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Dress experience... traumatised!

Hi lovely ladies.

So I went for my first dress appointment on Saturday. I was very nervous and just took my Mum as my MoH lives quite a distance away and I didn't want a cast of hundreds looking at me!

I've mentioned previously I recently had some medical issues and was on steroids for 2 yrs, now having finally come off them and lost nearly 2 stone I finally feel ready to look for a dress.

I went to Matchmaker Brides in Brentwood, Essex. Sorry to name and shame but I want to be honest.

My appointment was 11.15am and we went in at 11.12. Just behind us came a huge group of ladies for a final dress fitting - they said they had an 11am appointment.

Being a small shop, I literally couldn't even browse the rails as all these people took up most of the room. Plus, being only a small changing area and one main "showing" area with mirrors it would be been nearly impossible and very nerve wracking in front of strangers. I appreciate I couldn't have the entire shop to myself but why book two appointments that close together?!

So, first off not great. The lady dealing with me asked why I looked so scared and told me to "relax". Hmm. She wanted to firstly know my budget, a strange first question and then what style I wanted. I had absolutely no idea. She said fishtail, I could be wrong but being hourglass shape I am sceptical.

I should mention all the dresses were sample size 12's - which I thought great! that's my size.

After around 20 mins of waiting the lady and her friends left (she couldn't even sit in her dress, they said she would have to perch on the edge of her seat at her wedding!!!! she seemed content with doing this bizarrely!) I was able to look at the dresses and there were some beautiful ones. I picked out a few and went in the changing room. The lady then got one for me, and pulled it up to my thighs where it became very clear it was not budging any further. She said "the dresses are tougher than they look" but I had to be firm and tell her that unless she wanted a ripped dress which I was NOT going to pay for it was not going to fit.

This happened twice before I ended up sobbing in the changing room when the lady left to speak to her manager. The manager had disappeared on her lunch break clearly not caring what was going on.  She then came back with a ginormous size 20 dress and then pinned it in places (not clamped as I assumed they do) it looked lumpy and awful.  

After all my hard work, I felt like I was a huge blob with no hope of finding a dress.

I told my mum I wanted to go home, and we went to get me a double vodka and I cried some more.

When I got home and did some research I discovered that wedding dress sizes (particularly Spanish brands) are often very small and more like an 8-10 than a regular UK high street size 12!!!

I'm amazed I wasn't even told this.

This has really put me off and was a horrific experience but I have to keep going as I have a wedding next May. I phoned up Ivy Blu in Billericay who seemed lovely and assured me that they have a range of sizes to try, and were aware of how small the dresses come up compared to actual high street proportions. I now have an appointment in a couple of weeks with them.

Please tell me it gets better?! This was supposed to be a special magical moment and was just awful :(:(


  • Kitty12Kitty12 Posts: 119 New bride

    I’m really sorry you had to go through this on what should have been a special moment. I’m larger than the sample sizes so I was worried about getting into them, but the ladies at the shop I went to were amazing. It sounds to me like you got a less than ideal shop, maybe have a shop around for some more stores and boutiques in the area? Most of the staff I dealt with during my search we’re great, so hopefully this was a one off, don’t let it dampen your spirits xx

    Just a note too, it’s pretty common to ask your budget at the very beginning. It helps ensure the they don’t get you in a dress you fall in love with but can’t afford. If they know your budget is £1000, they generally won’t bother showing you their £3000 dresses.

    Best of luck with the rest of your search, I know your dream dress will be out there! Xx

  • SadieeeSadieee Posts: 1,781 New bride

    The sizing system sucks. Im a high street 10-12 and my wedding dress is a 14.

    The appointment thing is bad planning on their part, most shops do only have one bride in at a time.

    The budget question is pretty standard though. All 3 of my appointments asked me this when I rang to book, so they knew it before I even arrived. Stops you falling in love with a dress you can't afford.

  • Natutz14Natutz14 Posts: 110 New bride

    Thanks so much for your replies, I totally get the budget thing but it was more that was the first question she asked and it seemed a little awkward before even saying hello!

    Also my mum needed the loo but was told she would need to walk down the road to the nearest hotel around 800m away!!

