I took two days off work and headed up north to see my mum and start my dress-shopping journey in my hometown.
The first shop I went into was one that I had looked through the window of ever since I was a little girl, and I had to fulfill that childhood fantasy by going in there. I had not tried on a single dress before, and the only requirement I had was that it must not be strapless. I picked out four and tried them on—they were all all right, and we were gushing over the last one I tried on, but we had three more places to visit that day and needed to keep our options open.
But before any of you take a sneak peek of me in anything, I just have to say one thing.
You can come back, but just not to this post!
Anyway, yes—the first dress shop. They were OK—but clearly I wasn’t very happy in any of them, as this picture shows.
Too much going on with this one!
The next shop I went into was a boutique stocking designer gowns. The saleslady looked me up and down and said that due to my pear shape I should stick to A-lines to flatter my lower half. I tried on a couple of Paloma Blanca dresses that were to die for and, just to emphasise why I should stick to A-line, she brought out a tight-fitting dress to show me why it wouldn’t work. The Augusta Jones Ali. I tried it on and gasped—it looked BEAUTIFUL.
The lady was shocked and kept saying that she never would have expected it would work as it was designed for tall, straight-up-and-down women, but on me it emphasised my shape without making me look large. It was breathtaking. I kept strutting my stuff around the room—I felt fantastic.
After that all the dresses I tried on I compared to the Ali. The next two shops I went to had an awful selection (have any of you seen Big Fat Gypsy Weddings??), and the next seven dresses were absolute nos. We didn’t take any pictures.
That was the end of day one.
On day two we drove out to another town about an hour away to go to a shop we’d seen in a magazine. I tried on five dresses in that shop, but none of them compared to the Ali—they were all lovely, but the quality of the Augusta Jones dress stood out by a mile, so we continued on.
A bit “eh.” And strapless definitely isn’t for me!
On our way back to the car we passed a bridal boutique and decided to go and have a look—I felt terrible walking in without an appointment, but the woman there was so friendly. This place looked as though it had been taken out of a film set—chandeliers and ornate wallpaper. It was stunning. Again, more designer dresses and all the ones I pulled out were Augusta Jones.
When I stepped into all three of them I felt as though I was someone else—a model, a film star. I felt fabulous. It further cemented my opinion that this designer was made for me.
That evening we spent six hours driving back to the town where I now live. The next day we visited a shop I’d been recommended to go to by a friend. By this point I was asking myself why I was bothering, but decided that if I found the Ali in this shop then I wouldn’t have to travel back home for fittings and it would be more convenient. I searched the racks for dresses that were similar and tried the first one on.
It wasn’t similar. It had a high lace neckline, that was it, but this dress…well, this dress was ME. I waited to be zipped up and stared at myself in the mirror. My face beamed with happiness. Augusta who?! I forgot about the Ali almost instantly—THIS was the dress I’d been waiting for. I walked out of the dressing room and saw my mum. She gasped and the girl sat next to her, a girl who I’d never met, dropped her mouth open. It was the one.
No picture of it on, unfortunately!
Until that moment, I thought I wanted the “bride look.” But when I looked at myself in this dress, I saw myself looking back. Not a bride, or a model, or a film star—I saw me. A good me, but me nonetheless. I felt comfortable and happy—I didn’t want to strut my stuff, I wanted to dance.
It fit like a glove. Even the length, just high enough for my toes to peep out, was perfect. I would need the least number of alterations possible, and it felt as though someone had seen me in the street and thought, “That girl over there! I will design a dress for her and her alone.”
I kept my other appointments for the next day. I’d forgotten about the Ali so quickly—maybe I could forget about this one, too, if another one came along? But I knew I wouldn’t. Nothing would budge that feeling. I tried on other Augusta Jones dresses but was no longer impressed. Dress after dress was a solid “no,” and it just proved to me that I wouldn’t find another. I tried on 20 more dresses after I found her, and each one, although beautiful, just didn’t compare. Not even the dazzling Ian Stuart dress that highlighted my body shape in the best way imaginable—I couldn’t deny its beauty, but it wasn’t me.
As much as I’ve enjoyed telling my story of my dress hunt, I hope it helps some girls who are struggling—and for girls who haven’t started shopping yet, just keep trying!! Your perfect dress IS OUT THERE! Even if you have to try on 40-plus dresses. And for those who want to know—I tried on 45 dresses. “The One” was dress number 25!