Efficient wedding dress shopping

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Stylist Team
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Elinor Block decided on her dress in about 15 minutes. Here's how she did it...

How to get started

I was dreading trying on wedding frocks. In fact, I wasn't even sure I was going to wear a dress at all. While other women may dream of the day they get to dress up and feel like a princess, I couldn’t think of anything worse. It’s not that I don’t want to feel special and beautiful, and all those other adjectives usually reserved for the female lead in a Disney movie, but I just wanted to feel comfortable and not too much on show (I know that sounds ridiculous when I'll be spending a whole day with people looking at me).

Not only that, I couldn't bear the thought of schlepping around loads of different shops. Luckily, and without too much faffing, I did find a dress I’m comfortable in and one that I think makes me look good (OK, one that makes me look great but I'm being modest here). Even better, my decision took all of about 15 minutes.

Work out your budget

So, how was I this efficient in making a decision, when I struggle to choose between Nutella or apricot jam for my morning toast? Rather boringly, I did my research. First, I worked out my budget and then started looking at dresses that wouldn't leave me worrying how I was going to pay the rent. That said, I also looked at the ludicrously expensive ones to get a few ideas. I also avoided the usual bridal shops because I knew that wasn’t my style, and then I found few dresses online and ordered them.

The first dress I tried on was from Reiss - a beautiful floor length gown in an icey grey. However, it wasn’t quite right for my colouring, so I went to Ghost which offers lots of lovely wedding dresses at very affordable prices. However, I still couldn't find my 'dream' dress there. So, I narrowed down the search.

Make a list of what you want

By this point, I realised I wanted the following:

- Either heavily embroidered or completely plain (which means I can accessorise it)

- Definitely not strapless

- No cleavage (or not much anyway)

- Slim fitting, so no big ball gowns

- One I can wear a killer pair of heels under (yes, I know I’m going to be wearing them all day but I need height goddammit, I’m only 5’3” and my fiancé is 6 foot)

Go to some actual shops

Once I’d got the ideal dress in my head, I then made bookings at a couple bridal boutiques whose dresses I liked and that fitted within my remit. One was at high street store Phase Eight and the other at the independent formal wear dress shop Belle and Bunty.

Phase Eight

Phase Eight’s new dress called Hermione (pictured below) was the first dress I tried on. For £750 you get a slim-fitting gown, which I can imagine flatters most figures, with intricate beading that you’d expect to be on a much more expensive frock.

I also tried on the Gardenia gown, which is the same price as the Hermione. Although it wasn’t one I’d have picked, the brilliant sales assistant in their bridal section was great at understanding what might work with my figure and what would look nice. I also tried it on with a little embroidered shawl.

Belle and Bunty

Located between Camden and Kentish Town, Belle and Bunty originally began with a ready-to-wear collection, until the owners got married so then they started their own bridal collection. This side of the business has been going since 2010 and it's easy to see why it's so popular.

They have a range of beautiful bridal gowns that they tailor to fit their clients perfectly. Not only that, all their dresses are made in England and only use UK based suppliers, which is something they are incredibly passionate about. I haven’t included the dress I’ve actually picked but I can tell you that it is from Belle and Bunty. Instead, I've picked a couple of my favourite designs from their collection.

The Valentina; £1,900;

The Maple; £1,800;

Elinor is online writer for Stylist. Follow her posts on the Wedding Blog here and on Twitter here @nellblock

Read more engagement stories on the Stylist Wedding Blog or see Stylist's wedding section for dress advice, beauty inspiration and honeymoon destinations.