There are some big investments for the ‘Perfect Wedding Day’ and the venue, the photography and the dress are probably in the top three. But the priority one gives to each element is a very individual experience – I know one groom to be who paid £1,000 for his shoes, I know one bride to be who bought her own flowers and made her bouquet on the morning, so it’s safe to say that everyone is going to have a different priority.
But when it comes to the dress – is it all about the dress?
I’ve heard of brides that spend £20K on their dress, one recent one who just couldn’t quite justify her £4K ‘favourite’; and then there was one who spent just £25 making some alterations to a ‘hand-me-down’, (albeit originally costing £900), raw silk dress.
It’s good to know there are choices out there, but where to start and what to do?
For some this is a big decision and needs a lot of thought – there is the vision, planning, discussion with close and discreet family and friends, the fairs, the try outs, the alterations and the re-tries (often after losing weight, often after gaining weight).
For others, it’s a last minute scrabble – possibly borrowed dress, sometimes bought second hand / pre-loved in a charity shop, sourced cheaply online or more often than not rented.
Last year I met with a relatively new start up bridal boutique at a The Covent Garden Wedding Fair at the Kingsway Hall Hotel in Holborn. I Do Couture had a beautiful range of dresses hanging from their rails and a lovely team ready to help eager brides with their perfect choice. Realising that I was a bit ignorant of the whole process I thought I would pop to their boutique in Old Street and meet with Claire and Selina to find out more…
Tell me a little bit about the team and how you got together…
There are five of us and we were all economic undergraduates at Cambridge University, same year, same college. We’ve created the business just over a year ago and have been building the brand ever since.
Why did you decide to move into this competitive area?
Two of our group were getting married (Claire and Charles) and Claire had real trouble finding her ‘perfect dress’ – a process that took well over a year to sort. She hit upon three key problems 1) Dresses she liked were priced from £3K and above; 2) Alterations and design changes could take too long – at least six months; and 3) The designs were simply not flexible enough. She visited five or six boutiques and tried on 30-40 dresses and did not want to compromise on her perception of perfection.
We had a friend who owns her own boutique in China and who’d studied at a prestigious design school in France and within four months Claire had her perfect dress. The seeds of a new business were sewn.
What makes your dresses unique?
The products themselves – we have our latest range of 20 designs available to try on at all times. There is a selection of styles from Princess and A-line to Fish Tale and Empire, with a wide range of detail finishes. We have mainly ivory and white/cream, made of satin and silk, but our design service can cater for all requirements We also believe we are priced very reasonably – up to £2,500. And we provide a dress hire service for £150-200 per dress for up to three days – plus dry cleaning an additional £50-60.
We design our own dresses, we don’t have a supply chain of wholesalers and manufacturers and there are no middle-men or salesmen – this enables us to have a sleek process and speedy turnaround so we can offer affordable prices.
And if you want something ‘a little bit different’?
We have our own designer based in China. We take a small deposit on order and dresses get made within 4-5 months. Tailoring is done locally.
What has been your most unusual request?
Well, black wedding dresses do get asked for; and, even though it is not ‘unusual’ for Chinese people, we can get asked for eight wedding dresses for pre-wedding shoots!
What would you say was the most popular style in 2014?
Definitely the Princess style – which is simple, elegant and not too much fuss. Lace-up backs are still very popular.
How long do your brides take to make a decision?
We know from Claire’s experience the decision can take many months – but we have had some brides literally walk off the street, try on just the first dress they pick and decide that is ‘the one’. A sale in ten minutes! Admittedly instant decisions are rather rare!
And finally, any top tips for brides ready to help them find their perfect dress?
- Don’t necessarily have a pre-set idea of what you want – be open minded, you could surprise yourself.
- Try on all different shapes and sizes to see what suits you not what you suit.
- Lace, pattern, jewels etc are all detail points and choices for you to consider.
- Never chose from photos, dresses always look different on different people with different body shapes and sizes. Beware the cheap online options.
- Try on at least four or five dresses to give yourself some options. You will just ‘know’ when it feels and looks right.
I did ask the team what dress they would recommend to me (a 40-something, ahem, somewhat ‘curvy’ sized 14-16) and they said ‘Princess and A-Line dresses are very accommodating’. They also offered to let me have a good old ‘dressing-up-and-feeling-like-a-princess session’. Hmmm, maybe in the future!
I Do Couture is based at 207 Whitecross Street, Old Street, London EC1Y 8QP and offers free appointments all week with busiest times on Saturdays and Sundays. Plan for around an hour. Call 020 3581 8484 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.