Spurred on by her boyfriend’s protestations that the dress she’d chosen was too ‘ordinary’, our latest b2b, Olivia, is fresh from her first experience in a traditional bridal parlour. After being made to feel like a freak by well-meaning shop assistants, she’s not loving the dress-buying process thus far, and I can’t say I blame her! So will a charity bridal shop come to her aid?
Swing low sweet charity
After my bridal shop experience , I decided to give the Oxfam bridal shop in Cambridge a try. I have quite warm and fuzzy feelings about Oxfam for various reasons so if I had to hand over a wedge for my wedding dress, I felt quite happy for them to have it.
My first impression was quite favourable . They have a lot of stock on hand in a good variety of sizes and styles. There were one or two dresses which had clearly been in the back of someone’s wardrobe for thirty years but most of the dresses were end of season bridal stock, often with the original tags and prices attached. You can try on several different suppliers’ dresses -most bridal boutiques only stock a few labels – I counted dresses from thirty different designers.
The bridal department at Oxfam Cambridge is upstairs and reasonably peaceful. You’re left very much to get on with things yourself, so it’s important to bring a friend to lace you in and out of the corset back styles and zip up the bits in the small of your back, especially as the volunteer on duty won’t necessarily be female.
Oxfam tries to price the “new” dresses at 30% to 60 % of their RRP. This is a big saving on full price bridal boutiques but still costs more than Monsoon’s bridal range or ebay. The second hand dresses are cheaper with some outfits under £100 which probably wouldn’t cover the cost of the fabric.
However, you do get to try the dresses on which is a big advantage.
First, I tried on a Juliet style La Sposa dress with chiffon mediaeval sleeves and an empire line bodice in an 18 . It was a beautiful dress but made me think of nighties and virgin sacrifices in Dennis Wheatley black magic books. It also wouldn’t do up over my boobs .
If you happen to be an 18 year old long haired blonde waif , this would be a perfect dress for you and you could use the money you saved on the dress to hire a hefty bodyguard to keep off the satanists.
Next try was a skirt and bodice in old gold by Benjamin Roberts in size 18. Once we’d found the cunningly hidden zips and worked out that we had to put the skirt on first and use the bodice to anchor it , this proved to be a reasonable fit for my enormous bust . However, the bodice is shaped over the hips and stood out from my body in a sort of pagoda effect. The main problem was the huge expanse of gold satin made Mr Cataclysm think of Aladdin and genies and once he’d got the image into my head , I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Points for realistic sizing though.
The third outfit was a dark claret red bustier and skirt from White Rose in 16. This was by far the hardest outfit to get on because the lace up back of the bustier was very stiff -it didn’t look as if it had ever been tried on before. The skirt is a figure hugging fishtail /mermaid style hobble skirt with a tiny puddle of train -think Jessica Rabbitt crossed with Morticia and you’ve got the look perfectly. The bustier was the same dark red with about half a ton of beading and embroidery . Together they brought a big smile to my fiance’s face as well as making every chap in the shop teleport over to the mirror in seconds but I’m not convinced that vampire dominatrix is the right look for my wedding.
So, no perfect dress yet, but am feeling more hopeful about the process.