable for trying on.

There is a fee charged to cover the cost of the courier bringing the dress to us and returning it to the designer.  This fee is mostly set at £50, but can vary.  But the good news is that if you decide to order on the day you come to see the borrowed sample dress in our shop, we will refund the fee paid on that particular dress.

Call us on 02871 813682 if you wish to discuss getting a sample dress on loan, or go to our website and fill in the form on our contact page with your details and query and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
Thank you.
Ciara x
Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage, Greysteel, Northern Ireland

Monday, 15 April 2013

Your wedding shoes - choose wisely!!

I've been very quiet on here these days, mainly because I've been very busy on the shop floor, and in particular with fittings.  It's that time of the year again where the pins are out and I am constantly adjusting bodices to get the perfect fit and getting that dress hem just right.  And the topic of the day is the your hem and your wedding shoes.  I am forever nagging at my brides to have their shoes with them at each at every fitting so that we can get the hem just right.  A wedding dress hem should be ever so slightly off the ground so that when you walk, it gently kisses the ground.  If the dress is straight, you should be able to just about see the tips of your toes when you walk, and the number one rule is that you should be able to walk elegantly.  You shouldn't need to be continually kicking out the hem of your dress like the ministry of silly walks - you should glide gracefully along the ground without fear of tripping on your hem.

Which brings me to the point of choosing your shoes wisely.  Not all brides wear dainty satin bridal shoes.  Some tall brides wear pumps.  We've had a few recently with gorgeous ankle boots.  I've had a few who have chosen not to go down the traditional route - be it with blue polkadot shoes, red patent stilettos or pink ribbon tied peep-toes.  I even had one who wore trainers the whole day which we decorated with ribbons and diamantes for her.  But whatever shoes you choose, bear in mind that you will be wearing them for at least 14 hours (in most cases), so make sure they are comfortable!!!!  You should be able to dance the night away in them - not be crippled within an hour and sticking plasters on your blisters by the time you arrive to your reception.  

Brides often have this great idea.  They tell me that they will put up with the pain of incredibly uncomfortable shoes because they look fabulous, and have this ingenious plan of changing into flat shoes when they get to the hotel.   What they fail to realise is that the moment they change into their flats, the dress will then be too long, and all that work which is often involved in getting that hem just right will have been futile.  The bride has to walk around hoisting up her hem all day, and if she forgets to do this she will be tripping on her dress.  Not so elegant looking..... especially if she falls flat on her face!!  And if her dress fabric is of a delicate nature, the front of the dress can be very easily ripped (I should know as I have had to repair several after the big day when girls have discarded their shoes!!!)
I'm not telling our brides to buy ugly or overly sensible shoes on their big day.  Just to put a little thought into how long they will be wearing them for.  I'm sure we all have at least one pair of fab killer heels in our wardrobe that we like to bring out every now and again for a night out (or as one bride told described them 'car-to-bar' shoes) but we certainly wouldn't want to crippled with pain wearing them on our wedding day... especially considering that they will be hidden for most of the day (unless you are wearing a short dress) and no one will even get to admire them.  
If you are worried that you won't be able to cope with your shoes all day, have a back-up pair which are the same height.  Perhaps a pair of comfy wedges would be worth considering?  Even if they don't match your dress - if it's 10pm at night and your feet are sore, you'll be glad of them!!  Don't end up like the girls on the outside of this pictures, hoisting your dress around... or worse still, the middle girl, landing flat on your face!! Ouch!!!!!!!!!

oh... and don't forget a few essentials for your emergency kit - plasters and gel pads are a must, just in case you can't leave the dance floor and those shoes need a little helping hand in the comfort department!!!!!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Wedding dresses and the 2013 Oscars red carpet look

It's that time again when I get up on the morning after the Oscars and check out what the latest trends on the red carpet are.  The Oscars are the designers' biggest opportunity to show the world what they can do by showing off their dresses draped on the rich and famous in Hollywood, and I have to admit that I always love checking out the latest trends and guessing how certain looks might be taken by the bridal designers that supply our dresses to inspire the latest 'Aisle Style'.

