Six brides who are outside the standard bridal mould share their shopping stories of finding the perfect dress

Brides come in all shapes and sizes – there are loads of women out there getting married who don’t fit the mould. Six of them tell Nicole Conner how they found their dream dress

The world of fashion has, thankfully, started to become more inclusive in recent years. Nowadays, we see a diverse range of models – different frames, abilities and skin tones – in magazines and on the catwalk, as the human body is celebrated in all its forms. Think back to Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show in 2018, where model Slick Woods paraded her baby bump down the runway!

Kudos Dunfermline bride Amy getting ready on the morning of
Amy loved how flattering and comfortable her Maggie Sottero gown was (photo: Danielle Stewart)

The bridal fashion world, in contrast, sometimes falls short: models often fit one particular mould only, leaving everyone who’s not in the young, slim and able-bodied category in the dark about what would suit them. Six recent brides talk us through their experiences of gown shopping, from factoring a wheelchair into the equation, to finding out they were pregnant just after buying a dress, and how alterations became the key for one 60-year-old’s knockout look.

Baby on board

When Amy Holmes picked her dream Maggie Sottero gown from Kudos Bridal Boutiques’ Dunfermline store, she had no idea she’d be six and a half months pregnant by the time she walked down the aisle. “I knew I was expecting at my second dress try-on and all my fittings,” she tells us. “I remember going back to the shop feeling worried that as I got bigger my gown wouldn’t fit and that I’d have to buy a replacement at the last minute. Kudos, though, reassured me that my dress could be let out to accommodate the bump.”

Amy had originally been apprehensive about finding a dress she loved for her marriage to Chris at the Byre at Inchyra, but once she tried a few on she really got into it, telling us she had “the most amazing experience” at the boutique. She also loved that her dress (incidentally, the very first one she tried!) was flattering and comfortable: “That turned out to be a massive bonus, as I still wanted to dance and have good time despite being pregnant. My dress absolutely allowed me to do this while also making me feel amazing.”

Pregnant bride Amy
Amy’s dress from Kudos Bridal Boutique (Dunfermline) had minor alterations made for her bump

Minor alterations were made for the bump, but these were nothing more than would have been needed at a standard alterations appointment, she says. “My advice to other pregnant brides would be pick the dress you love. Don’t compromise on that. If I’d let my doubts get the better of me, I would have gone for a different dress and I’d have regretted it – and all for no reason,” she tells us. “If you’re open and honest about what you want, the shop and seamstress will support you and make sure you look and feel incredible in the dress you really want.”

Shopping while pregnant

“I didn’t find out I was pregnant until after I’d booked my dress appointment, and to be honest I was freaking out,” recalls Danielle Somerville. Like Amy, above, she was also looking for a gown at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Dunfermline. “I was suffering from common early pregnancy symptoms when I was shopping – in fact, I was worried I was going to have to dash to the loo to throw up! Thankfully, Megan Carberry at the boutique made me feel at ease and we took breaks whenever I got tired.”

Even though Danielle wasn’t getting married until 2024, the Kudos team recommended she pick her dress now, in a size up, which would allow plenty of scope to make changes at the fittings once her baby arrived.

Pregnant bride Danielle
After fiancé Baz popped the question, Danielle began shopping for her gown at Kudos Bridal Boutiques (Dunfermline)

“As soon as I knew I was pregnant, I felt it was important to find my dress – I have body-confidence issues anyway due to colitis and coeliac disease, so my stomach can be bloated at the best of times,” explains the bride. “I wanted to have my bridal try-on moment while my body looked most like itself. Plus, having this sorted is one less thing to stress about with a baby on the way.”

Danielle was impressed by Megan and the Kudos staff for their attention to detail: she felt like a princess and it made choosing her Essense of Australia gown a breeze.

Her tip for other brides who’re shopping while pregnant is to take plenty of water and snacks to the appointment. “This really helps. I also wish I’d taken my own comfortable shoes with me. Although a pair were provided for me, I’d have felt better in my own as my feet were aching!”

Doing things differently

As a bride in her 60s who was marrying for the third time, Susan Horsfall admits it was a struggle to find the kind of gown she had in mind at bridal boutiques. That’s why she chose to go down the bespoke route for her wedding to David at Doxford Hall Hotel in Northumberland. She was drawn to Joyce Young Design Studios after stumbling upon the atelier’s tartan collection: she liked the way the designer seemed to do things differently, and immediately booked an appointment.

Joyce Young bride wearing blue wedding dress
Susan’s blue gown from Joyce Young Design Studios has already had a second outing – on the honeymoon cruise! (photo: Phil Smith Photography)

“I wanted something I could wear again – perhaps for ballroom dancing, which I do,” she says. “There’s no point paying all that money for a gown to wear it only once.” This mindset influenced the design of her outfit: the sequin jacket over the top is removable, so the dress can be worn on its own or with a different top or stole. Susan also picked out a cornflour blue colour that reflected her love of summer hues.

