Finding the One | Living North

Finding the One


Lace shirt dress, Smith & Downes
The dress of your dreams together with invaluable advice from two of the Yorkshire’s top bridal boutiques
'My advice would be not to go to too many places, trust your instincts, don’t ask for too many opinions as they will all differ. Please yourself not other people, and most of all enjoy try to enjoy this experience'
London by Augusta Jones
Madison by Charlotte Balbier

Just The One

Heidi France of Angel Brides tells Living North about her favourite designers, bridalwear trends for next seaon and explains why you should always trust your instincts

Bridalwear for next season is still very much a lace affair, with straps and cap sleeves still popular. Growing in demand is the low back with beautiful detailing; either with an illusion sheer back or a low cut design. Classic ball gowns and fishtails are still very much in vogue and the popularity for a fit and flare style of gown continues to grow.

The dress, after the venue, is the key to your wedding plans. The dress can form the hub for your design theme. It also helps with choosing bridesmaids dresses as it can affect colour, style and length.

We stock four key designers, all offering something slightly different for brides. Maggie Sottero is an Australian designer with a large range of gowns. The key to their styles is a fabulous fit with beautiful fabrics and a huge choice of styles. Justin Alexander is a very strong brand in the UK and Europe, with gorgeous lace detailing and wonderful corsetry to give a gorgeous shape to all brides. Sophia Tolli is another Australian designer, full of amazing dresses that each have a strong individual identity. Sophia Tolli’s attention to detail is second-to-none and she often offers a bride that little extra detailing on a train or a strap that can make a gown very special indeed. Our fourth designer is Phil Collins Bridalwear, which offers a great range of value driven dresses with superb fit and quality. Their prices are all under £1,000 in this range.

Ideally brides should be looking to buy their gown no later than nine months before their wedding, earlier if possible, to ensure that it arrives on time. And of course the gown can form the theme for the wedding so until this is chosen, it is harder to move on to other areas of the wedding.

Our most popular dress was a Maggie Sottero gown call Martina – a classical chiffon gown with Swarovski crystal – a timeless creation which was much loved. However times change and we have seen many gowns prove popular with brides, from fishtails to ball gowns.

My advice would be not to go to too many places, trust your instincts, don’t ask for too many opinions as they will all differ. Please yourself not other people, and most of all enjoy try to enjoy this experience. If it becomes too much or a chore, stop looking for a little while and refocus your energy. You will then be able to find your dream gown when you are feeling positive and energised.

Angel Brides
Horsforth, Leeds
0113 258 8454


Especially For You

Marie Neal-Smith and Rebecca Downes are talented fashion designers who own Smith & Downes near York. Here they share with Living North the inspiration behind their collection, the advantages of having a dress designed and tips on what styles suit certain figures

There are some beautiful trends and styles emerging for 2014 from the peplum to the staggered hem (higher at the front lower at the back), but at Smith and Downes we’re inspired by bygone eras combined with womenswear fashion trends, as our backgrounds are in the fashion industry. We’re also inspired by our surroundings (our studio is based in the beautiful quaint village of Buttercrambe, just outside York) and by local craftspeople, as we work closely with jewellers, beaders, milliners and printers. We also have a basket of treasures which we make samples from. These are often vintage fabrics, handmade buttons or the odd belt clasp we’ve sourced when out on buying trips to Paris or London or at vintage fairs.

Our brides have usually already been shopping for a dress but haven’t quite found ‘the one’. So we bring all the best bits together from those fittings to produce their dream dress. However we occasionally have brides who have no clue what they want. Our job is to help them.

We have three key styles: Cross-over front and a fitted bodice with belt detail looks great on the more curvaceous figure. The boat neck fitted bodice perfectly suits a boyish frame, where perhaps the chest is a little less emphasised should we say! Our strapless corseted bodice looks beautiful when worn with a sheer organza overlay (or lace t-shirt) and the gathered skirt is great on a pear-shaped figure where perhaps focus is best steered towards a detail at the top rather than bottom.

The process for a couture, made-to-measure garment starts with an initial consultation, which involves the bride talking us through her ideas and us making suggestions we feel would work, sifting through fabric books and usually tea and biscuits! The design work is then produced and suitable material swatches are sourced for client approval. Next is a measurement consultation and the patterns are cut to fit body measurements. The garment is cut and made in a substitute fabric to assess accuracy of fit and then the toile (mock up) fitting takes place. After the garment is cut and made in final cloth there are various fittings and alterations before the garment completed.

Smith & Downes
Buttercrambe, York 01759 372606

Published in: July 2014

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