Thoughts on wedding dress shopping

a niche post I suppose. But it’s something I’ve wanted to post since I started shopping for a wedding dress. 

I was very concerned about shopping for a dress. I didn’t think there would be anything to fit me, I didn’t think anyone would understand the needs of a plus size bride, I didn’t want to be humiliated in public shopping for the most important dress I would ever buy. 

It took a long time for me to make an appointment anywhere. I don’t want to name (and shame) some shops. Just because they weren’t right for me doesn’t mean they aren’t the right place for someone else. But on the whole it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought. 

Once you’ve got over the initial horror of stripping down to your underwear in front of a stranger. Once you’ve got over the horror of parading around a shop in a dress that doesn’t fasten up in front of a complete stranger, your mam and whoever else happens to be shopping there. Once you’ve got over the simple fact that you don’t have to like everything that is shown to you. It’s ok. 

I tried on so many dresses in front of so many strangers that eventually I didn’t care who saw my pants or who forced my boobs flat so I could fit in a dress that absolutely did not fit. I had fairly ‘meh’ experiences at most places. I met some lovely, helpful, caring people and I met some incredibly unhelpful people. 

Highs and lows? 

High. They DO have stuff that fits, it IS possible to sort of fit in dresses that don’t fit. 

High. They have met people of all shapes and sizes, they have seen more mismatched undies than you’ve had hot dinners and they don’t care. 

High. This might be your only chance to flounce around in a selection of dresses you would never normally wear. Embrace it. 

Low. Not finding anything. For weeks. You might find it first time out. I found it hard going. 

Low. Realising that your ‘vision’ doesn’t quite match up to reality. For me, this was realising that the dress I had in my head did not suit me at all and left me feeling very flat at my appointments. 

Low. Not being able to try a dress on because it was so very tiny. You can’t make a decision on a dress by holding it up against you. Well, maybe you can. I found it depressing and impossible. 

The lowest low point?

Oh my. It came at a very popular, small boutique in Newcastle that came recommended by a friend. As we entered a girl was being railroaded into buying a dress. Absolutely railroaded. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe the pushy manner of the manager and I had my fingers crossed that she wouldn’t be my consultant. Phew! She wasn’t. My consultant was lovely, fortunately. However, this was the only place I was asked to remove my bra. Now, I have a sizeable bust, most places had accepted that it would be best to leave the bra and adjust later. I was seriously uncomfortable being asked to strip off so much, asked if it was completely necessary and was told yes. I wish I’d held my ground. 

There’s a top tip. Don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with. You don’t have to take your underwear off. You don’t have to try on a dress you don’t want and you absolutely don’t have to buy it! This might sound like common sense, but after weeks of dress failures, your judgement can become clouded. 

Then it got worse. You know that public humiliation thing I mentioned. Yeah. That. My worst nightmare. I knew the dress wasn’t going to fit by looking at it. I knew. She insisted that it was just the thing for a girl with curves. I knew when she put it over my head. I knew when I couldn’t get it down over my boobs. “No, no, it’ll be fine, nothing to worry about!” I knew then that it wasn’t going to come off without a fight…

And of course it got stuck. It wouldn’t go down, it wouldn’t come up over my head. I was mortified. I was panicking. It most definitely made ripping sounds. It needed a third person to help me out of it. I was hot, blushing, mostly naked with a stupid dress covering my face and all I wanted to do was bawl my eyes out. I did the right thing of course. Got dressed quickly, left and burst into tears on the street instead. I felt completely ashamed, and I don’t think you should feel that way when you’re shopping for your wedding dress. I replied politely to their follow up email a week later but I made it quite clear that I wouldn’t be back. Ok, my own fault for being a fatty pants, but still. Why force a dress on a person that it clearly doesn’t fit? Why cause that sort of embarrassment? 

A few weeks later my mother coaxed me out of the house and into the welcoming arms of Mia Sposa, Newcastle. A calm, quiet, beautiful oasis of lovely. With tea in nice cups, a kindly assistant who was honest in the nicest possible way and never made me feel like I needed to change anything about myself to look good in a dress. 