I was pleasantly surprised this year to see how some of the red carpet style has already been reflected on our shops rails and I thought I'd share a few of them.

I loved Jennifer Hudson's midnight blue dress with it's long sleeves and how it draped so elegantly on her - she really pulled it off so well!! It reminded me immediately of our Dalton dress by Maggie Sottero....


Charlize Theron looked stunning in her peplum dress with a fishtail skirt and when I saw Jennifer Garner's gorgeous purple dress with the ruffles at the back, they both reminded me of our new Essense of Australia dresses - check them out!!

The texture and silhouette of Kristin Stewart's dress immediately brought our Maggie Sottero 'Hope' dress to mind, with it's vertical lines of beading and wispy organza giving it a whimsical flair... although I do confess to preferring the wedding dress much more to the red carpet dress.

One of my favourite dresses was Sandra Bullock's, and whilst the detailing is completely different to anything we have, again, the silhouette can be seen on a few of the dresses which are literally just in the door.  Tia is one of my favourite new dresses by Maggie Sottero and you can see the neckline is almost identical to Sandra's dress - the Afton dress also has this neckline - I think it's going to a popular look for next year. 

It was great to see big skirts back again, and whilst they didn't resemble my dresses, I loved Amy Adams in her textured ballgown (which reminded me of Hayley's dress - our shop manager who got married 18 months ago), and the star of the show, the gorgeous winner of the coveted best actress award, Jennifer Lawrence.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sneak Peek of our photoshoot

The winter February sun was shining yesterday for our Beautiful Day photo shoot for the Local Women magazine, shot in and around our shop at the Vale Centre in Greysteel.  I'm really looking forward to seeing Helen Mc Carter's shots in next month's Local Women magazine!!  Whilst Helen was busy doing her job, I took a few snap shots with my little camera too to give you a sneak peek of what we were up to.  The gorgeous Azin was the perfect model for our dresses - I'm sure you'll all agree that she looked stunning in a variety of different wedding dress styles, from the cute short fifties number to the elegant vintage backless lace gown.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Designer wedding dress sale

We've set the date for our next big 1 day sample sale.

It will be Thursday 28th March, from 10am until 8pm.

No appointment will be needed.  Dresses will be sold on a first come, first served basis.  Wedding dresses from £295, with discounts of at least 50% on all sale dresses.  Designer brands including Maggie Sottero, Essense of Australia, Estes, White One, Private label by Sincerity and Raylia.  We'll also have some bridesmaid dresses (most will be single dresses - no sets), mother of the brides outfits, and accessories.

Top tips for attending a sample sale..

1. Get out beforehand and try dresses on.
Don’t make a sample sale your first bridal shopping trip.  The girls who come prepared with ideas from trying on beforehand are the girls who have the most success at getting a bargain.  If the sale day is busy, you will be restricted to the number of dresses you can try on to make it fair for people waiting to use the changing rooms, so you won't have the chance of spending over an hour having a private consultation (as you normally would in a bridal appointment) to try and figure out what shapes and styles you prefer and which ones flatter your figure.  When you come to a bridal sample sale, you should already have a good idea of what style you are looking for and what suits your shape.

2. Bring a friend

Don’t bring a whole entourage, but bring someone who will be brutally honest. Weddings are expensive and any discount you can get, especially if it’s on your dress, is well worth it, but only if you will be happy with it. Brief your friend to be brutally honest and listen to him or her.  And remember that on a 1 day sale,  you can't go for a look and come back again another day.  So if you need your friend/sister/mum with you to help you make the final decision, then make sure she comes with you that day. 
3. Wear the right underwear
This is a wedding dress appointment necessity regardless, but make sure you wear the right undies! You need to do everything you can to see how the dress will fit you. Don’t “overlook” things just because its on sale. Also,if it is busy, the dressing rooms will not necessarily be 100% private.  So don't wear skimpy underwear unless you are happy to be seen in them!!
4. Bring your purse!!!!!!!!!!!
You'd be surprised at how many people don't think about this one - remember, it's a one day sale, and we don't hold items over.  So bring your purse (we accept all major credit/debit cards) so that if you do find 'the one' then you can actually buy it!!!
5.  Ask the sales assistants about sizing.
Bridal sizes are generally a bit smaller than high street sizes, so when you are looking, bear that in mind.  But also, don't be afraid of looking at dresses which are a little bit bigger as they can always be taken in.  If in doubt, ask one of our sales assistants for guidance on the sizes.  All dresses will be grouped in sizes to make it easier.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

When it's too good to be true...

