Are you are newly engaged and thinking about wedding dress shopping? Do you know what to expect? Styling yourself for your biggest ‘red carpet’ moment is super exciting but perhaps a little daunting.
I wondered what insider tips and expert advice a wedding dress boutique owner would share. So, with an interest in all things wedding related I went to visit Anna and Alison, owners of Alice May Bridal in Co. Dublin. They recently offered to display my wedding dress illustrations in their gorgeous shop. They were also kind enough to find some time for an interview.
Alison had a tape measure draped around her neck when I arrived. Busy with a bride-to-be’s final fitting but she still dipped in and out to be part of the interview. Anna sits down in a sunny window answering all the rest of my questions.
WHAT TYPES OF BRIDES-TO-BE VISIT YOUR SHOP?
All types! “We see brides who are boho, traditional, romantic and of course there’s always the ‘anti-bride” shares Anna. I must confess to my readers, that I was an ‘anti-bride’ – laughable now as I adore illustrating wedding dresses every day!!! At the time, I just wasn’t sure about buying into the whole ‘bride-thing’ and knew I couldn’t see myself in a long wedding dress. Read this article if you wish to see how I styled myself in the end.
Naturally, I found myself asking more about the ‘anti-bride’ category, curious to see what other girls were picking. So Anna jumped up and pulled out some fabulous 2-piece designs, amazing palazzo pants, separates and dresses in 3D lace. Oh so gorgeous, different and elegant.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A FIRST APPOINTMENT?
Anna describes most girls who enter her bridal shop for the first time as nervous but excited and usually a little over-whelmed. They usually feel some pressure to find ‘the one’ on their first visit in their first shop but this doesn’t really happen. Having probably trawled through Pinterest, followed by lots of internet searching, newly engaged girls feel like they have an idea of what they like. However, it’s only when they get into their very first shop that they get to touch the fabrics, understand the structure, weight and boning of the dresses, the many styles and possibly even their own body shape.
Anna talks warmly about the hand chosen designer dresses and styles hanging in the shop and lightly touches them as she passes them on the rail, pulling a couple out to show them to me as we talk.
“Each dress has it’s own personality” she says. And by the time I finish the interview I know what she means and how much she knows what she’s doing.
ADVICE FOR A 1ST APPOINTMENT?
Bring shoes of a similar height to what you’d wear on your wedding day.
Wear nude underwear but not spanx.
Also wear a nude strapless bra.
Bring an open mind! You never know what dress will be magical on you.
HOW MANY DRESSES CAN YOU TRY ON?
The customers are encouraged to touch and look at as many dresses as they like before heading to the spacious velvet-curtained dressing room. Usually they will pick 4-5 dresses as each appointment in Alice May is for one hour. After chatting with them and getting a sense of what kind of bride the girl seems to be, along with her figure, Anna will then pick out 4-5 more for her to try on.
All the dresses on the rails are sample dresses, usually a size 12. They are for trying on only and new ones are ordered to the bride’s measurements when it comes to buying. The girls will be encouraged to lift their arms, sit down, walk around and even dance if they want to really get a feel for how the dress will feel on their wedding day.
The bride’s-to-be are encouraged to enjoy the experience, this is such a once in a life time experience that it is to be embraced. In this shop I can sense the relaxed vibe and wished I’d had the chance to visit when I was wedding dress shopping myself.
WHO SHOULD YOU BRING?
Alison suggests bringing 1 or 2 people, otherwise the volume of options can get to be too much. The mother and a bridesmaid are usually the most trusted voices, however some brides prefer to shop by themselves. Sometimes an Aunt or Godmother can be the right person to bring.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING?
After the venue has been picked, suggests Anna. With so many varieties of venues available, couples now have lots of choice. Alison and Anna would always ask about the venue while the girl tries on dresses. This will give clues to what might suit when picking out more dresses. You can visualise yourself in the venue when you try on each dress.
WHAT’S A TRUNK SHOW?
So, I’d heard of trunk shows before but it seems like an ‘industry term’ and reluctantly I admitted that I really didn’t know what it was. Anna kindly informed me, smiling as it wasn’t her first time being asked.
Each season designers will release a new collection for shop buyers to view and pick from. Anna tells me that out of the possible 25 designs available they will pick around 5 for their shop. A trunk show is when the designers bring the full collection to an individual shop for 2-3 days so that brides-to-be who liked that designer can try every dress.
By having the full collection in their shop and seeing customers trying them on it also helps Alison and Anna know if they bought the right 5 to their shop. It informs their purchasing knowledge. If a bride-to-be picks one of the ‘trunk show’ dresses it can then be brought back for another appointment 2 weeks later.
Anna tells me she loves the bustle and flurry of the trunk shows, it’s great to see girls coming back in having fun trying on fabulous dresses.
HOW MANY VISITS DOES IT TAKE?
Anna is quick to assure me that a bride can visit as often as she likes to make up her mind on a dress. However, the norm would be 2-3 visits for a purchase. Once the dress has been decided on it then usually takes 6 months before the girl comes back for her final fitting.
WHAT HAPPENS AT A FINAL FITTING?
“It’s amazing, without exception every bride is nervous” says Anna. They have waited 6 months for their carefully chosen wedding dress to arrive into the shop. The brides-to-be are always a little scared that maybe they won’t love it. However, every single time, once they try on their wedding dress the panic washes aways replaced by relief and pure joy.
Then they want to try on accessories and complete their look. Alice May Bridal stock jewellery, veils, shoes, capes, boleros, furs, cashmere cardigans so there’s lots to try on.
WHAT TRENDS DO YOU SEE HAPPENING?
Anna, gets animated when I ask her this question and starts telling me about the different designers they stock and what they offer.
Backless, separates, 3D lace, feathers, flowers, full floral, and colour are all trends that are interesting today’s modern bride, I’m told.
Raimon Bundo offers an edgy range that’s bang on trend with a minimalist feel. Savin London offers colour and floral options while Catherine Deane is amazing with the romantic dresses that have a contemporary twist. Willowby by Watters is one of my favourites, the designs are modern yet feminine but with 3D lace touches and gorgeous use of fabrics. Every designer offers something unique and Alice May Bridal also stock the very beautiful designs of Anna Georgina and Atelia Emelia.
If you make an appointment with Alice May I’d love to hear how you get on afterwards!
PHONE : 01 2950006 ADDRESS : The Kilternan Gallery, Enniskerry Road, Kilternan, Co Dublin
Good luck to all you engaged ladies. I wish you luck in the search for your amazing signature wedding dress.
As a 3-time bridesmaid and a bride I certainly had some knowledge of wedding dress shopping. But, I wish I’d had the chance to experience Alice May Bridal. The warmth of the two owners and relaxed feeling inside their bridal boutique is different to anything else I had encountered.
For anyone who wishes to immortalise their wedding dress after their wedding day, take a look at the Wedding Dress Ink shop. It’s easy to order and you can do it from the comfort of your own home!! Audrey creates fashion illustrations of your wedding day, capturing all your unique details and styling.