Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Why are wedding dress sizes and high street clothing sizes not the same?

Dress sizing - the big debate

The topic of wedding dress sizing comes up in almost every appointment we carry out in our shop.  I get asked why, for example, do you have to go up a size or more in wedding dress sizes? Or why are wedding dresses smaller fitting that high street sizes?

The first thing I usually tell brides is that they shouldn't even go there and get annoyed about numbers on dresses.  I tell them that there won't be a big number printed on the back of their wedding dress so all the guests can gossip about her size  ('Ooohh - she's wearing a size 16 dress - I didn't think she was that size!  I thought she was about a size 12!!) I tell them to leave the size to me, it's only a number, no one will know the number unless you tell them - I can even cut the label out if it makes you feel any better - and the most important thing is that you have a dress that fits and looks good. There's nothing worse that wearing a wedding dress  that is too small just to feel better about the fact that you got into a certain numerical size.  It will feel uncomfortable, it will dig into your skin (the dreaded back-fat!), it will ride up your body as the day goes on and you will feel that it will have spoiled your day to some degree. Wear one that fits and it will flatter your figure, it will look good and it make you feel good about yourself.

I've always been telling people that the reason wedding dresses appear smaller than the 'same sized' clothes on the high street is because they use different size charts.  In fact, even in our shop, we can see a difference in sizing between wedding dress designers.  For example, when we take the bust, waist and hip measurements, a bride may come up a size 14 on one designer's chart, but be closer to a 16 on another designer's chart.  Again, I explain that it's just a number and to not get themselves annoyed about it.

Which brings me on to something which prompted me to write this blog....

I bought a lovely chemise type top last year in town in Wallis.  My current body measurements (which were the same back then)  are 36" bust; 30" waist; 39.5" hips and I find that I can normally wear size 10 items in most shops, but I sometimes need size 12 too.  I have to always try on clothes as I can never tell what will fit.

Anyway - back to the top I was buying.  I lifted the size 10 hanger and took it the changing room and told myself that if it was a little tight, I'd just put it back on the rail and lift the 12 instead.   It had a back zip on it - it wasn't stretchy fabric, so no give in it at all, it fitted beautifully and I bought it.

Now, yesterday I decided to wear it to work, and I turned it inside out to iron it and discovered to my surprise that it was in fact a size 8!!!!!  It would appear that it was on a size 10 hanger the day I bought it and I didn't realise that it was a size 8.  Then there were the high-waisted trousers I had got to go with this top that day. They were bought in another high street store, Next.  The 10 was far too big; they were hanging on me, but they were the smallest they had in stock, so I bought them and took them home to be altered down a full size (not minding too much as they were reduced in the sale and the colour matched perfectly!)  Again, these were non stretchy, tailored trousers.  Now, if anyone knows me, I am NOT a size 8, nor have a been near a size 8 in about 15 years!!!  I used to wear some size 8 clothes when I was one and a half stone lighter than what I am now.  And yet, my outfit was a size 8...

Then I looked at the size charts on their websites.  To my surprise, they were almost identical in both shops.. .. and almost identical to most of my wedding dress and bridesmaid size charts.  A size 8 is 33" bust; 26.5" waist; 36" hips. (Wallis is actually be half an inch smaller again on the bust.) Compare this my measurements above and you'll see that something is badly wrong.  How can my 36" bust fit perfectly into a 32.5" top....... or my 30" waist be wearing trousers which were supposed to be 28" inches, and yet were far too big?

According to the online shopping size charts of 4 very popular high street stores that I buy my clothes from, I'm actually between a size 12/14.  I am exactly the same size as my wedding dress charts say I am.  And yet these very stores are selling clothes that are NOT the size they are supposed to be.  My wardrobe is full of size 10 clothes from these stores (some of which are too big) and some size 12 clothes. At least with wedding dress sizes, the size on the label does equate to actual body measurements, and if we follow these sizes, we will have a dress that will be the size that we need.  I was expecting to see very different size charts for the high street stores in comparison to wedding dress charts - after all, this is what I've been telling my brides for years, but when I sat down and researched it, it seems that I've been wrong all along, and in fact, the shops are simply making clothes that are way bigger that their own size charts.   I even checked out the charts for plus size clothes.  For example in Next, there isn't a huge difference in a size 20 on our most popular wedding dress designer's size chart (it's just a bit more generous on the waist on the high street chart) and yet I have girls come in who are telling me they are wearing size 16 clothes on the high street, and yet their measurements both for wedding dresses and the high street clothing is more of a 20. And I'm not even talking about people who have squeezed into stretchy clothes that are clearly too small for them - I'm talking about people who are wearing clothes that do actually fit them!

