Where did you get that dress {Part 1}

{Disclaimer, this post is heavily based on one I posted previously, but this is the shiny new updated version, with some shiny new ideas. Promises.}
Ok…if I had my time again, I would not buy a dress from a ‘Wedding Boutique’. That’s not to say you shouldn’t, but it is to say that you should check out the other options before you do jump straight into it. I wish I had. And so here, my lovely lovely ladies, are some suggestions as to where to check out before you hand over the cash.
First up. You’ve tried on quite a few dresses in boutiques, but nothing is doing it for you.  Or maybe you  just know that what you want isn’t going to be available in a typical wedding dress shop. Where do you turn? I have three possible options for you….
The High Street.
I was nervous about looking here, worried that some of the dresses weren’t going to be ‘bridey’, enough. But I was worrying unnecessarily. The high street seem to have made a real surge forward, even in the last year in their bridal ranges. Both Monsoon and Coast have new bridal ranges coming out VERY soon. And there are some real beauties in both.  I don’t swoon very often, but both caused me to have a bit of a  ’swoooon’ moment.
Monsoon have these lovelies (plus lots of others), coming out in May….

My personal favourite? Has to be the San Juan.

And at Coast – it’s entirely worth losing your lunch hour to drool over their bridal offerings, see if you cn actually pick a favourite-it took me hours!

It’s also well worth checking out some of the higher end department stores – particularly Harvey Nics and Selfridges. Don’t worry – the dresses there can still come in at considerably less than the price of your average wedding dress.

These two lovelies are from BCBG Max Mara, available in Harvey Nics. And one of them even comes in under the £500 mark….

Yep. Really. Under £500. Pretty good no? And pretty pretty too. For further proof (as if it is needed) that these dresses are beautiful, check out Sam’s English Wedding where she is looking truly stunning in a BCBG number.
Charity/Vintage shops.
This is where you’ll find your real, one off, totally unique pieces. You will have to spend some time searching, but how flipping proud will you be when you find ‘the one’ for less that some people spend on their shoes. Any of the charity shops are worth checking out – Oxfam even have their own online Bridal Section, where I just found this Pronovias lacy fishtail pretty little thing. Also, because we love you, we have a piece coming up soon from a bride who bought her dress from Oxfam and how to go about it. You’re welcome.
Now, for the true vintage lover, you need to get yourselves to Tasty Vintage. ASAP. No really.  This little treasure trove of beauty is run by the lovely Harriet who has grown her absolutely enormous collection of truly vintage dresses over many years. You will love these dresses. Love them I tell you. Get over there now. From lacy sheath dresses to lovely big pouffy numbers, they have it all. And the accessories. Don’t even get me started on the accessories. Lucy Stendall recently did a photo-shoot there and you actually need to go and check it out. And then go to Tasty Vintage. And get married in one of their dresses. And then send us the pictures.
Of course, if you want proof of how jaw-droppingly fabulous a vintage frock can look, look no further than our very own Aisling. She totally rocked her charity shop find and opened my eyes to all of the possibilities out there.
The Dress Maker.
When I was speaking to a dress maker about the possibility of her making a dress for me, it transpired that the particular material that I really liked, was in her words ‘pretty much the most expensive you can find’. (what can I say, champagne tastes, sparkling water budget). I then held my breath when she told me how much the total dress would be…and was gobsmacked to be told that it was still far less than the price of any of the dresses I’d been trying on in wedding dress shops.
And for this price, I would get a toile dress made up, then the real dress would be hand made, bespoke, for me. If you want the real, ‘I’m special’ experience, this is the one to go for girls. None of this having your measurements taken and then seeing which dress size they could best fit you in, and then having a dress made in a factory and altered to fit you. Nope. The dress maker dress is a one off, special edition, once in a lifetime piece.
Of course the downside with this is that you have to know *exactly* what it is you want. The plus side is, they can make a dress in less than 3 months, whereas most dress shops would laugh you out of town if you gave them that sort of timescale.
And I maybe a little bit biased, but I think mine turned out ok…
I can honestly say that I would look into all of these options if I were to do it all again. Really I would. Regardless of what the prices are, you will get real value for money with any of these options, and be highly unlikely to ever see any other bride in your dress. Which is a pretty good feel good factor I’d say.
Keep an eye out for the next ‘Where did you get that dress post’ because I’ve got three more options for you Yes three. What can I say? I’m good to you. And in the meantime, leave a comment with any other ideas you’ve got…
Categories: Wedding Planning, Wedding Pretty
8 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Abi
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Hi Clare.

    Fab post and I am loving the monsoon and coast offerings!

    I would also be really interested to hear how to go about finding a dress maker? And different peoples experiences.

    I am a bit scared that i'll end up with one who makes 80s huge puff ball arms….probably because that is my experience of dress makers (when I was 5)

    Oh and how to DECIDE what you would like! I am in Wedding Dress haze… they all start to look the same. Thought I wanted short but made me look wide & stumpy.

    I cannot draw for toffee so not sure how I could even explain what I want…(fellow creatively challenged bride)

  2. Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Dressmakers are the best. I didn't really know what I wanted and my wonderful dressmaker looked at all the pictures I kept finding and interpreted them, explaining which styles would work and then what type of fabric would be the best. She was brill (Lisa at http://www.dragonflydressdesign.co.uk) and I loved my dress.

  3. Posted March 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post! You know my dress story (won one from dressmakers House of Mooshki) – I have saved some of these pics to send to them as inspiration! Thanks Claire!

  4. Katie
    Posted March 30, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post – I love both yours and Aisling's dresses.

    I found a lot of the dresses in bridal shops rather samey, and some of the shop assistants were quite pushy, trying to get me to try on styles that I knew before even trying the dress on that it was not me. All the assistants told me that I had to try on these dresses, due to the fit and feel, as I may love them, and should not go with preconceived ideas.

    I don’t think they liked me, for being so assertive over the style that I wanted.

    I went to a dress maker and was surprised by how reasonable she was priced (Trisha's in Oswestry – very lovely, but does not have a website). However my mum was concerned that I would not get to try on the final dress until it was made, and what if it was not right for me! We decided to carry on looking and I found my dress in a bridal shop. I knew before I even tried it on that the dress was “me”. It was from a discount wedding dress range, and cost £400 but was the style I had been looking for (with a few compromises).

  5. Posted March 30, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    absolutely beautiful…i love the options you picked out!

  6. Posted March 30, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Love the new coast and monsoon dresses! Also, pleased that Harriet at Tasty Vintage gets a mention, I don't think I've recovered from my visit to that boutique yet! Can't wait to see what is coming next? Grannie's wardrobe perhaps…

  7. Posted March 30, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    Great post and there really are so many options. I didnt go near a bridal shop but used the internet for a lot of research. I knew what i wanted but found it near impossible to find in my price range so i went the dressmaker route. I designed it myself and took my drawings to a local lady my hairdresser told me about. The end result was perfect and exactly what i wanted. I also love the fact that i designed it myself, it is completely unique but still cost less than most off the peg dresses in bridal shops.

  8. Posted March 31, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    You have inspired me once again ladies – watch out for a 'how to get your dress from a dressmaker/charity shop/high street shop etc' series coming to your screens soon!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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