Where did you get that dress? {A Sample Sale…}

Well, hellloooooo lovely ladies. We’re back. Woop! And we are VERY sorry to have deprived you of gorgeous stories, pretty pictures, wise words and inane ramblings. (That last one is courtesy of me, obviously. No-one else rambles inanely around here!) As a thank-you for standing by whilst we took a little blog-holiday, or blogiday, if you will, we have all these things and more, starting today with a gorgeous girly telling her wonderful story of where she bought her dress. It’s our lovely Esme…

Quite early on in the planning process (er, 3 days after we got engaged?) my Mum and two sisters decided that I needed to try on some dresses ‘just to get an idea of what you like’. Mum claims that I said that I just wanted a simple, figure hugging dress. I don’t remember saying this. Anyway, a weekend was planned and appointments were made at two beautiful wedding dress boutiques. In the first shop, (Quello in Kenilworth, Warwickshire where, incidentally, Charlotte from RMW bought her dress) they didn’t flinch when my sister let her 6 month old baby grab the chandelier or bat an eyelid when I said that I had no idea what I wanted – the service was brilliant and I have since been there again with an engaged friend who enjoyed it as much as I did (and has a bit more money to spend!). At first trying on the dresses was weird, and then it was fun. I tried on 6-8 stunning dresses and felt amazing: I found one that was gorgeous, made me feel gorgeous, made my Mum well-up (to be fair, that doesn’t usually take much…) and that even my cooler-than-cool younger sister liked. But, as I had known before trying on the dresses, it was way out of my price range. Before leaving, just because I could, I tried on a £2500 dress – Wow.  I mentally stored the feeling, just in case I never get to wear anything that expensive again, and we left for the next shop.
                            Esme in a dress. Not THE dress, but a dress. And doesn’t she look purdy?
This shop was more in my price range (The White Wedding Dress Boutique, Leamington Spa), but the service was not in the same range as at Quello. All the same, I was a bit more confident and promptly fell head-over-heels for a stunning dress. It was everything I had wanted but didn’t know I had wanted, if that makes sense. It made me look tall, slim, sexy and like a bride. And it was about what I wanted to pay. But it was too big, the skirts were too much and I felt a little bit silly. The assistant insisted that some of the underskirts could be removed to make it more streamline, but that it had been made that way to balance it out and I would be paying to remove lots of material that I had paid for in the first place. Then they asked me to walk to the end of the shop, turn around and walk towards the mirror. As I started walking, the assistant starting humming the wedding march – and something clicked. It was an amazing dress that made me look amazing, but it wasn’t ‘me’, it wasn’t what I wanted for my wedding. I wouldn’t be having the wedding march as I walked down the aisle and I didn’t want a huge dress that I couldn’t really dance in. So I said thank you and good-bye to that dress too. (I will add a note here, that although I realised that I probably wouldn’t be buying a dress from either boutique, I did email them both thanking them for their service and mentioning the one dress that I had liked in their respective shops, but that they were out of my price range. Both shops replied and offered me a discount on the dresses, without me even asking. )
At this point, I felt alright about my dress search. We still hadn’t even finally decided on a venue and only had a vague date in mind. So I started looking at dresses online and thinking about other options. Mum and I started looking on eBay and saw that there was so much on offer, emailing each other links for ideas every few days. She even made me bid for one dress, which I think it went for about £60 in the end (not to me, though)! A few months later, my Mum and I decided to spend a day in Birmingham looking at dresses in high street shops, such as Monsoon and Debenhams, just to see what they were like and whether going high street was an option for me. This was partly financially motivated, because by this point my fiancé had bought himself a suit in the summer sales at 90% off and we had started freaking out at the cost of wedding venues. At the same time, I had seen a couple of dresses on eBay being sold by a shop in Birmingham (Wedding World UK in Barnt Green, just outside Birmingham) for around £200. There was one in particular that I really liked that had been put up twice but hadn’t sold, so I emailed the shop and made an appointment to see that one and try on a couple of others for the day when Mum and I were going to Birmingham.
So, Monsoon: a couple of really nice dresses, but I was more taken with the boleros and shoes than the dresses, Debenhams was just horrible: it was the end of the season and there was hardly anything left, what was left was dirty and ripped, I found the dresses badly made and badly fitting, there wasn’t enough space in the changing rooms and I thought that they weren’t great value, and Marks and Spencer had sold out. Feeling slightly dispirited, we got on the train to Barnt Green.
When we arrived, it became clear the shop was either a sample shop, or they were getting rid of all of their current stock for the new season. The assistant (after insisting that the dress I had requested to try on was a completely different one to what I’d seen online, but after about 5 minutes of me thinking ‘oh dear, this was a HUGE mistake, they’re trying to swindle me, they sell on eBay for goodness sake’, she just realised the tags had got mixed up) told me that a deal could be done on most of the dresses, if we were willing to take it away with us today. She was experienced and helpful and we picked out 5 dresses to try. The first was the one I’d seen on eBay (didn’t fit as well as I’d hoped); next a couple of different styles that were completely wrong and one that Mum loved. Then I saw it – my dress. I had actually seen it on eBay and thought it was nice, but as soon as I saw it in the shop, I just knew. I put it on, smiled at myself in the mirror, the assistant winked at me and I walked to Mum. We didn’t say anything, we just knew – it was perfect. It had the bits that I had liked on the more expensive dresses, but a smaller skirt. The most overwhelming feeling I had, though, was that I knew that my fiancé would love it.
I got changed and spoke to my Mum quietly as the assistant was tidying up. She asked me if I was sure and I very calmly said that I would very much like that dress, please. Cleverly she had thought to bring cash, so with a nod from me, she approached the assistant and asked about doing a deal. 2 minutes later we were sitting in the cafe next door with a large glass of wine each, a large poofy white bag on the chair next to me and just £200 worse off – and I could finally squeal with delight! My clever Mum had negotiated a HUGE discount and I called my man to inform him that I had spent less on my dress than he spent on his suit.
Several months on, I still adore my dress and know it was the right choice for me. It was annoying that I had to buy the sample, which was a little tight and have had to lose a little weight and have it taken out slightly, but even with alterations (done by a friend of a friend), my dress cost £280. And I can’t wait to see my husband-to-be’s face when he sees me in it.
Categories: Wedding Planning, Wedding Pretty
9 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted May 16, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Aww, he is going to be bowled over! I feel very privileged to have seen The Dress (although not with Esme in it) and all I have to say is WOWSER. You are going to look stunning, lady. Nobody will ever believe it only cost £200!! Your mum is clearly a shopping jedi.

