This post has been written in collaboration with Anita Massarella Design Couture. If you would like to read more about my brand partnership policies, you can do so by clicking here.
Before we moved house, I used to live very close to a Bridal shop, I used to drive past it nearly every day in-fact; and for a good few years I’d simply just pass, and gaze in, in awe. They had this absolutely stunning shop front, with the most beautiful logo and window displays I’ve ever seen; and actually, prior to being engaged I’d never really been all that interested in weddings, but this place was just too beautiful on the outset not to catch your attention. So when in August we got engaged, it was naturally then the first place that came to mind when I was thinking about my own dress. I began following them on Instagram, and I remember mentioning to someone that I was contemplating looking there for potential ideas… to which the response was “her designs are incredible, but I’ve heard they are very, very expensive”. Now in all honesty, that intimidated me, and so I kind of put the idea to the back of my mind and just continued to admire from afar.
Fast forward a month or so, and they actually ran a competition on their Facebook page to win a gorgeous selection of bridal gifts; and so with everything crossed I went for it – the usual like and share – and as luck would have it, I actually ended up winning! This then obviously resulted in me going into the boutique to pick up my prize, and I remember being so worried… I had a pair of trainers on, my hair was super windswept and I’d just thrown an old comfy jumper on for a morning of shopping, prior to going in there – I really didn’t feel I fit the part for stepping into this super glamorous bridal shop; but let’s be honest, I was pretty eager to pick up this lovely prize I had won… and so off I went. Seriously guys, I needn’t have worried at all. So yes, the shop was as stunning on the inside as it looked on the outside, probably more so actually, and yes it was gorgeously glamorous – but instantly I felt at ease, and so very welcome too. I actually left feeling like I’d just been for a chat with friends to be fair. I was greeted by Anita herself, and also Abby one of the lovely staff members, and they both seemed genuinely excited to hear all about me, and my wedding plans. I had expected to just pop in and out, but we ended up having that much of a natter, I think I ended up staying in there for about an hour just chatting away about all things bridal; and by the end of it, I’d decided that I would love to go back for an actual consultation, and at the least, just a chat to see what was possible in terms of having something special created.
Fast forward again a few weeks later (last weekend to be exact), and my Mum and I arrived back there for said design consultation… and oh what a treat it was. Again, we were greeted by Anita, just like we were old friends, and straight away made to feel at home with glasses of bubbly, chocolate, and offerings of a cup of tea or coffee too. Honestly guys, even if you go and it doesn’t lead to anything, I’d recommend just going in for a chat, there’s no pressure whatsoever, and at the least, you’ll walk away with just having had a really special, personal experience.
We were shown around the whole place, which to my amazement, actually spans three floors; the shop floor itself, the design room, and the work atelier. I was pretty amazed actually, and it was also very clear that Anita, and her whole team – who we also got to meet – are so, so passionate about what they do. The whole place was adorned with beautiful fabrics, mood boards, stacks of fashion design books – including some pretty exclusive ones – and just lots and lots of inspiration. It was extremely interesting, insightful, and pretty exceptional to see.
Once we’d had our little tour around, we headed back down to the design room for the actual consultation itself. This began with a chat about my initial ideas, I showed Anita some of the images I’d saved to pinterest of styles I liked, started discussing fabric styles, looking at samples, and really getting to grips with my vision. Me being me, I had a general idea of what I was hoping for, but it was this huge mis-match of ideas that were kind of just swimming all over the place in my head, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with. As I was blurting out this huge array of ideas at Anita talking, she began sketching away, and to my amazement… She. Just. Knew. Seriously, she just has this way of bringing your vision to life in a really effortless way, and when she had finished I could see my Mum (who was sat at the side of me) looking at the drawing in amazement, to which she then said “she’s basically summed up you, in a dress” – I couldn’t have agreed more. It was a really exciting moment, and at this point, I think my mind had already started to be made up.