I feel like I have apologised for my size and shape a hundred times while dress shopping. I think I explained about being on a diet and how much weight I hoped to lose to everyone I encountered. My consultant at Mia Sposa listened and nodded and then pulled out a dress I wouldn’t have chosen in a million years. “This is from a plus size collection. It will be too big for you, but…” “oh, I can’t wear that, that’s for people with flat stomachs and tiny waists…holy shit, look how tiny my waist looks! Look at my flat stomach!”

And there it was. The dress. My consultant had listened. Really listened to everything I was worried about. My arms, my huge ass, my not so flat stomach, how big girls can’t wear this and can’t wear that and how it would be nice but it could never be me. She listened and then carefully picked apart my every concern and presented me with a me I hadn’t seen before. 

To the point where the mother of another customer cried. I didn’t really recognise the girl in the mirror. She seemed taller. Had a flatter stomach, had a tiny little waist, her arms were just arms and wow she looked really good. 

People said to me that when you find the dress you just know. And you do. I felt like the best version of me. It wasn’t fireworks and excited giggling and crying tears of joy. It was a sense of complete comfort with who I was and what I looked like. Quietly confident. In a dress I wouldn’t have picked in a million years. 

My dress has just arrived from the dressmaker. I’m trying it on again in April, I’ll be fitted for it in May and July. I can’t wait to see it again. I hope it’s everything I remember it to be. 

This is a message of hope to those despairing of wedding dress shopping, or those too frightened to start. Don’t apologise for yourself. You are you. A good consultant won’t care what you look like and will be able to offer good advice to all body shapes. Do not settle for something because it fits. Do not do things that make you uncomfortable. Do not get hung up on what another bride in the same shop is doing/looking at, you’re very different people. Don’t take an army of people with you. They will all have your best interests at heart but you are the one wearing the dress, not them. Take a trusted advisor or two. Only you will know when you’ve got The Dress. 

This may seem like common sense, and it is. But when you’ve spent a long time looking at dresses, trying on dresses, examining every lump and bump in a massive mirror and have yet to see anything you might like to wear on your wedding day it’s easy to lose perspective. 

Karen at Mia Sposa was my perspective. So thank you, Karen. You didn’t put any pressure on me. You made me feel good and you humoured me in my Scarlett O’Hara moment. 

FYI, you will try on at least one dress that makes you want to run dramatically down flights of stairs and do your best Southern Belle accent. This is fine and most enjoyable if you have a consultant who is happy to let you live the dream. High fives. 

Give yourself enough time. You’ve got to find it, order it, have it fitted…obviously this doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t need the added pressure of leaving it late to find a frock. 

Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to beat yourself up. It’s a whole lot harder to be nice. When I started looking for a dress my problem areas were magnified and I became very critical of myself. Consequently, I felt sad, not worthy of a nice dress and generally a bit miserable. Not a great frame of mind for dress shopping!

Go forth and have fun with it! 


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Revelation noun a surprising and previously unknown fact that has been disclosed to others.

Barrevelation – surprising and unknown facts randomly disclosed to you during second position plies.

I have been going to Barre classes on and off for a while now, i have over 100 classes under my belt. You’d think i’d have this stuff figured out. You’d think.

I have an unbreakable habit of always seeing the worst in me. I am not curvy, i am fat. I am not 5’3″ (5’1″ if i’m being honest), i am dumpy. I am not short sighted, i have terrible taste in glasses. I am not clever, funny, creative… If you were to ask me i’d tell you that i don’t do anything very well. I am below average to average on a good day. I’ve carried this belief with me for most of my life, nothing was likely to change it. Until last Saturday when a little spark fired somewhere inside and now it won’t go away no matter how hard i try and smother it.

Last Saturday, before starting an open barre class (a mixed ability class with everyone working at their own level) i did something i very rarely do.

I took my glasses off.

Ground breaking? Not in the grand scheme of things. But it completely changed my focus in that class. Normally i’m looking around wondering how i compare to other people, admiring toned legs, arms, flat stomachs fighting back a hint of jealousy. Always thinking “what if i could be like that? I wish that I…”. Without glasses, i couldn’t see anyone. Everyone was a fuzzy jumble of colours and shapes, not really like other people at all. So it was me, my inner saboteur and Maxine our Instructor. The effect? I 100% focused on myself. I didn’t care what was going on around me because i couldn’t see it, i could look down and see myself and that was it.

