You’ve bought your dream dress – congratulations! But what happens now? Nicole Conner gets the lowdown on wedding gown fittings, bustles, cleaning and – how to go to the loo wearing one!
Last issue of TTKS, you may remember, saw me trying on gowns in various bridal boutiques, during which I fell in love with a dress that could easily have been The One. It made me wonder: if I was doing this for real, and I was actually going to get married in this gown, what would be the next steps?
How does the alterations process work? Would I have to cram the dress into my wardrobe, waiting for its big moment? If you’re anything like me, what happens after you find your dress will be a mystery, so I had a chat with the experts to discover what to expect.
First things first: collecting your gown before the wedding. Over at Kirkcaldy’s Amy King Bridal and Beauty, there is an inhouse seamstress, so the majority of frocks are kept in the boutique up until your final fitting a few weeks before the date. “We recommend getting in touch with your seamstress six to eight weeks before your wedding to get booked in for a final appointment, so there is time for alterations,” says owner Amy King.
Kudos Bridal Boutique in Dunfermline also offers a storage option if you’ve purchased here. Dresses are kept at the boutique until alterations begin, then you’re booked in for collection once this is completed. This is usually the day before the wedding: the dress will be steamed, prepped and ready to go. “If you do need to store your dress at home, we would recommend keeping it in a breathable cotton garment bag and hanging it full-length away from direct sunlight,” says Kudos’s Megan Carberry.
Joyce Young at Joyce Young Design Studios advises removing the gown from the dress bag the day before and hanging it high: this lets out any creases. Sometimes a steamer will be needed to get rid of stubborn wrinkles. This would be useful for satin, Mikado and crepe gowns, says Amy King, as these are particularly prone to creasing at the train, especially if they’ve been draped over a hanger.
Walk the walk
Most of us are unlikely to have had too much experience of sashaying around in a ballgown, so will we manage when it matters? Megan’s best piece of advice is to wear comfortable heels: a smaller heel will help your posture, making you stand straighter, and won’t kill your toes before the reception. Lauren Murray at West Kilbride’s Opus Couture agrees: “You don’t need really high heels – block or kitten heels will help your stance and make you appear more confident, even if the nerves have kicked in.”
Megan recommends two tricks to make walking in your gown easier: wear underskirts (the hooped layers go under your dress and help keep the fabric away from your legs), which will reduce the likelihood of you tripping or overheating; and think about your venue when getting your dress hemmed. Why? “Your gown should be just brushing the floor in front so that you’re able to walk without feeling you need to pick up the skirt,” she explains. “If your venue is carpeted, I would suggest taking this slightly shorter, too, so that the hem doesn’t catch on the pile of the carpet and cause you to trip.”
If you have alterations done at Opus, you’ll get a chance to practise walking around the boutique during your hem fitting. “This helps you move comfortably on the big day, and you’ll have at least three appointments with us so there is lots of time to practise,” smiles Lauren.
In the spotlight
Your wedding day is here at last! Expect all hands on deck to get you looking like a princess in your gown. The staff at Kudos Bridal Boutique in Edinburgh normally ask one of the bridesmaids or your mum to do a practice run of dressing you at your final fitting. “This will include putting you in the dress (always step into it to avoid messing up your hair and makeup), tying the corset or fastening the buttons, and learning how to do the bustle for evening,” explains Louise Kelly at the store.
She adds that most ’maids are keen to learn this, as it helps them feel at ease on the day. Joyce Young has two tips for dressing a bride: use a crochet hook to fasten any buttons (so there are no broken nails), and you should look straight in the mirror while holding the frock both central and to your waist so it is in the correct position before fastening.
A bustle, in case you’re wondering, gives the bride the freedom to dance the night away without having to change her dress – the train is buttoned up to floor length so she can move about freely without it getting caught or stepped on. Lauren tells us that the two most popular options at Opus Couture are a ribbon tie (creating a French bustle) and a hook and thread bar (which creates an American bustle).
With a ribbon tie, she says, two ribbons are tied together on the underside of your dress, one near the middle of your train and another nearer the top of it. Both are tied together to pull your train in. “For the American bustle, a small white thread bar is attached to the middle of your train, and a small hook is hidden near the top of the train, both on the outside of the dress. The thread bar loops over the hook, pulling your train in,” she explains.
For a lighter train, your dressmaker might reinforce a button in the back so you can loop your train over it, says Megan at Kudos Dunfermline. “For bulkier trains and ballgowns, we often suggest having the dressmaker insert a loop and ribbons underneath to better cope with the weight,” she adds. “It all comes down to personal preference – but if you need any advice on what would work for your gown, just ask.”
Up close and personal
Our experts are unanimous in their verdict on underwear – it should be nude-coloured. There’s a risk white could show through in the photographs. “This isn’t very likely, as wedding dresses tend to have a lot of layers, but nude is always the safer option,” says Louise Kelly. Amy King agrees, adding that wearing nude seamless shorts or a thong is the best course of action. It’s especially important if the dress is slim-fitting – no one wants VPL on their wedding day!
As the gown will be tailored to fit you perfectly, you should have enough internal support to be able to ditch the bra, Louise adds. “Most dresses are designed with built-in support, so even though it sounds scary, we find most of our brides can go braless.”
One of the most common questions asked at bridal appointments, according to Megan Carberry, is: how do I go to the loo in my gown? Her advice is genius: face backwards. “Chances are you’ll have a train on your dress,” she says. “Even if it’s is bustled, all that material will make it difficult to use the loo normally. By facing the cistern, you don’t have to worry about lifting your train – or risk it landing in the bowl!”
Amy King believes it really isn’t as difficult as you might think to use the toilet, but her advice, unless you’re wearing a ballgown, is simply to gather the train at the front and hold it on your lap. “This way, you shouldn’t need your bridesmaids to help you,” she says with a laugh.
“Don’t fret about marks or stains on your dress – how dirty it is by the end of the night will be a testament to how much fun you had,” smiles Louise Kelly. Her boutique offers a dry-cleaning service, where gowns are sent to a specialist in London. From there, your dress can be packed into a storage box for long-term keeping. “If there are any accidents before the pictures on the day, it’s always best to use a small piece of white or ivory satin and rub the stain dry in small circles,” she advises.
In the winter months, when it’s less busy. Opus Couture offers brides a cleaning and restoration service for the majority of its wedding dress designers. “We have special boxes you can buy to keep your freshly cleaned dress safely stored and wrapped in acid-free tissue paper,” Lauren tells us.
Depending on the fabric, says Joyce Young, you may be able to clean it: “If it’s man-made, it’ll be safe to dab water on. If it’s silk, however, mop it up with a clean, dry cloth and leave it for the professional.” Her main piece of advice in a situation like this is simple: don’t panic and make sure you enjoy your day, stained gown and all.