To further enhance that, I’d actually decided to test the waters a little… and explained that I was looking for quite a lot of embellishment on my dress. Now, this wasn’t a lie, I did want the train of the dress to be quite detailed, but I didn’t actually realise there’s a huge difference between embellishment (beading, sequins etc) and appliqué (ornamental fabric needlework, which is actually what I wanted, I just didn’t know the correct terminology). Anyway, I’d spoken to a lady at work the day before and told her about my wish for some embellishment (or what I thought was embellishment), and she said that she got married in quite a heavily embellished dress, and the more embellishment, the more expensive the dress will be – understandable really, more work and heavier fabrics etc… So, I told Anita I was wanting all this embellishment – and I knew that if her eyes lit up and she started steering me towards it, and lots of it, they were just interested in my money, and this wasn’t the place for me – but actually, she completely steered me away from that, first of all explaining the difference between embellishment and appliqué, and advising that with the ideas I had given, and what I was hoping to achieve, that really wasn’t the way to go. In Anitas exact words “If you go for what you’ve just suggested, peoples eyes will be all over the place and the focus will be more on the dress, than on you the bride. You don’t want people to look at you and think wow what an amazing dress, you want people to look at you and think wow Stephanie looks amazing in that dress“. That actually blew me away, and at that point I knew that she was more interested in creating something that was special to, and made me look incredible, rather than seeing me as just a paying customer.
Once I’d calmed myself down with the initial excitement, we then started to talk about fabric ideas in a little more detail. Another thing I hadn’t actually realised, and something that’s actually quite important to me, is the quality of fabric that’s used in the dresses here – they take this so seriously, and actually have access to some of the worlds finest; all their garments are crafted in couture fabrics such as cashmere, pure silk, French lace by Solstiss of Paris, Chanel tweed, wool, and everything is fully lined in 100% silk. Not only does that make me feel secure in knowing I’m actually getting a quality piece of craftmanship, as oppose to something that could have potentially been made in an unethical way and with cheap fabrics (not that all other wedding dresses are, not at all – but I think if I’d have just gone and bought a pre made off the rail dress and found something I loved, I wouldn’t even have considered the fabric it was made from); but it also means that I’m going to be as comfortable as I possibly can be on my special day.
There’s also other benefits too; having a wedding dress that is completely bespoke to me, obviously means that no one else in the world will have the same dress, but it means that it’s also something that can be passed down and will hopefully turn into a heirloom in generations to come – I know trends change, so I’m not expecting someone to want to wear the exact same design in 60 or so years, but obviously the dress can be re designed, or the material re used, etc. I also didn’t realise before I went in, but they’re actually one of the only places in the UK that offer a completely bespoke service like that, where your dress is designed completely from scratch; and by doing so, it also means that they work with your body shape, so say for example if you wanted a fishtail – they will know exactly where to begin that fishtail, so that it elongates your legs, or accentuates your shape; something that I wouldn’t really be able to get with a pre made design. And when I say there’s no pressure at all, I really do mean that. I agreed at my consultation that yes I did want Anita to make my dress, but you’re not actually asked to sign a contract like you would be elsewhere, and the decision was literally left to me with no pushy tactics at all… the price she quoted me also includes all my alterations too, which generally tend to be charged at an extra price when you buy from a non bespoke bridal shop.
I know my post has been quite gushy here, but that really is how I came out of my consultation feeling. I was on cloud 9, I felt excited, and more importantly, I felt special. My Mum was also made to feel very special too, something which was important to me and which I really appreciated. I know I stated at the top of my post that I wrote this as a collaboration piece, but the brand didn’t actually have any creative input or say into what I wrote whatsoever, and so if I didn’t have an enjoyable experience – or I had any issues – I would have been completely honest about it. In-fact, I didn’t have any obligation to write about it at all… I take my blog, and more importantly its integrity seriously, and this post is genuinely from the heart. Ahh guys, writing this has literally just brought all the excitement from last weekend rushing back… and I’m that excited about it, I may just buy my dream wedding shoes in celebration of saying “yes to the dress”.
My next step plans are to go out and try some dress designs on, just to make sure that I’m fully comfortable with the design shape I’ve suggested, and that it suits me – this was actually suggested by Anita herself, so again, I know she wants what’s best for me and my experience; and then in a few months we will get started with the measurements themselves, then it’s all go. If a bespoke design is something you’re contemplating, and like me you’re a little bit intimidated by your preconceived opinions, or worried it won’t fit to your budget, I really would implore you to just go in for that initial chat – I promise there really isn’t any pressure, it’s not at all intimidating, and you never know what it may lead to… I can’t wait to share with you what’s to come, and I really hope you guys have found this insightful and interesting, especially if you’re about to embark on your own bridal journey.