Don't leave it up to chance by gambling on an online copy of a designer dress when you can get the real thing and be able to see it in the flesh and try in on... even if you are on a budget.

Too good to be true - the Counterfeit wedding dress industry

I know I'm always harping on about the dangers of the Chinese Cottage industry and the fake designer dresses they make and sell online, but I've had yet another call today where a bride was left distraught when she saw what arrived in the post.  She had thought it was safe as she dealt with a company with a UK web address, but she was in fact dealing with a Chinese company that copied designer dresses. With not enough time to order a new dress, she'll be left to buy off the peg and with the size and colour she needs, she's going to find herself very restricted in choice with a wedding date that is very close.   Both ourselves and the designers of the dresses are always trying to educate brides to warn them of the dangers of buying online - we've seen too many of the bad fakes out there! These sites illegally use the designer's images to advertise their dresses, conning people into believing that they are getting the actual dress pictured.  Thankfully, a lot of ladies out there know that these dresses, often advertised on online auction sites such as ebay, are too good to be true, but too many are still tempted, lured by the low price tag and the promise of the dress in the picture!!

It's been a frustrating week this week as it was pointed out to me that a very popular website that gives tips on how to save money was endorsing such sites.  The researchers clearly did not do their research and they were giving the thumbs up to support the Chinese Cottage industry (ie. the unregulated factories) and even referred to bridal shop owners as being snooty (most of us are far from snooty, I can assure you!!!)  I was horrified at this behaviour at first, but then it occurred to me that they were totally ignorant of what they were actually encouraging people to do.  They saw the pound signs and jumped to steer brides towards the cheap option.   It clearly had not occurred to them that these sites break a multitude of laws from copyrighted image theft, to child labour laws.  They were telling people that they can get fab made to measure dresses from as little as £1 - £15 plus postage.  Surely common sense tells anyone that the cost of paying skilled workers for hours upon hours of work, and using any half decent quality fabric is going to work out a lot more expensive that what these sites are charging?   Any dresses made in a regulated factory, using quality materials and abiding by health & safety and labour laws are bound to cost more than a few pounds. Common sense should tell you.

I feel exasperated that supposed 'experts' endorse such practices in this day and age.  It's not even the fact that the end product is bad (if indeed it even turns up!), but the fact that the people who make these dresses are breaking the law in so many areas.   I've only touched the tip of the ice-berg on this topic, but it makes one person stop and think before they waste their hard earned money, then it will have been worth it.

I totally understand that not everyone can afford to spend the going rate for a wedding dress in a bridal shop.  But the thing is, that you can still save money if you know where to look.  And one of the best ways to save money - and try before you buy - is at a wedding dress sample sale.

I'll be setting the date soon for our next one, so make sure you follow us on facebook or twitter (or keep your eye on here) and I'll be announcing the date soon.  All dresses will be reduced to half price or less, with bargains for as little as £295.  These are all genuine designer dresses which I will no longer be using as samples in my shop and they are great for brides on a budget who are looking for a fab dress at a fraction of the price.  Plus you know exactly what you are getting.  A quality dress which is well made - and ethically made.  Not made in a sweat shop and bought online for a few quid!

Watch this space!!!!!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Is the 'best price' always best? The bridal retailer's viewpoint...

I got a phone call today from a bride looking to see what price one of my dresses was.  I assumed that she viewed it on our website or facebook page and whilst I was looking up the price, I invited her to come down and try it on.  It was then that she admitted that she had actually tried it on elsewhere and was ringing around all the stockists of the designer of this dress to see which shop would do it for the lowest price.  She very quickly hung up when I told her the price and told her that we sell at the RRP.

I get phonecalls like this all the time!!!  I have come to the conclusion that in a recession, people will always be looking for the 'best price', but is this the best way to go when you are choosing your wedding dress... the most important dress that you will ever pick?  Is it all about the price?