My theory is that the high street shops are 'competing for size' amongst themselves.  I always remember a relative of mine got really excited one day that she got into a size 12 pair of jeans in a shop that she normally didn't buy in. She admitted knew that she shouldn't be able to wear a size 12, and in the other shops she needed size 14 jeans.  But can you guess where she bought them?  Yes - she bought the ones in the shop that told her she was a size 12 as it made her feel happier about her size, and I bet they gained a repeat customer.  The winner?  The shop which made their clothing more generous.

Over the years I've noticed my body getting a bit bigger than what it once was, but the sizing of my clothes hasn't changed much.  The clothes I wear now are bigger clothes - no doubt about that!  The label still says a size 10... (or even an 8) but the chart is telling me that a 12 should be too tight on me and that I should find a 14 just a little big! My mum bought me a size 12 dress recently and has to take it in 3 inches in total to get it to fit!! Is it any wonder I hate shopping for clothes?!!!

Ah - I give up!!!!!  The whole size thing is total nonsense if you ask me!!  Why bother have size charts if high street clothing manufacturers are blatantly ignoring them?  Surely there should be some standardised way of sizing clothes so that all clothes use the same sizing and there's no difference in the size of a couture wedding dress and a pair of jeans you buy on the high street?  Would it be so hard?

Until then, I'll just have to keep reminding brides that sizes in general are just random(ish) numbers and re-assure them that bridal designers aren't being mean and horrible and that they aren't the bad guys in the clothing businesse with their smaller size charts.  They just look like the bad guys because of the fact that high street manufacturing has distorted people's views of what a certain size should look like. Men's sizing is so much more simplified.  Measure his neck in inches - or his waist - or inside leg.  Hey presto, there's his size!! Wouldn't that be a much easier way of doing it?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Preparing to shop for your wedding dress? The essential guide.

The ring is on your finger, you've set your date, and after hours of looking through magazines and scrolling through bridal shops' websites, you decide it's time to go shopping for your wedding dress.

Here's everything you need to know to get started.

1. Make sure you are ready to buy before you go shopping.
Wedding dress shops have stock which changes all the time.  Between getting in new dresses, to dresses going discontinued and getting sold off the peg, the collection each shop carries is always evolving.  If you are not going to be ready to buy until a year before your wedding, then wait until a year before the wedding.  If you go two years in advance, the sales consultant will be working with the dresses that she has on that given day when she is helping you to find your dress.  She won't know what dresses are going to be here a year down the line,  so don't go looking for 'the one' until you know that what you see is what you are able to get!!!  Sounds like common sense, but you'd be surprised at how many people phone to book 'just looking' appointments with no intention of trying to find a dress to buy.  And don't leave it too late either or you may not be able to order in your dream dress.  The dresses you try on in the shops are what we call our 'sample dresses', but each bride gets a dress made to order for her, so this takes time, and if you leave it until 6 months before your wedding, you won't have the same choice as a bride who comes out earlier.

2. Book in advance.
Most bridal shops work by private appointment in order to give a professional one-to-one service. If you just show up, there's a very good chance that you will won't get to try dresses on.  A quick phonecall or email can save you a wasted trip and a lot of disappointment.

3. Ask questions when you are booking.
If you are looking for something specific, be sure to ask before you arrive.  For example, if you are looking for a certain designer, make sure you check that the shop you are booking with carries that label.  Or if you are adamant that you want a tea-length wedding dress or a destination wedding dress, don't assume that all shops will have a selection for you to try on.  Check first.  The same goes for plus sizes.  Some shops only carry wedding dresses from size to 8 - 14, whist others (such as our shop) carry a wide range of size 18+ dresses up to a size 26.  If you are a plus size bride and arrive to a shop which doesn't have anything over a size 14, you are going to very disappointed when you won't be able to try any dresses on, so run this by the shop first when you are at the booking in stage.
Also, if you have a friend or relative who has purchased their dress in the shop you are visiting, make sure the staff are told about this in advance so they can hide that other bride's dress before you come in - you don't want to pick the same dress as your future sister-in-law, so let the bridal shop know her name when booking so they can get organised to make sure this doesn't happen!

4. Keep an open mind
Many brides come in knowing exactly the sort of dress they want to wear on their wedding day. Many of them will end up wearing that sort of dress, but many more will wear something very different, so be prepared to allow yourself some flexibility and don't rule anything out because it's not what you imagined yourself wearing.

