A tale of 3 dresses (and 1 pair of shoes)

4 Nov

When my husband and I got engaged, I was working at Vogue in fashion. So you can imagine everyone’s first question: who will you wear? But the very thought of wedding dress shops, those pedestals they stand you on and anything with a kitten heel left me cold. We had planned a very relaxed gathering in my parents’ garden so corsets, bustles and petticoats seemed a bit ridiculous. Even a veil didn’t seem like such a good idea – it’s a bit weird to swan around the garden in a veil, isn’t it?

My mother revealed a serious trump card: a silk 1920s nightdress, hand embroidered for a bride’s trousseau but never worn (I thought it best not to ask any questions as to why it was never worn). She had bought it from a vintage shop in the 1970s and had kept it in the attic, only to discover it a few weeks after my boyfriend popped the question. It is beautiful and I was thrilled.

Other people were less thrilled. “A nightdress?” was one common question. “There’s no train?” was another. I remained totally confident with my choice, although I did decide I would need another dress for our civil ceremony, held the day before at West Stoke House for just us and our parents, so that the groom didn’t see the dress before the ‘big day’. This confused everyone, of course – isn’t the big day with all the superstitions and traditions the day you sign the register? Well we had concocted our own ceremony for the garden wedding, so we counted that as the big day. I emailed Sean Monaghan, the designer and founder of Sea NY. He sent me his SS10 look book and straight away I saw ‘the one’ – a crochet mini dress in cream.

It seemed to worry everyone how quickly these decisions were made as if I was missing out on the rite of passage of being laced into hideous corsets with ruched skirts and spatterings of crystals. So to quiet my family, friends and most importantly to make sure my mother had that wedding-shop experience, I took everyone to the most hideous dress shop I could find. There I stood next to a voluptuous lady with a crew cut and a troupe of dolphins tattooed on her back, she in a fishtail creation covered in caramel-coloured lace trim, me in the biggest meringue shape I could manoeuvre in. As I had hoped my mother stiffened, my friends looked away and  my dad giggled. So I was allowed to stick with my vintage nightie.

However, I had unexpectedly suffered a change of heart… There’s something about a full skirt and a tight waist – suddenly I was trawling style.com’s couture gallery; coverage of the Met Ball, Golden Globes and Oscars, and strangers’ weddings on Facebook. Another bride-to-be, the lovely PR at Jenny Packham listened as I whined about petticoats and underpinning – I had hoped she was going through the same thing, but she had her heart set on a sleek number so wasn’t. But when I arrived at the office the next day, there was a very large Jenny Packham dress bag on my desk. And inside – the exact dress I would have worn had I the choice of all the dresses in the world. I had seen it in the Jenny Packham press book a while before and it was even more beautiful in the flesh. I tried it on in the toilets (a struggle, as you can imagine) and the deal was done. I was a big-skirt bride after all.

So then I just had to find a pair of shoes that would tie all three dresses together. This was harder than finding a dress and for this I did need to trawl the shops – Selfridges, Browns, Liberty, Jimmy Choo, Louboutin and Fendi. But it was a pair of Miu Miu champagne-coloured satin platforms that won out, suggested in an email from Net A Porter (the clever things). I was in Angels Fancy Dress one evening with my father a couple of weeks before the wedding and on a whim asked to see their veils. So for £30 I topped off my ‘I-don’t-want-a-meringue-or-veil’ resolve with a cathedral-length silk trimmed veil. I whipped that off moments after the ceremony in the garden, and finished my evening look, the cream nightdress with a Jenny Packham handmade headdress and lots of Alex Monroe necklaces. Since then I have worn the silk nighties a handful of times and the Sea NY dress a great deal – see, it pays to have unexpected choices from time to time.

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11 Responses to “A tale of 3 dresses (and 1 pair of shoes)”

  1. Jo Welch November 4, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    I nearly cried reading this – utter perfection!

  2. Little Brown Bird November 4, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    All the dresses are beautiful, my favourite is the crochet mini dress. You look amazing in all of them.

    LBB x

    • The Three Graces November 4, 2010 at 11:11 am #

      Ah cheers! I personally believe you put anyone in a white dress with some blooms and you’re going to like it!x

  3. Emily November 4, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    This is the exact quandry that I am currently in. My boy proposed at the weekend (still way up on cloud 9!) and having always imagined wearing a princess dress, in reality I am now thinking that I would prefer something simple and potentially even knee-length. Perhaps I should pop into Jenny Packham just in case…

    • The Three Graces November 4, 2010 at 11:11 am #

      Definitely go to Jenny Packham – they have slinky, sleek too! And all the most beautiful trimmings – veils, headpieces, hair pins etc.
      Go go go! AND CONGRATULATIONS!!xx

      • Samantha November 4, 2010 at 11:36 am #

        I’m still looking for my “the one” dress, but was suprised to find that my favourites so far are completely removed from what I had expected to like. These 3 dresses are just beautiful!

      • The Three Graces November 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

        I would go to Jenny Packham, or go to a dressmaker and have something made – try some dresses on first though and try to go without preconceptions. Try all the different styles and you might be surprised by what you end up loving! good luck!

  4. carrie November 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    oh they are all so beautiful, you look stunning in them all xx

  5. Poppy November 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm #

    I love the Jenny Packham number! Kind of 80s in an excellent way. Your husband is a lucky man!

  6. Natasha November 4, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    WOW loving this post and my jaw dropped open when I read that the Jenny Packham dress arrived on your desk!! A very lucky bride and a beautiful dress 🙂

  7. Joel Dash November 4, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    ALL THREE DRESSES ARE GORGEOUS! Hope I have three dresses at my wedding 😉

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