Every newly engaged bride-to-be thinks she knows what her wedding dress will be.
The bombardment of picture perfect brides we’re exposed to on a daily basis, thanks to social media, means that we all have at least an idea of the dream dress we’d like to wear on our big day.
The funny thing is that very few end up with that dress!
Much like having to kiss a few frogs before finding Prince Charming, you may need to try a few styles before finding one that has you all of a flutter.
My favourite place to do this was at Phillipa Lepley‘s shop, in Chelsea.
And not just because of the champagne!
Phillipa has been dressing brides forever and a day. Just by looking at you she can rule out half the shop, even if that’s the half you’re adamant your dress is hiding in.
She knows women’s bodies, she understands movement, femininity and drama.
I loved a number of her dresses, but didn’t find “The One”. So she made it for me.
Drawing out all of those thoughts and ideas I had, translating them effortlessly to paper.
Pulling scraps and swatches from the walls, dancing around the room, suggesting shapes and finishes.
I wanted something very classic. Something that wouldn’t date in pictures. Our great grandchildren should love the dress and much as my great grandparents would have.
If you have references with ideas for how you’d like to look, I thoroughly recommend taking them along with you.
I only had one. Grace Kelly.
I wanted long sleeves, embroidery, roses, buttons up the back, a high neck (every dress I’d tried elsewhere was so booby! You know I’m far from prudish about these things, but really feel a wedding day isn’t really the time to worry if you’re about to pop out!) and nothing too corseted. I wanted to eat!
Phillipa drew up a sketch I loved and then disappeared off to her studio for a few weeks.
Where her incredible team of designers started bringing our creation to life.
Hand drawing the embroidery, which would later be transformed into lace.
Once sketched the design was then pinned into place on a dummy.
And then another!
Together we worked on the placement of each and every flower.
Working to make sure nothing was perfect, nothing symmetrical or artificial.
Wild and imperfect, just like nature intended. Just like the bride to be!
We tried to imagine it on the day…
…it’s a very grown up and serious process, you understand.
On my next visit, the skeleton of the dress began to take shape.
It may only have been cotton and tule, but Valentina and I couldn’t help getting a little excited!
Then the real magic started happening.
Slipper satin draped into place…
… to create the bottom layer of my dress.
Pinned into place it was whisked away to be finished.
By the time I returned, I found something so simple, so incredibly well made and beautiful, I would happily have worn it down the aisle!
And this time I had shoes!
But before I got carried away suggesting perhaps I could just have the dress as it was, Phillipa appeared with the lace.
And I fell in love all over again.
Watching your ideas and dreams come to life is such a surreal experience.
What had felt like such a distant idea when we started at Christmas time, suddenly became real come summer.
I returned from my hen party to the finished article.
^Spot mum weeping in the background!
It was more than we ever imagined, more than I could have hoped for. I was so blown away by every teeny tiny detail. We took our time drinking it all in.
Shared one last emotional moment in Phillipa’s shop… (and there had been many along the way!)
And it was time to fly.
The dress itself was huge and very heavy, so I bought it a seat on the aeroplane next to me. It took two of us to carry it through the airport, promising the police that it wasn’t a body. In the end the plane was so quiet it lay across its own row.
With a little difficulty Valentina and I hung it in my bedroom as soon as we arrived. Only having a mild heart attack when we returned from dinner to find that the maid had left a candle burning just inches away from it, with the window open! Imagine.
But despite my concerns it made it to the wedding day in one piece, and was everything I’d hoped for.
If you’d like to see more photos of the dress from the day, find them here.
For now my beautiful dress is carefully packed away in tissue paper, waiting to be discovered by daughters and granddaughters to come.
Making it was the most wonderful journey, wearing it was an incredible adventure, I can’t wait to see where it goes next!