5. For trying on dresses on the day.....
If possible, wear a strapless bra.  If you don't have one, try to wear a white or nude bra.  You will have a consultant in the room with you, helping you in and out of dresses, so wear knickers that you are comfortable being seen in!  If you're going to feel embarrassed in a skimpy thong, then wear your Bridget Jones pants!  If you feel more comfortable wearing opaque tights, then that's no problem!(unless you are planning on trying on tea-length dresses - but you can slip the tights off if you decide to try some of those dresses on.)   If possible, try not to come straight after the gym or after a hard day's physical work on a hot day!!  Staff will have to get up close and personal with you, so bear this in mind, and feel free to ask for baby wipes or deodorant.  Most bridal shops keep a supply for brides wishing to freshen up if you don't have your own and are only to happy to let you use them.

Also, you will be expected to come without fake tan so that you don't soil the dresses, and make-up should be kept very light (no heavy foundation, heavy black eye make-up or lipstick.)   Bring heels if you wish (although you can always borrow a pair of ours if you forget) - but we (as well as most other bridal shops) have a box for you to stand on if the dresses are too long.

6. Bring your essential helpers with you.
If your mum needs to be there to help you pick your dress, make sure she is with you when you are going looking.  Or your best friend or sister.  It sounds like I'm stating the obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many people can't decide because they don't feel confident to say 'yes to the dress' without a certain close person by their side to give their approval.  If they are essential to helping you pick your dress, make sure they are with you.  Equally, be careful not to bring too many people.  Too many people normally means too many opinions, and that can make things more difficult, especially if any of the helpers are seeing things from different viewpoints.  Bring one or two helpers, and make sure you are all on the same wavelength!

7. Get babysitters if you can.
We understand that this isn't always possible, and at Beautiful Day, we are very happy to let you bring children to our shop (from babies to older children) but not all bridal shops allow children on the premises (be sure to check with each shop). Young children and toddlers get bored easily if they have to sit in the same place for an appointment that lasts just over an hour, and a bridal shop full of expensive dresses, mannequins, sparkly tiaras and shop displays can be a minefield for them (our toy box can only keep some children entertained for so long!!).  If they do need to be constantly supervised, it can be very distracting for the bride and her helpers.  We've had brides who have cut appointments short getting stressed with toddlers having tantrums or children toppling over mannequins.  Each bride should feel relaxed so she can focus on finding her wedding dress, so try to organise bridal shopping around babysitters if possible to make the whole process easier and more enjoyable!

8. Bring your purse!!
You wouldn't go to buy a new handbag or shoes without bringing your purse - the same goes for wedding dress shopping.   If you find a dress, you'll have to put down a deposit (at Beautiful Day, we can even take a partial deposit which you can pay up for if time permits) so come prepared. If you don't want to be carrying cash around with you, make sure you have a debit or credit card so that if you do find the one, you'll be able to get it ordered and relax knowing that it's all done.

9. Don't book too many appointments to start with.
See how the first one or two goes and take it from there.  Some brides book numerous appointments together as they think that they need to visit loads of shops in order to find 'the one'. In reality, the average bride finds her wedding dress in one of the first two shops she visits.  If you don't find one you love, then certainly, book more appointments in additional shops.  And the trick is to stop once you find one you love!!  (Easier said than done for some brides!!)  Some brides keep looking at more and more dresses and accumulate a list of dresses they love, and this is when they get confused and often get overwhelmed and find themselves second-guessing themselves.  And remember, it's ok to fall in love with the first dress - it happens quite a lot!

Remember, if you do buy and have a future appointment booked in another shop, cancel the appointment - the staff there will be very grateful for the heads up!!

Once you find a dress and order it, the worst thing to do is to keep looking at pictures of other dresses (or worse still, to go looking in other shops!!) And don't look at pictures of the dress you picked either unless absolutely necessary.  Each time you look at it, it will lose a little bit of its magic, and you still want to feel special and magical wearing it on your wedding day.  Try to remember that feeling you got when you were looking at yourself in the mirror wearing it.  You're not going to get that same emotional feeling about your dress on a Monday morning looking at a picture of it on your mobile phone, so don't panic if you do look at a picture and don't get excited about it.  This happens quite a lot and sends some brides into panic mode!!! So avoid this if you can!!

Happy shopping ladies, and I hope this blog has given you some food for thought.  Remember to stay positive, don't focus on things that you see as negative about yourself, and remember that a wedding
isn't a competition to be the best or most amazing or unique bride.   It doesn't matter if the dress has similar features to a dress worn  by someone in your neighbourhood who got married last year. On your wedding day, I can promise you that you'll be the centre of attention and people won't be making comparison lists to already-married ladies.  Be true to yourself and remember to step back and look at the big picture and remind yourself to keep it real!  You want to feel beautiful and to look your best - not for the neighbours or relatives or for your circle of friends, but for you (and to impress your future spouse of course!) and to follow your heart when deciding on which one to grace the aisle with.