I didn’t realise this until the end of second position plies. My thighs were on fire! I hadn’t put that much effort into fighting the ‘you can’t do this, you can’t finish this set’ internal voice in a long time. But you can. You can finish it, it hurts, but you can do it. It might not be pretty, it might not be elegant, it might not look as good or be as deep or anything like the next person in the room. But it is the best you can do. Not the best that someone else can do.

Was it the best class i’ve done in a while, maybe not technically, maybe i’m not in the best shape i’ve been in, but the mental battle had been won. Yes, it’s scary, yes it hurts, yep you’re going to feel it tomorrow and the next day. BRX is still going to be an uphill struggle, but it doesn’t matter! It’s your uphill struggle.

Fight your own fight. Own it. Be the best you can possibly be not the best that someone else can be!

Now what? That little spark i mentioned earlier? It’s still there, doing it’s best to light the way, it’s changed the way i feel about my barre class, it’s a competition with myself not anyone else. I won’t compare myself to anyone else now, remember that they’re fighting their own battles too. I’m not saying i won’t stop the self criticism, that won’t go away overnight. But i know that when i get to the barre for an hour i have an hour to take care of me, and be the best me i can be, if only for a short time.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

Dr Seuss


Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


Bride on a mission – 100 shots

Bride on a mission – 100 shots

Nope, not the hen do. But it’s always an idea.

No, I’m talking barre. Again.

Happy 5th birthday to the Barre Workout in Newcastle! As part of their birthday knees up (quite literally) we were treated to free classes of barre bingo and free taster classes for anyone who wanted to give it a go. Also yummy cakes and fizz. Because all things are improved by yummy cake and fizz.

But that’s the biggest news, no, the big news is that I’ve now done 100 barre classes. Unbelievable. If anyone had told me (or my PE teacher) that I would complete 100 classes of any exercise I would have laughed at them. But I truly love it. So here’s to the next 100 classes and the results I hope they’ll bring!


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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Wedding adventures


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Bride on a mission – ballet

Bride on a mission – ballet

Ballet. Yes. Ballet. I know.

I’m the shortest, roundest person ever, with one too short leg and one foot smaller than the other. Not a good start.

As you know, I’ve been doing barre for quite a while now and I was curious. Where does arabesque come from? What is an attitude? Why do we do this? When we point our feet, what’s the best way to do it?

I knew what this meant. It was either go and read a book on ballet, watch some you tube videos or go to a class.
I browsed the books, I you tubed the videos, and eventually, I felt brave enough to look for a class.

One place that came up time and again was the Newcastle Dance Centre. It was 15 minutes away from where I live, the classes were on a drop in basis and were also reasonably priced at £6 a class. It took me a few days, but I finally plucked up the courage to email and ask about someone like me (short and hippo like) joining something like their adult beginner ballet class. I had two very positive emails within a few hours. Both encouraging me to come along and try it, reassuring me that all kinds of people learn to dance and they had no problem with my size or inexperience. So I picked the date and then spent the next two weeks fretting about it.

I sat in the car before I went in, tweeting about how terrified I was. And I was. I was genuinely scared. As far as I was concerned only humiliation and disappointment waited behind the studio door. Thanks to a big push from some lovely people on twitter I made it through the door.

And you know what? It was the most fun I’ve had in ages!

Our teacher, Steph, was friendly, welcoming, I didn’t feel judged by her at all, she was just pleased to see us all there. I was by no means the oldest and by no means the biggest. All shapes, sizes and abilities were represented. We laughed when it went wrong, we worked hard, we tried our best and it was great. The one to one moments with the teacher are invaluable and she’s very good at reassuring you and offering good feedback.

I leave feeling exhausted, exhilarated and wondering why I didn’t do this years ago. Mondays are now my favourite night of the week, it’s a great atmosphere and the school is so friendly. They do all kinds of dance tuition for all ages and abilities. They even do first dances for weddings, I’m still trying to convince Mr H to come for a few lessons, but I’ll drag him in.

If you’re in need of a confidence boost, a few lessons to help with that first dance or just want to have fun and let off some steam in the run up to the big day, I would highly recommend them. Check them out


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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in Wedding adventures


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Bride on a mission – skincare

Bride on a mission – skincare

No, I’m not venturing into the land of the beauty blogger, fear not. I am the last person you would come to for advice on eyeliner. I aim for Elizabeth Taylor, I might on the odd occasion, get somewhere close to her remarkable flicks, but more often than not it ends up a bit Amy Winehouse.