I'm sure we've all seen the news headlines in recent times about bridal shops who close down and leave brides without their dresses, and I have not found it to be surprising that most of the shops who do close down are well known for being 'discounters'.  They sell below the RRP and end up struggling with their businesses as they aren't making a margin that will keep their business afloat.  Designers set RRPs for us to follow so that we don't devalue their brand and they are set for a reason so that the retailers who stock their dresses will be able to sustain their business and pay all their overheads.  If we devalue a brand by undercutting the prices, we run the risk of our designers cutting ties with us.  This is something that happened very recently in a shop close to home - the designer refused to sell any more dresses to this shop because they were undercutting prices and they ended up having to close abruptly leaving many brides hugely disappointed and out of pocket (and without their dresses!).

This is not a risk I am willing to take and when a mum of a bride who had found her dress with us asked me recently why I wouldn't drop my price to beat another shop, I explained that I wanted to be still in business by the time her daughter got married and that the shop with the best price isn't always the best way to go (depending on how high you rank other factors alongside the ticket price)

Interestingly, this particular bride came back to me afterwards and purchased the dress with me even though we weren't as cheap as the other shop she rang.  A few google searches, forum searches and asking around had opened her eyes and  made her realise that the money she was saving wasn't worth the risk and she told me that she had come to the conclusion that  if another shop had to resort to undercutting tactics to get customers, as opposed to winning them over with their dresses, their service and their reputation, then it says a lot about this business and the character of an owner who would do this.  She decided not to go down that route for the most important clothing purchase of her life.

So sorry ladies... I won't be joining in on undercutting prices  :(   I want to stay in business rather than risk it all by getting involved in undercutting tactics.  My business reputation means too much to me and I feel it is morally wrong to steal a customer off another shop after they have done all the ground work and helped a customer find her dream dress.  I asked a girl last year who phoned me (who again asked me if I would undercut a very reputable shop) if she was happy with the service she got in that shop and with the shop as a whole.  She said she was very happy and the staff had been so helpful, so I suggested that she give them her business and to think carefully about shops who use undercutting tactics to get sales without doing any of the ground work.  I met her recently and I was delighted to hear that she went back to the shop that helped her find her dream dress after I had got her thinking.   She was very close to ordering from a different shop who had told her that they would do the cheapest price if she ordered with them.  I didn't get a wedding dress sale from that bride, but I was glad to hear that the shop who had impressed her with their dresses and service was the one that she chose to give her business to.   She had never thought about questioning the other shop's price or thought about doing her research and finding out more about them before making the biggest clothing purchase of her life and she told me she felt much a happier spending her money in a shop that she knew and trusted.

If a bride gets her wedding dress with me, I will happily agree to a bit of discount if she goes on to buy her bridesmaids with me.  She might even get a bit of discount on her wedding dress if she buys during a special event that I have had pre-approved by the designer. I won't overcharge on accessories such as veils or petticoats (as many undercutting shops do to make up for the lower prices they quote on the dresses).  I will also guarantee that she won't be overcharged for her alterations by our seamstress.  My reputation means a lot to me, and the business we get from word of mouth and recommendations speaks volumes.  I can put my hand on my heart and say that my customers buy from me because they know this and they know that I earn the business I get from them with the gorgeous dresses I buy in and let my customers try on, and the service my shop provides.... not by luring customers away from other shops with promises of the best price.  I may not always have the best price, but I will promise the best service!!!!!

Monday, 28 January 2013

A cake inspired by your wedding dress


I was approached recently by local cake maker Miriam (Cakes by Miriam) who asked me if I would help with a new project.  She had been asked by a few brides to design cakes which were based on their wedding dress.  At first, I had a giggle to myself as I had recently saw a picture online of a bride who took this idea a little too literally…….
A bit nutty of you ask me!!  But what Miriam was looking to do was not to recreate a dress in a cake form, but to use the dress as inspiration for her cake.  So she came to visit me a few weeks later and took pictures of a few dresses and I got to see her creation during our Maggie Sottero designer where we got to display her cake alongside the actual wedding dress that she picked out to go alongside it (plus we were treated to some tasty samples!!!)  Here's what she came up with - a cake to go along with out Maggie Sottero Morgan dress - wasn't it beautiful?! 