To book an appointment at Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage, tel  02871 813682 (or 04871 813682 from the Republic of Ireland) or follow this link to book online.

click here to book

Friday, 6 March 2015

Spring sale at Beautiful Day - wedding dresses from £195.

All dresses in the sale are dresses which have been used as sample dresses, and will be reduced by AT LEAST 50%, with discounts of up to 75% (starting at £195).  The selection of dresses will include current season dresses (reduced for that day only and then reverting to full price) and discontinued dresses.  Most dresses will be Maggie Sottero gown and  Essense of Australia, with some by  Special Day and White One. 

Book now to secure your  private slot on Wed 25th March.

 Many dresses will be from our current collection and will only be reduced for the 1-day sale and will then revert to full price once the sale is over.  Full price dresses will not be on show that day - just the sale dresses, so if you want to see non-sale dresses, please book an appointment for a different day.

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.  You will be restricted to the number of dresses you can try on (5 max in your allocated time slot!!)  so you don't get the normal private consultation 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 the next week.  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 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.   Plus, we ask for no fake tan, and that only light make-up be worn.
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!!! (and many of the dresses will be reverting to full price after the event). 
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 when you are looking through the dresses.   All dresses will be grouped in sizes to make it easier.  The majority of dresses will be in sizes 12, 14 and 16, but we still have a good selection of smaller and larger dresses (it just means that the 12-16 bride will have a better picking choice!) 

Please note that the vast majority of dresses will be ex-sample dresses, which means that they have been tried on in our shop and/or have been worn in fashion photoshoots/catwalk shows.  They may have minor issues that need addressed, for example, some may need dry cleaned or spot cleaned or may have a few missing beads or buttons, and we have priced each dress accordingly to take this into account.   You are getting a genuine designer dresses for a fraction of the full retail price and are able to see them and try them on , unlike shopping online where many of the 'bargains' are in fact poorly made copies of designer dresses, made with inferior materials.  

Beautiful Day Bridal Cottage, Greysteel, Co Derry -  Tel 028718 13682

Monday, 2 March 2015

A positive approach to wedding dress shopping. Let those good thoughts shine through!!

Thought for the day: I wanted to share this quote to ask all our brides to stop and think about what it says before they come to look for their wedding dress.....

I've observed over the years how wedding dress shopping seems to bring out a lot of insecurities in brides. Maybe it's my background in psychology - I'm always people watching and analysing their behaviour! 

It seems to be a getting rarer these days for a bride to go through a whole appointment without saying at least one thing negative about herself.  Brides are very much aware that they will be the centre of attention on the big day and when they start trying on dresses it seems that a lot of ladies put themselves under a lot of pressure to be perfect.  The appointment starts and when the dresses go on,  I start to hear all the bad words come out!!!  The 'Negative B' words as I call them. Comments about their bellies, bingo wings, back fat, boobs, broad shoulders, bones sticking out, bulges, birthmarks, big hips, blemished skin. You name it, I've heard it!!  (and a few 'F words too - basically, any body part prefixed with the word 'Fat')  

Worse still when the 'helpers' they bring mention these things (see my blog on 'Choosing your helpers wisely!)  It can end up being a recipe for disaster. So remember, when you come shopping, try to leave the negativity behind.  It's hard for a bride to be in a positive frame of mind when she keeps putting herself down.  Every single bride who comes in to try on dresses is beautiful in her own way - and remember that the person who is marrying you loves you the way you are!!  A positive attitude will be your best friend and any negativity you bring with you (or get thrown at you by an unhelpful entourage) will only drag you down and make you feel deflated, making the whole wedding dress shopping experience turn into a chore.   

Focus on the positives and don't be too hard on yourself.  Step back and look at the whole picture if you need to, and remember what the most important thing is.  You want to feel beautiful and special on your wedding day.   You want to see your partners face light up when he sees you walk down the aisle. You're not trying to get on the front cover of Vogue magazine!!  And you're not trying to compete with those models in the wedding magazines who you see as picture-perfect (and whose images are almost certainly photo-shopped!).  I've been to those photoshoots and have witnessed the entourage of hairdressers and make-up artists and the number of shots it takes to get that perfect picture.  It's not portraying the reality of being a bride on her wedding day, so don't even go there! 

I find it so refreshing when a bride comes in for a consultation and doesn't spend the duration of the appointment criticising herself, focusing on finding a wedding dress that she feels beautiful in instead of pointing out her perceived flaws.  Very few of us are catwalk models, but we can (and will!) all look beautiful on our wedding day if we let our beauty shine through!! Get yourself in the 'zone' before you set out to try dresses on - enjoy the experience of finding your wedding dress, make the most of your assets, relax, enjoy yourself, and let yourself shine!