No. This is about my dreadful skin and my fear of it being seen by so many people and also picked up on camera by the photographer. I have never had acne or any really major breakouts, just red, sensitive and that weird oily/dry thing going on on my face. I do have eczema, but thankfully not anywhere near as bad as some people do. This mainly affects my legs, so the summer is a minefield for me. Brilliant. I’ve booked a summer wedding.

So, something had to be done. I sought advice. I asked around. I sidled up to people with nice skin and asked them in my best ‘not a serial killer, honest’ voice, how did they get such lovely skin. People were forthcoming. Everyone had an opinion. Everything from “just use soap and water” to “I know this place where they’ll burn off your skin and start again with new skin”. Hm.

Clinique popped up a few times, and I have to say, the people who mentioned it do have lovely skin. So I made an appointment for a consultation. What I liked about Clinique was that pretty much everything was suitable for use on my extremely sensitive skin. The consultation was thorough and we managed to nail down my concerns. I hated the redness in my skin and the uneven tone. So we worked out a routine and tried the products, it didn’t feel like a particularly hard sell as all the products you liked are stored in your file and you can come back for them whenever you like.

I’ve been using the Clinique redness treatments and large pore treatments for a few months now, and even by the end of the first week, Mr H even commented on how good my skin was looking. It’s got better and better. I’ve now added Clinique foundation and powder to my routine and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a foundation that truly suits my skin tone. I’m impressed. My skin feels less red and prone to irritation, it’s also a great base for make up.

So, face sorted out and feeling much happier about things, I decided it was time to tackle the dreaded eczema. I’ve discovered several things about this over the lifetime I’ve had problems with it. One, lanolin gives me all the itchy. Two, anything from the e45 range gives me all the itchy. Three, anything overly scented/faffed about with/tatted up/cheap/or luxury spa brand will bring on a bout of eczema so horrific I have to hibernate for days.

The summer is never easy. No one wants to see my legs, but the sun does help them to get better. But what’s this!? Sun lotion triggers my eczema. FML. Ok, so a few minutes brief exposure it is then. Brilliant. Undeterred, I went on a product sampling rampage. I seem to have hit on a good combination and amazingly it’s inexpensive. This is a first for me.
Now, I appreciate that we’re all different and finding your triggers, avoiding flare ups etc are different for all of us. So I recommend, but use with caution.

I’m now using the boots Dermacare range, including their hydrocortisone cream/ointment for those itchy little flare ups. I’m also using Palmer’s coco butter for my all over moisturising needs. This has the benefit of smelling like you’ve been dipped in chocolate, but I’ve also found it not too greasy, easy to rub in and it lasts for ages.

Add to this my fantastic friend Clare made me my own special body butter and body scrub for getting my skin into shape for the wedding. She’s really quite amazing and quite clearly has a sixth sense for whatever I’ve been fretting about. Both work brilliantly and the scrub is no where near as harsh as some I’ve bought. So thanks Clare, you’re a star!

I’ve got my hair to sort out next. Wish me luck! 20140720-175047-64247080.jpg


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Bride on a mission pt2

So I’ve reached the end of my monthly barre workout pass and have I seen a difference? Have I ever!

I had pootled along quite nicely for a while, one or two classes a week. The same class at the same time. Going to gym for an hour 3 times a week, the same machines, the same exercise. Truth is, I was bored and in a routine, habits are good I think so I never did anything to push myself. The times I did push myself like going to BRX, I would feel so frustrated with myself that I never tried it again.

So getting a monthly pass was a bit of an eye opener for me. I was determined to use it and abuse it, so I booked in for a class almost every day. Even if it was a 30 minute express class. The change in classes, pace and moves was an absolute eye opener. I could slouch into class after work feeling tired and fed up and leave on cloud 9, happy knowing I’d pushed my body and got a little bit stronger every day.

BRX was the elephant in the room for me. The class I’ve always wanted to do and in my eyes, the one i always failed miserably at. I usually ended up feeling deflated and weepy and very frustrated with myself. But instead of facing up to it I refused to go and try again, so it just got bigger and bigger in my head.

