Also known as “Fifteen years of friendship down the drain…”
The bridesmaid thing. Is it a blessing or a curse? An opportunity to have a wonderful, friendship-sealing rite of passage with your closest friends/nearest and dearest or The Sweetest Revenge Opportunity Ever?
I get a lot of enquiries about bridesmaids’ dresses. A lot. Oh yes. Most come from the bride to be and/or her mother. Mostly they are nice and want something pretty but slightly unusual and ‘vintage-style’. Something that isn’t prom/evening wear or in satin/chiffon/organza. Mostly I am able to oblige them with exactly what they are wanting, even if they haven’t been able to quite put it into words. Sometimes there is no way on this earth I am going to be able to work with either the bride or the mother and nothing I can do will actually make them happy. That’s when my order book becomes over-full and fabric unavailable… But usually I can help.
The thing with bridesmaids is that they come in all shapes, sizes, ages and outlooks. It is an absolute minefield for the kind and caring bride to try to negotiate the terrain and keep each and every one of her attendants happy in a frock that will fit, suit, match the theme/colour scheme and not scare the vicar. Enough to put you off getting married anywhere other than in secret with a couple of witnesses grabbed off the street. (Regular readers will know that I had the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as attendants at my wedding. Much easier and more fun. And no, not a euphemism for various family members I detest, either!)
Of course, the majority of wedding consultations start out in a less than happy mood. When there is more than one bridesmaid, they are invariably all worried about what is going to happen, what the others may want or not want and what they are likely to end up with. They don’t want to upset the other bridesmaids and they certainly don’t want to upset the bride. If I had a pound for every time I heard, “I’m just going to turn up and wear whatever you want me to wear,” uttered with a sigh, then I’d be smiling all the way to the bank. Unfortunately, nobody ever coughs up that pound, nor does that sentence fill me – or the bride – with joy. On the contrary, it’s when the feeling of Impending Doom deepens, blackens and threatens the swallow up the room and everyone in it. Weddings should be joyful occasions and nobody wants a bridesmaid who is really unhappy with her frock or is there on sufferance. Every female member of that wedding party should be wearing something that makes her want to dance. Which is where I come in…
Happily, most of the people who come to see me about bridal stuff want “something different”; it’s quite rare for me to be confronted with “everything is to be traditional and done by the book”, which is probably my worst nightmare. Weddings should be fun. Have I said that already? I’ll repeat it anyway. Weddings should be fun. And the participants should be comfortable. To that end, I have a few styles that I know work very well for bridesmaid dresses. The Leah and Diana styles (halter neck or cap sleeved, princess seamed, straight or sweetheart neckline) are the most obvious choices and very popular, especially as the bodices are shirred at the back, delivering excellent fit and the potential for devouring an extra slice of wedding cake in comfort. Not everybody wants a halter neck, so the Diana gives a little more shoulder coverage.
Leah halter neck style, in yellow cherry print fabric.
Diana full skirted style, with straight neckline (can also be done with sweetheart) and cap sleeves.
But then, there are always ladies who worry – probably more than they should – about their arms. And tummies. Hips. Shoulders. Oh, every bit of them. At this point, I usually recommend a burkha. When they’re over the shock of that and realise I’m joking, I point them in the direction of Verity, my pseudo-1940s style with the slight empire line and the full circle skirt.
Yesterday’s clients were a hoot. Lovely ladies but not at all happy about the prospect of finding the perfect style to suit them all. The dress they all – allegedly – wanted wasn’t going to work, as another dressmaker had already told them. They said they “liked the style” of Diana but their faces clearly said, “Not that much…” Sleeves were mentioned. I waved to Verity and they all assumed an expression of horror. Now, I know that poor Verity wasn’t on the best mannequin (Gladys, my lingerie model, who is difficult at the best of times, and is the mannequin on the right hand side in the following picture) and wasn’t sporting a petticoat, so probably didn’t look her most enticing. But the reaction was hysterical. “Oh, I don’t like that at all!” came from the bride. Quickly followed by, “It makes me think of 1940s…” Yes! It’s supposed to! “… Those things that cleaners wore. Crossed over at the front. Hideous. Sorry. I really don’t like it.” Cracking description, albeit not how I see the frock. Chief Bridesmaid was more succinct. “Looks like a preg tent.”
Verity in navy pin spot fabric.
At this point I did my best not to double up on the floor laughing. I have never heard the expression “preg tent” before but I am certainly storing that one up for future usage. Oh yes.
I’m not sure how Chief Bridesmaid was persuaded to don said “preg tent” but she was. Petticoat was slipped over her head (she wasn’t going through the rigmarole of getting her kit off to try a cleaner’s overall!) and Verity followed. Zipped up the back. Expression changed. She looked in the mirror and realised she looked fabulous. She twirled. She smiled. Twirled a bit more and beamed. Everybody else beamed. The bride was gobsmacked and changed her mind completely about the style. All of a sudden, it ticked all the boxes. The other bridesmaids did their best to try it on (wrong size, not their fault) and pronounced themselves equally enamoured. And they all smiled.
Now all I have to do is source the perfect fabrics, because they’re all having the same design but different colours. Very precise different colours. Did they come armed with knowledge of the exact Pantones? No. Of course not. (And, frankly, the day a bridal party does that is the day I run away screaming!) But they are off to B&Q to arm themselves with those paint colour cards. Easy.
Me? I’m off fabric shopping, which I enjoy. I’ll be looking for specifics when I rock up at the London Textile Fair in January, not just inspiration. Excellent.
Meanwhile, the bridal party have the fun of deciding what colour petticoats (I’m recommending a pop of something vivid underneath their pastel frocks) and finding The Perfect Shoes. The right style, colour and ones they can walk and dance in. All day and night.
Now that we’ve settled on the style, I think I have the easier task…