How I found my wedding dress


It was my birthday recently and I was given, thanks to my sister-in-law, Kelly Doust's fashion memoir, A Life in Frocks (one of two of Doust's books that I got for my birthday - god, my friends know me well!). I picked it up on a Monday morning, by Tuesday I'd read all 246 pages and even gone back and re-read some chapters. It is a glorious telling of the fashion adventures and sometimes-love sometimes-hate relationships one woman (and in turn, every woman) has with what she wears. It felt like I'd experienced Sex and the City for the first time, but this time all the stories were 100% real. Hearing about another woman's fashion faux pas, learning as she goes at what is her style, what person she wants to show to the world through her choice of clothing, is relatable. Perhaps it's just my age, but her story spoke to me in the way many fashion bloggers strive to achieve (and they love to read about): this is real people telling the truth, not airbrushed, edited then told through their publicist. (Girls, get A Life in Frocks on your Christmas list now!)

'The frock of frocks': my story
On a wonderful Spanish holiday (my first time to the country!) I turned around on the beach to find a note etched out in the sand... "Laura, will you marry me?" After the much celebrating and jubilation, where we're planned out almost every aspect of the wedding during the rest of the holiday, I found myself wondering about what my frock of frocks. 

It seemed the sweetheart neckline was the 'in' bridal look that year. That, along with a fitted, strapless bodice and various types of skirt ranging from the full on meringue to the tailored fish tail. And this is where I was scuppered. It may sound ridiculous to some, but I hate to show my decolletage. I like to think it's always for very practical reasons, like not wanting to get cold, but in my heart of hearts I know it's because I'm not confident showing off that part of my body. It's my bones, or rather, being a bit bony. Why would everyone want to see my clavicle? And certainly no one wants to see the light of the photographer's flash bounce off my sternum! Being thin has as many challenges as being curvaceous.

There is another part of my body that I don't particularly enjoy showing off, and that is my arms. To look at, you'd think they were perfectly normal, a bit thin, a bit toned but generally OK arms. Personally, I have a fear that they look like Madonna's. To much muscle for such spindles, they're more strongman caricature than strong goddess. My bridal fantasy was not one where I looked like I would be the one doing the carrying over the threshold. Plus, being pale, I'd have had to pray for a little sunshine as there was no way in hell I was going to run the risk of having fake tan rub off. Not a classy look and not a potential problem I wanted to prepare for.

I've been told by those nearest and dearest I have 'a style', a conclusion that is heavily backed up by the bandeau/slash neck dresses that fill my wardrobe. I knew that I wanted a dress that felt 'like me' - I am not a princess, I didn't want to be one for the day, and wearing a dress with boning sounded like torture. I was after a style that would suit me, that wasn't shouty or outside the norm. I wanted to look like myself and hoped to find the frock that would, if it was right, look timeless as the years go by.

I was lucky. The first shop I went into was the one where I found my frock of frocks. Oh, and my fiancé picked it - you know, just as you do.

It was a very rainy Sunday where my fiance and I headed out to Knutsford, in Cheshire, after seeing an advert for an antique and oddities shop that opened at the weekend. On our way back, pockets sadly empty of treasures, we happened to see a sign for Agapé Bridal Boutique (they've since moved to new premises) having a one day sale of their past season sample dresses. Yes! Sample size sale! My eyes were already popping.

Fiancé in tow we crossed the threshold to a warm welcome and absolute abundance of gorgeous champagne, ivory, off white and pearl white dresses - more lace, silk and taffeta than you could shake a stick at! I know it goes against tradition to take your fiance wedding dress shopping with you, but we're not a traditional couple. Plus, I HATE surprises so my worst nightmare would be walking down the aisle in a dress my groom would despise - not that he'd ever have admitted it. I knew it would have stressed me out so decided thought, stuff it who cares. So I asked the dreaded question... "Do you have any that have sleeves?"

The seamstresses didn't even bat an eyelid, as it turns out both Agape's owner Karen and assistant Alex not only alter, but design too! Then Alex pulled out a beautiful Ugo Zaldi gown with full length chiffon sleeves, with a wide satin cuff. WOW.

While she whisked the dress upstairs to the fitting room, I continued looking through the rails and nothing else caught my eye and I moved away from the sale items to see what else they had. That was when my fiancé chanced upon another wonderful high-necked Ugo Zaldi gown - this one sleeveless.

Two beautiful dresses, how could I choose? Those long chiffon sleeves, so bridal and elegant but then there was an air of regality and classicism about dress number two that made me feel equally as special. After slipping both on it became clear that I could not (would not) be comfortable wearing dress number one in front of all my nearest and dearest. It turned out the stunning V-neck plunged wider and longer than it appeared on the hanger, and with a D-cup and a short body, it swiftly undid all those feelings of elegance and je ne sais quoi (my fiancé liked it, of course).

They say that 'you know' when you try on 'the dress'. I didn't, until I turned around and saw my fiancé's face. He's not usually one lost for words, but his silence was louder than a thousand 'that's greats'. Sold!

So there I was, in a conundrum, standing in front of the mirror deciding which of my vices were worse. Olive Oil arms, or a rack of ribs with your 'I do's'. Alex then suggested I try both on at once, not easy to do when they're both size 0's already. Despite the odd bulges and rucked up skirts, I got a glimpse of what it could be like if the clever women could pull it off, taking the glorious sleeves from the first frock and adding it to the second. They even offered to do it without me paying for both dresses, as they were both 'end of the line' and going back to Ugo Zaldi at the end of the day. I had to make a choice, and I had to do it NOW. I handed over my credit card.

My only regret was that my Mum wasn't with me. That hurt. She didn't say she was upset, but I'm not sure she'd have told me. I rang her sobbing and could hardly get the words out - this was a right of passage a daughter did not deny her mother. But when I told her what I had, with a bit of creativity and thinking outside the box (and with thanks to some amazing women!) not only was my dress couture, it was handmade, tailored just for me and at a third of the cost - you won't be surprised to hear she was thrilled.

This post is dedicated to the team at Agape Bridal Boutique in Cheshire , you are real life Fairy Godmothers, only with much more class and bags of style. And of course, to Kelly Doust for inspiring me to share my story. Read her blog here.

Laura x

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