“Shopping for gowns as a mature woman revealed to me just how uninclusive the bridal industry can be sometimes – the gowns for older women were just dull,” she says. “I went to Joyce because I was able to see things that were more my style. I found a dress I was able to wear again that makes me feel fantastic whenever I put it on. I wore it on our honeymoon cruise and it looked great.”

She would encourage other ladies to consider the couture concept: “Designers will work to your budget, whatever that may be, to give you the dress want.”

Joyce Young mature bride Susan
Susan turned to bespoke maker Joyce Young Design Studios when she couldn’t find what she wanted

Floaty, not fitted

Before jetting off to marry Alex at the Sheraton in Fuerteventura, Elaine McKay headed to Innate Bridals in Dundee for something fabulous to wear. As a mature bride who’d be marrying in the sunshine, she had a few factors to consider when choosing her dress. “I’m 60, so I didn’t want a really fitted dress,” she tells us. “I was after something much more floaty.”

Shannon at Innate picked out several styles she thought would suit Elaine, but even though the bride really fell for one of them she decided not to rush, opting to go home and have a think about what exactly she wanted. “I looked online at other dresses but I kept coming back to the one I’d liked originally,” she smiles.

There was one issue with it, she felt: the neckline plunged too low. “I didn’t want to show too much flesh,” she explains. “The seamstress was great, though – she added a piece of lace to the neckline that fixed it for me.”

Mature bride Elaine bought her dress from Innate Bridals
Clever tweaks such as lace at the cleavage and a sparkly belt meant Elaine fell in love with her gorgeous gown from Innate Bridals in Dundee (photo: Jiten Dadlani)

She is also full of praise for Shannon, who always seemed to know exactly what she was after: it was she who suggested they change a couple of things on the dress, such as adding a pearl-and-diamanté belt.

Elaine’s top tip for other brides? Try, try, try. “The way a dress appears on the hanger is totally different to how it’ll look once you have it on.”

Listen to the experts

“I was worried that having a physical disability would make shopping for a wedding dress really challenging – but in the end I felt confident and beautiful,” says Cheran Philip. She credits the fantastic team at Wedding Belles of Alness for helping her choose a gown for her wedding to Craig at the Drumossie Hotel in Inverness. Boutique owner Mel had picked out a number of dresses for Cheran to try, and although the bride was initially apprehensive about wearing something slim-fitting, she ended up falling for a crepe satin-and-lace number by Maggie Sottero.

“My advice for anyone who might need a bit of extra assistance would be to contact the boutique and explain your specific circumstances before making an appointment,” she tells us. “When I spoke with Mel she realised my limited mobility would mean I’d need more time to try dresses on, so she arranged a double appointment so I could take my time.”

Bride Cheran who shopped at Wedding Belles of Alness
The team at Wedding Belles of Alness convinced bride Cheran to try a form-fitting gown – and it looked stunning (photos: Alison White Photography)

A great consultant, she adds, will be able to make suggestions not just about which styles will suit your shape, but also how certain alterations may benefit you: “Mel proposed tweaks that would help me to be comfortable – adding a strap across my back to keep the dress on my shoulders, for example.”

Cheran says you can’t overstate the importance of a good seamstress: “It’s vital. Dawn from All Sewn Up has years of experience doing bridal alterations. When your body doesn’t conform to what society has deemed a ‘normal’ shape, you need someone who knows what they’re doing to make the dress fit you,” she notes.

Another of Cheran’s tips is to take a selection of underwear to your dress appointments so you can change if the garments you’re trying require something different: “I wore a strapless bra and regular pants to my first appointment, but I booked a second appointment and returned with a backless bra and shaping pants just to make sure my underwear was right for the dress.”

Embraceable you

Fiona Dick wanted to find a dress that would suit her petite frame and have some unique elements for her wedding to Steven at The Cruin at Loch Lomond in July 2022, and she got exactly what she was hoping for at Joyce Young Design Studios.

Joyce Young bride with friends and with decorated wheelchair
Fiona’s Joyce Young Design Studios gown was her ‘dream dress’ – she even added bunting to her wheelchair! (Photos: Lena Sabala)

“My advice to other disabled brides would be to embrace what makes you the person you are,” Fiona smiles. “Make it a part of your day and celebrate your disability too. Your aids are a part of your life and on such a special day they deserve to dress up as well! I had flowers for my walking stick as well as bunting, flowers and ‘just married’ cans for my wheelchair – and they look fab in the photos.”

The bride praises Joyce for making her feel confident enough to voice her honest opinion when things weren’t working for her: the bodice of the dress the pair created highlighted things Fiona didn’t like about her shape, and when Joyce noticed she wasn’t fully satisfied, the designer added the sleeves of another gown to it. Those sleeves, Fiona says, turned out to be her favourite part of her dress.

If you use aids, take them to your appointment, adds the bride. That way, you can see how your dress will look and feel while you’re sitting, standing and transferring. “It’ll give you peace of mind that you look amazing from all angles,” she adds.