  2. Esme
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thanks Kirsty! I quite like it… I hope I look a bit better than I do in that picture – ugh! Fringe trim alert!

    Yes, my Mum is amazing. No point denying it.

    I'm going dress shopping with a friend in a month and I've been sending her all of these articles. Is anyone going to do one on making your own dress? She's quite keen on that option.

    Thanks for posting my story lovelies! xx

  3. Posted May 16, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Oh Esme-what a brilliant idea! We DEFINITELY need to find someone who made their own dress, for sure. Your friend sounds insanely creative and talented-how exciting!

    Absolutely cannot wait to see you in The Dress-you're going to be a knockout!


  4. Katie
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Can't wait to see the dress Esme. I love hearing about bargains too. This may sound silly, but I always gain a sense of achievement on buying a bargain or saving money with DIY.

    I think Clare is the best person for advice on getting a dress made, seeing that she looked so fabulous in hers.

    If your friend is buying from a bridal shop, my advice would be to consider whether she likes/trusts the staff and likes the shop. I bought from a cheaper dress shop, which at the time, I didnt think had the best service, but heck I loved the dress, what did it matter. I was getting the alterations done by a super dressmaker elsewhere. The first dress from China arrived with three stains and so I asked for another to be made up, the second dress from China has arrived too short. I didnt need extra length, as the sample dress was just long enough, but the new dress is an inch shorter than sample. The dress shop is being difficult over refund, has not offered any apology, or got cross with dress supplier, and is instead suggesting kitten heels. I might be tall, but I love my heels, and cant afford another dress.

    I'm looking at possibly putting lace along the hem of dress to make dress longer, and bodice or straps (for continuity). May have to email photos to Aisling, seeing that she was so creative with altering her dress.


  5. Katie
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Sorry, misread making your own dress. Wow, what a creative friend.

    My Granny made her own, in the 1940s, and looked gorgeous. She kept it very simple, and followed a pattern.

  6. Posted May 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    As in ACTUALLY choosing the pattern and then cutting it all out and sewing it together and making her VERY OWN dress?! If so, that is awesome. If anyone has donw that, email us. Now.

  7. Esme
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Yep – actually cutting it all out and everything. And I can't believe I completely forgot that my own SISTER actually made my Mum's dress when she got remarried 3 years ago! It was a stunner and my Mum (the very same shopping jedi) felt amazing in it. And because she loves herself a bargain, I think the silk cost a grand total of £80. xx

  8. Posted May 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I want pictures, Esme! Lots and lots of pictures! It sounds fabulous.

    And yesyesyes Katie! E-mail me! Now! I can't promise I'll have anything creative or ingenious but my mother (the sewing jedi) will definitely know what's what!


  9. Becca
    Posted May 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    My Mum is the most un jedi shopper ever and chants "get it get it get it" so I hear it in my sleep.

    I took her on the high street, into the boutiques, to see (a really scary local dressmaker) and then to Mayfair.

    I could tell Mum was seduced as soon as they asked her want kind of tea she wanted ("Earl Grey with Lemon" "Certainly Madam") and it came in a silver teapot (which I considered hiding and selling on ebay to afford said dress.

    Then they told me the price and you know what? It was CHEAPER to have it made by the designer himself, with toiles and fittings and a corset person that sucks and prods you in, than it was to have in a stockist in Newcastle (you know who you are). Oh and the stockist would have done made to measure rather than couture.


    Shop in Newcastle. You know who you are. Boo hiss.

    ALSO is anyone else slightly upset on Kate's behalf that her sister is on the cover of SIX magazines and Kate is only on two. I know she got the Prince and everything but upstaged much?

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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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