Today is our wedding anniversary. I’d dreamt about ‘the dress’ nearly all my life, and finally, 9 years ago, I got to wear it.
9 years ago today, I walked down the aisle Miss Jones, and came back up it Mrs Thompson. Such an important occasion demanded a very special dress.
There’d never really been any deliberation about it – I had to get married in a 17th Century inspired gown.
I don’t like showing my arms. I hate them! No one needs to see them and I always keep them covered. But at that time, it seemed almost impossible to buy an off the peg wedding gown with sleeves - any type of sleeves. I don’t know why as strapless dresses just don’t suit the majority of women. If I’m going to spend £1000+ on a dress that I wear for just one day, then I want to really love that dress, I don’t want to feel self conscious, or that it’s not right but it’ll do.
A historically inspired dress was also appropriate for our wedding venue – a medieval castle in Wales. I’d met my intended through re-enactment, and most of our wedding guests were re-enacting friends. Mid 17th Century styles are also my all time favourite historical fashions, and I felt (as I still do today) that I can pull the look off pretty convincingly.
By this point in time I’d made several fancy 17th Century banqueting outfits but I’d discounted the idea of making my own wedding dress. I had visions of myself crying in the early hours of our wedding day as I desperately tried to finish the dress. I just didn’t need the stress.
I’d made contact with the Costume Company in Corwen, North Wales, through work. They specialise in fantasy medieval style wedding gowns, but they had also produced several excellent replica historical outfits, including a Victorian Father Christmas costume. When I contacted them to enquire whether they would be able to help me create the dress of my dreams they were well up for it.
I designed the gown myself, including an embroidery motif combining hearts and diamonds. My wedding ensemble consisted of a fully boned pair of bodies (which I’d hand stitched myself along with my linen smock), petticoat with embroidered panels around the hem and up the front, and a full length gown which was worn over the top.
Detail of the embroidery and scalloped edges.
Gill & Pat from the Costume Company did me proud. I'll admit to being a very demanding customer, insisting on scalloped edges to the gown. Initially, it was uncertain whether this could be done, but they pulled out all the stops to make it happen. They also provided me with an additional pair of sleeves which I could tie into my bodies (allowing me to remove my gown for dancing at the evening party), and a ‘night gown’ to wear in the privacy of the bridal suite.
The Costume Company will make your perfect gown and hire it out to you for the big day, keeping the dress in their shop afterwards for costume hire. I was a little upset at first when they admitted that they didn’t want to keep my gown in their collection! They quickly explained that all their brides would want their own version when they saw it and it had been a lot of work. But I was keeping this dress. It meant so much to me, it was totally unique and I wanted it to stay that way. It was mine, all mine!!!
My shoes - pearl encrusted heeled mules - were hand made in matching lilac satin by Sarah Juniper. These were not the easiest things to walk in especially when wearing bespoke silk stockings from Sally Pointer. I also wore a typical pearl necklace and double teardrop earrings (a gift my new husband had commissioned for me) and bracelets made with crystals from my mum’s own wedding crown. In fact, the only part of my ensemble which wasn’t made for me was my knickers, from Marks & Spencer, and my ‘something blue’.
The 17th Century inspired our wedding in other ways, too.
We held our wedding breakfast and evening party at the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury. Manager Dan and his staff were great. Nothing was too much trouble for them and every whim was catered for.
The tables at the wedding breakfast were named after incredible 17th Century women, such as Queen Henrietta Maria, Brilliana Harley, and my favourite, Lucy Countess of Carlisle.
All in all, we had an amazing day and have some very special memories to look back upon. I still have my dress. It has been worn since, but is now safely boxed up (wrapped in acid free tissue) on top of the wardrobe.