Creating the wow factor

So it’s time to shop for the dress. That’s right. The big one. The one everybody is asking about. Your wedding dress. But with so many styles and so many fabrics, the world of wedding couture can often be an overwhelming one. Luckily, the sheer number of styles out there means you have the freedom to express yourself and show a little of that great personality. Go on, be brave!
With vintage refusing to budge, it would be easy to think that the only options a bride has these days were short dresses with a full skirt and nipped-in waist, but if the thought of a beehive barnet and pillar-box red lipstick have you quaking in your boots, the retro trend is not compulsory.
“Brides don’t want to be bland any more,” says Carina from Carina Baverstock Couture. “Today’s bride wants to express her uniqueness and personality and, above all, ‘relaxed elegance’. Gowns are less structured than, say, five years ago; these dresses now appear stiff, awkward and unnatural. Brides want pure lines enhanced by good cut tailoring. Simplicity is the keyword – think Pippa Middleton – with stunning embellishments of feathers or Chantilly lace. Colour is changing dramatically from classic ivory to soft hues of honey, golden champagne and moonlight silvers – fabulous for pale English complexions.”
If you’re a Kate and not a Pippa (sorry but we’re still not over THAT dress), then think lace and classic lines. Kate’s skirt was full but by no means gypsy wedding size, so don’t be put off by acres of material. In order to achieve some shape to the skirt why not pile the pleats on the back and rock a bustle? That’s what Kate did and the narrower silhouette would also work well with a longer train and veil.

If flowers are your forte, then blousy blooms and floral hairpieces are for you. Designer Claire Pettibone (available through Carina Baverstock Couture) uses flowers in many of her designs with a 70s-inspired print, floral embroidery or a statement corsage.

Claire Pettibone Mystere dress
But if vintage really does have you salivating quicker than a slice of cake, don’t be afraid to go for it. With celebrities such as Lily Allen and Kate Moss giving vintage the nod of approval, it’s sure to be a favourite style for brides this autumn. All you need to do is pick a period; they’re all there from floor-sweeping silks to feather-trimmed micro minis or full skirts and bows. For the full effect match hair and make-up to the decade of the dress, or add a contemporary edge by matching it with something ultra sleek and modern. Designers such as Matthew Williamson and Jenny Packham (also available through Carina Baverstock Couture) have pulled influence from the past to create their latest collections.
Regardless of what style you go for, there’s always something about having a dress that has been designed with you in mind and with you making changes to it along the way. If you can find a designer who understands exactly what you’re looking for, then you’re onto a winner. Alison Miles, a wedding dress designer, is adamant that a bespoke gown is the way to go. “Brides are always looking for good value and having a dress made to measure can represent excellent value. Made to measure means made to flatter. The fabrics used are often of much better quality, which give a wonderfully rich look. High-quality craftsmanship means strapless dresses don’t slip down and individually made inner corsetry is very comfortable to wear. The level of service is often much higher and fittings can be arranged outside normal working hours to make life easier for a busy bride. The designer will often dress the bride on the wedding day to ensure ‘the look’ is exactly as the bride and designer had planned.”

An Alison Miles bespoke dress
When choosing the fabric for your dress Alison recommends softer, more romantic materials, which are popular at the moment. “Pearls and rhinestones being used alongside soft, flowing fabrics such as tulle, organza and soft crepe satin. Lace is popular but as part of a dress, rather than all over, as lace can be very expensive. Texture is increasingly important, with ruching and pleating swathing the figure then falling away into extravagant trains. It can also be added with flowers scattered onto the dress – over the skirt or shoulder.”
Alison is also a firm advocate for wedding dresses with sleeves. Not only do they leave brides free to dance without the fear of a dancefloor wardrobe malfunction, they provide cover up in the cooler autumn months. Alison says: “Fewer dresses that I make are completely strapless, with many now having cap sleeves or shoulder coverings in lace, chiffon or georgette.”

Whether it’s floral bohemia, Royal-influenced or a full-out vintage treasure, the important thing is that you love your dress. There’s something to be said for a bride wearing something that really means something to her. Don’t be swayed by what you think you should wear. It can be hard at times if someone else is paying for the dress or suggests styles you wouldn’t necessarily go for but, as Carina says, brides can afford to be a little more daring these days – you can too.

This article was written by Hannah and first appeared in West Weddings’s sister publication Folio, a monthly magazine celebrating the best of Bristol and Bath. Folio publishes a wedding guide twice a year, so keep an eye out for the next edition in Spring 2012.