Miriam’s website

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Storing your wedding dress

I remember one of the first things I did when I got engaged.  My mum sent me upstairs to find her wedding dress and she wanted me to try it on.  It was one of those special mother-daughter moments that I’ll always treasure, and  I have a picture of me wearing the dress standing by the door in our living room (with part of my mum’s finger covering the lens of the camera – back in pre-digital days when you couldn’t see what you’d taken!!)
I can’t say I would have worn my mother’s 1970′s high necked and long sleeved dress, but if I’d have wanted to, I’d have been gutted as my mum hadn’t stored her dress properly and the years had taken it’s toll.  Someone had told my mum to store her white wedding dress in a black plastic bag and over the years the dress had turned from a pure white colour to yellow.  My mum was heartbroken when she realised just how much it had discoloured. Perhaps this is the reason that I am always telling brides to look after their dresses.  Even if no-one ever wears it again, it’s lovely to look back at your dress and see it looking like it was when you wore it on your big day.  And maybe one day you’ll be taking a picture of your newly engaged daughter, niece or granddaughter wearing it, even if it’s just playing dress up in the living room.
Giselle from The Empty Box Company has compiled this list of tips for storing your wedding dress. We have a selection of these boxes in our shop in various sizes and colours, and shown at the bottom of this page are examples of some of the beautiful designs you can choose from. Perfect for co-ordinating with your bedroom!!  From funky to traditional and floral, you’ll be spoiled for choice!!  And if you buy the box from us, we can organise dry cleaning and pack your dress away for you at no extra cost to you.
For destination brides, there are also travel sized boxes which fit onto airplanes as hand luggage so you can take your dress away with you and then use the box afterwards to store your dress.
Wedding Dresses can pack away beautifully and remain as white and perfect as the day they were worn: but there are some simple essential rules for brides to follow:
1) Plastic dress covers are not suitable for long-term storage:  They do not allow for changes in humidity, or protect from light and can leave particles behind after several years.
2) Normal cardboard or fabric boxes can contain acid that causes the material of the dress toyellow” or discolour. Avoid flat pack storage boxes that offer limited protection, or ones that let in light.
3) Do not store the dress next to the wood of a wardrobe, drawer, suitcase lining, or other clothes, as these mediums will have an effect on the purer fabrics of the wedding dress if the it lies next to them.
4) Do not wrap a wedding dress in coloured tissue paper.Tissue paper to pack a wedding dress should be white and acid free.
5) Do not hang a dress long term on a clothes hanger (short term is fine), as it places stresses on the seams and shape of the dress.
6) Do not store your dress in the attic. All sorts of disasters here such as a leaking roof, damp, changes in humidity, and insects can affect a dress in the attic; even if it is well protected.
1) Do have your dress cleaned after the wedding, by a dry cleaner that specialises in wedding dresses. Marks can show later even if a dress does not appear stained now.
2) Follow simple sensible rules e.g. store away from light, heat, damp, etc
3) Store the dress in a warm dry spare room, that has no history of insects, instead of an attic.
4) Ensure the dress lies in a pH neutral material such as a wedding dress box and is packed withacid free tissue. (Acid free tissue paper will become acidic if kept in a non acid free box.)
5) A storage box should eliminate light, should be breathable (i.e. non plastic), protect from dirt, dust, and spillage, in addition to pH neutral i.e. contain no acid or alkali.
6) Do choose a really strong, sturdy box as it needs to last a lifetime. It might even need to protect from disaster such as fire or flood so a flimsy box might not be up to the mark!
7) Do choose a box that you love: it will be with you for a long time, holding one of the most special items of clothing you will ever own.
8) Once packed away, check on the dress every 6 – 12 monthsto ensure nothing untoward has happened, and repack e.g. once a year to help prevent creases becoming too permanent.
This guide is written by The Empty Box Company, who specialise in beautiful Wedding Dress Boxes that preserve the dress to last a lifetime. Their wedding dress boxes are handmade in the UK.