    I think I've just been unlucky with my first shop, I'll hopefully be back here in a few weeks raving about how beautiful my dress is :)





  • britbirdbritbird Posts: 1,486 New bride

    This sounds awful, and am so sorry you were made to feel this way.  You may have already decided on a store, but it is worth trying Enchanted Bridal in Old Harlow, Essex.  Mel, the owner does exclusive appointments so you have the whole store to yourself, and will open up in the evening or on a Sunday.  My experience couldn't have been better.  She had dresses for every budget, and options in a range of different sample sizes.  Her website isn't the best, but I genuinely couldn't have been happier with my shopping experience.  Good luck! 

  • MrsCToBeeMrsCToBee Posts: 2,957 New bride

    I'm sorry you felt like that, but I must say, the dresses do come up very tight over your hips and bum and you do have to really tug them on. My dress actually is too big around the waist and bust and needs taking in quite a bit, but because I have a big bum, to step into it and get it over my bum/hips requires some tugging! Once on it's fine as I chose a slim A line dress. 

    Budget was also one of the first things the consultant asked me, as they don't want you to fall in love with a dress you can't afford - it's pretty standard for them to ask that at the beginning.

    It sounds like you need to try on some princess/A line dresses first next time, as they are much more forgiving and easy to get on - even then there may be some tugging though, it's just how bridal dresses go on.

    The sizing thing is fairly well known - they can be all over the place. That said, I'm a UK high street 20-22 and my dress is a Maggie Sottero US size 20, which they call a UK size 22 on their sizing charts. It fits my hips and bum but is quite big around my waist and bust.

    I'm sure now you have spoken o the next dress shop you will have a better experience :)

  • Sian91Sian91 Posts: 829 New bride

    You’re well prepared for your next shop. It doesn’t sound like you had the best experience but please don’t that let you be put off. 

  • Daisy29Daisy29 Posts: 44

    Sorry to hear your first dress shopping experience has made you so upset! I went to the same shop years ago with my friend who was getting married, I don't remember being particularly impressed with them but can't remember why now!

    I agree with what the other ladies have said re sizing and asking budget, from what I remember Matchmaker is quite small and if there are other people in the shop at the same time I imagine it can feel quite invasive.


    If it helps I went dress shopping for myself earlier this year, both 'Bellissima' in South Woodham Ferrers and 'Amore' in Ongar had the nicest staff I came across and aren't pushy, it might be worth you booking appointments with either of these.


    Good luck!

  • Your experience was unfortunate, but I have actually heard of far, far worse! (Says something about the bridal industry, doesn't it.) 

    The budget question is pretty standard. As already said, it's to prevent you from loving a dress you can't afford. It's the irresponsible shops that don't ask and then get you to fall in love with a pricey dress.

    Sizing in wedding wear is definitely weird. They may have figured you knew that. It's one of those things that's definitely out there in the magazines, on the internet.  And they would have no idea that you are sensitive about sizing. This sounded like an incredibly small shop so they are going to be even more limited on the sizes they can offer for trying. To add to the weirdness on sizing, I've even been to shops where the designs ARE street-clothes sized. 

    I'm afraid I don't understand the problem with the manager not being there. There are a dozen legitimate things she may have gone out to do; if you have a sales associate helping you, that's the normal run of business. 

    Larger shops almost always have more than one fitting area and more than one bride trying dresses at a time. You're experienced some of the downsides (i.e. limited sizes) of a very small shop, keep in mind there will be more activity and other downsides to larger shops too.

    I think sometimes we think that trying on dresses is going to be like SYTTD, and in reality, it's not. The shops can be dated looking. They can be crowded. There can be make-up on the sample dresses. The fitting areas can be annoyingly small and embarrassingly exposed. It's not too often that you get offered a beverage. The sales associates (unless it's the owner) are often not overly knowledgeable about various designers and collections, especially if you're asking questions or making comparisons to a line they don't carry. Many don't let you take pictures. I've been to a few that wouldn't even borrow you shoes or a bra to try the dresses with if you didn't bring your own. 

    The key is finding the right shop for you and being prepared for your appointment. Make sure you are familiar with the designers the shop stocks before you go, including what the styles look like, the price points, the sizing, etc. Bring everything you need, including water/ snack, shoes with the heel you want to wear, a strapless bra, pictures of styles you like, a notebook to make notes. If you plan to wear Spanx or hosiery, bring or wear that too. Do your hair and make-up nicely. Set yourself up for a good try-on experience. Looking your best and being prepared will remove a lot of potential problems. If a shop really turns you off, don't be afraid to politely leave. There's nothing wrong with that and it saves everyone time and effort.

