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Buying Guide

Live the life you've dreamed

Henry David Thoreau

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Wedding Dress Buying Guide - Your Options

* Couture

Where price is no object, you can collaborate with a top designer to create the dress of your dreams which will be totally unique to you.

From their origins on paper, couture wedding dresses are usually made from luxury fabric and sewn with particular attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming techniques by hand.

Remember, you are paying that designer for their creativity and their expertise, so be prepared to listen to them and accept their advice. They know what they’re talking about, have dressed every type of body shape going and won’t let you down.

The couture process normally involves up to 6 fitting sessions after an initial appointment. Allow at least six months.

The term couture is sometimes used when it's not strictly one of a kind. Sometimes you will hear couture used when the dress is actually custom made - still very special but not totally unique in design.

* Custom Made

Choose the dress you like from a range of designs and often designers - usually in specialist wedding shops. You’ll get measured and your size and colour preference will be ordered for that particular design.

Additional personal requests can often be catered for eg adding straps and adjusting sleeves.

Allow at least four months for delivery and alterations. You are very likely to have to make an appointment.

Most singular dress designers (eg Bruce Oldfield) will offer a mixture of Couture and Custom Made.

* Off the peg

Chain stores like House of Fraser, Monsoon and Selfridges offer a huge range of dresses in all standard sizes and with a range of price tags - between £100 to £1000.

You might be able to walk away with your dress that day or it may need to be ordered in if your size or colour isn't available. Allow at least a month.

There are some stunning cocktail dresses out there now which are perfect for a coastal wedding.

Or hunt in the charity shops of well-heeled areas of your local towns and cities. You could turn up a bargain for a dress that has only been worn once!

Bride's Tip

“Don't assume you have to spend a fortune. I stunned myself by finding the perfect dress in House of Fraser for £200. It was cool, elegant and sexy and meant I felt far less guilty when I splashed out £300 on my wedding day Gina flip flops!” Sallie


A pattern, a bolt of fabric and a seamstress is a sure way to get a dress that fits you like a glove at a reasonable price.

In good haberdashery departments like John Lewis, look out for pattern books such as Vogue and get a local dressmaker to knock up the dress of your dreams. Shop assistants will be able to advise on the best fabrics to buy.

Discuss with the dressmaker how much time she or he will need to make your wedding dress and fix your price before the sewing machine gets going!

Don’t be shy to ask for photographs of wedding dresses they’ve made and be sure to get references from clients.

* Online

Many brides are still pretty wary of making a purchase as special as a wedding dress over the internet, but more and more options are springing up on the web which are worth considering.

Second time around?

If this is your second marriage, all of the above options work for you. But it might be worth thinking about buying an outfit that could do with more than one outing.

“I decided to splash out on a designer outfit for my second wedding. It was a fantastic collaboration and he came up with a two piece in bottle green – the last thing I would have thought of. Somehow he managed to make me look - and feel – like a supermodel and I’ve been able to ring the changes with the top and the skirt for countless formal occasions since.” Jane