So after a month of feeling great, strong and probably in the best condition I’ve ever been in I was talked into BRX. On the day I felt sick, nervous and spent most of the day making excuses about how rubbish I would be. I wasn’t really listening to Clare by the time the class started, i’d talked myself into being rubbish so I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled the best BRX class I’d ever done out of the bag. I almost (almost!) enjoyed it. It was hard, really hard and my muscles still ache but I felt amazing by the end of it, like I could take on anything. I’ve said it before and I say it again, for all my body is short, dumpy and a bit squidgy it continues to surprise me with what it can do.

If you don’t know what BRX is, it’s a bit like the TRX kit you see at the gym but done with a strap hooked over the barre. So you work with your feet in suspension.

I did a 1st barre class today two days after and yes, it was hard, but I survived and could do everything. I think even my press ups improved a little!

I have loved doing a barre class every day and I’ve become quite curious about ballet and the origins of the barre workout, so I took a HUGE step for me and booked myself into a real life, actual proper ballet class for grown up beginners. Class starts on Monday. Wish me luck!

My body is changing, In small ways to start, but it is. I still find looking at myself in the mirrors during barre a horrible experience, but I’m looking forward to the day I’ll be proud to see myself working out. I should be proud now, I’m doing better than everyone still sat on the sofa. I’ve lost half a stone and around 5 inches in total from various parts of my body, a pretty good start!

Thanks, as always, goes to the great team at the barre workout in Newcastle and all the lovely barre belles I’ve got to know a little bit better just by being there so often, you really can’t get a more supportive place to work out. No one has ever judged me or told me I can’t do something because of the body I have, I’ve only ever felt encouraged. If only all gyms and classes were like that. #nobodyshame

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Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bride on a mission

Bride on a mission

I’m honest about my body. It is short, chunky and not altogether fabulous. On the whole I can live with it as long I’m reasonably fit and healthy.

Of course, once the wedding date was set I flew into a full on body flap. I absolutely DID NOT want to look back at the photos in years to come and regret not doing more, to wish I’d felt more confident in front of the camera or, worse still, not look at the photos at all.

So I’ve taken action. I am a bride on a mission. You might be aware that I started weight watchers once before and gave up when life and events got a bit too much for me a year and a half ago. But, as things are fine again now, I’ve signed up again. I would like to lose 5st before the wedding, I don’t know if this is realistic or not, but I’m going to bloody well try.

I’ve also ramped up the exercise. The weight loss is nothing without the toning and sculpting you will only get through exercise. So I’m hitting the gym at least twice a week, starting a 0-5k challenge, a monthly challenge (this month, squats) and I’ve got a monthly pass for the barre workout in Newcastle.

Have I mentioned the barre workout? It’s amazing. I’ve been going for a while now, over a year and I love it. It’s done with a ballet barre – lots of plies, attitude, arabesque and some fab variations such BRX, Barrdio and express classes.
If you want a dancers body without the dance, this is the place to be.

You should know that I am about as elegant as a baby hippo on roller skates, but even I can cope with barre classes. I say cope. I have a coping mechanism at least. I feel stronger, more flexible than I have ever been in my life, I am continually astounded at what my body can actually do if I ask it to and as a result I am a more confident person. Getting married doesn’t scare me, the thought of all those people looking at me while I do it, does. But if I can get through an hour of pretty intense sweaty barre class in leggings and a t shirt (and yes, I wear leg warmers and I bloody love it) in front of a beautiful professional dancer/instructor and a lot of other people and STILL feel good at the end if it. I’m not going to worry about a 100 normal people watch me marry the man I love.

I want to walk tall down the aisle, I used to walk everywhere with my head down and hope not to be noticed, this is my typical ‘fat day’ behaviour. I refuse to have a ‘fat day’ on my wedding day. With diet, exercise and lots of support I will be the bride I want to be.

I want to take a moment to thank Suzy for introducing me to barre and all the lovely people I’ve met by going there. Also, big thanks to Natalie, Clare, Maxine and all the barre workout gang. And my colleague Sarah who has been a weight loss and fitness guru to me over the last few months, she’s an absolute machine (and a top notch lady). Also Christine who runs my weight watchers meeting, she holds me to account every week and her motivational messages are always a great midweek reminder!

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Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Wedding adventures


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