  • I was extremely anxious about wedding dress shopping and my first shop was Ivy Blu. I had a lovely experience and tried on several styles of dresses, including one the lady picked out for me as she had noticed me looking at it a couple of times but I never picked it out. I loved the fact that she had paid that much attention as it ended up being 'the dress'. The whole thing felt relaxed and the lady was very patient and friendly, just what I needed.

    There was one other bride trying dresses on but the dressing room was large enough to be able to enjoy our own shopping experience.

    There is also a nice little tea room downstairs for after your appointment.

  • Aww I am so sorry this happened to you. If it's any consolation I had something similar happen to me and it knocked my confidence for months, meaning I ended up leaving it really late to get a dress. But when I went to the right place, it ended up being one of the nicest afternoons I've ever had.

    No matter what though, that shop should have been more sensitive. There aren't many women in the world who wouldn't be upset by not fitting into dresses and they should have explained bridal sizing to you and been kinder. The industry is terrible, though luckily a fair few places are trying desperately for that to change (check out Somerset Bridal and Beautiful Brides Liverpool for some reassurance that there are nice boutiques out there).

    I had the problem that as a size 14-16 I was too big for bridal samples but too small for plus size shops. In the end I got my dress from Somerset Bridal which cater for both and they properly pinned me in the ones that were too big. I honestly couldn't have had a better experience with them and I know you'll have the same when you find the right place.

    I'd advise emailing local boutiques and explaining you're anxious. I did that and you can immediately tell by their replies if you'll feel comfortable there. Explain your high street size and that you want to find a dresses that you can actually try on and see what they say.

    It horrifies me that as a size 12 you would have to do this - the bridal industry has a lot to answer for.

    But please don't let it knock your confidence. You will have only good experiences from now on and you'll look beautiful on your wedding day. The next double vodka will be to celebrate, I promise!

  • LisaC89LisaC89 Posts: 6

    So sorry to hear that your dress shopping trip was less than ideal. I‘m a size 12-14 and bought my dress from Serena Bridal in Wickford. There were plenty of samples to try on that fit and the staff were lovely. It might be worth trying there? x

  • As most of the others have said, it's such a shame your first experience was so bad but don't let it put you off others. I had some awful experiences but some really lovely ones- only one in the shop, being offered prosecco etc... So it is out there, just take some time and research your next appointment and give them some info first, don't be afraid to challenge or question them- I told every place that it was my first experience so they let me try on different styles and shapes. I agree that she should have welcomed you and stuff before asking you about budget, or got that info when taking booking. Keep your chin up and have faith that the next appointment will be better- and if it isn't pluck up the courage to leave, I did this once and it felt great! 

  • Emma851Emma851 Posts: 16 New bride

    Very similar to the other ladies on here, my dress is a U.K. 16 but I’m a high street 14...and my dress still needs adjusting!

    A lot of the designers are known for being small, but I didn’t know this at the time either so I panicked massively when they tried an 18 on me at first.

    FWIW I think Ronald Joyce is particularly small (about 2 sizes smaller) but it’s really all dependent upon the shape and cut of the dress, as well as the material.

    Try not to be too disheartened - there are definitely worse problems to have than finding a wedding dress :)

    Good Luck!

  • Hi - I'm so sorry you had such a bad experience :( I was terrified of getting my dress, I am an 18/20 and i can't think of anything worse than a shop trying to jam you in a smaller size knowing you won't fit!! I literally banned anyone else apart from my mum from coming because I was so nervous, even though my BM's desperately wanted to come. 

    I ended up getting my dress from Bird's Bridal in Chelmsford, and I honestly can't rate them enough. Before I booked I popped in there and asked if they had bigger sizes and they said they had lots as wedding dresses always come up so small. I was having a look and booked an appointment for the week after but then a girl didn't turn up for her appointment so I ended up taking hers and they were so so helpful and friendly. I ended up buying my dress there and then, and it wasn't even one I picked - It was one they picked and thought would look good on me.

    They had said to me please ignore any sizing, and they honestly had a massive range I could have tried on. The ladies in there were lovely so if you're still looking I think they're well worth a visit.

    Good luck finding a dress, and don't let the small minded shop you went in ruin the rest of your shopping, when you find a nice shop it will all come together :-) 

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