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Bridal shopping: top tips

PUBLISHED: 08:16 25 April 2015 | UPDATED: 13:18 26 April 2015

Any Occasion

Any Occasion

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

How to choose your all-important Mother of the Bride outfit for your daughter's Big Day

That title alone was enough to give me the courage to venture inside a boutique in Tunbridge Wells I had previously thought was 1) Too Posh and 2) Too Scary.

Any Occasion is neither and even though I was interviewing the owner and ‘helping’ with the photographs we needed for this feature, I still managed to buy (entirely unplanned – I am still in shock) my dress, jacket and hat, almost without trying.

It helps that the owner and managing director, Kelly Nash, is friendly, down to earth, knows her stuff and, importantly, doesn’t push her customers into decisions (or budgets) they aren’t comfortable with.

Not only that, the whole concept of this highly individual boutique came about because of Kelly’s experience trying to find an outfit for her own Mum when she herself got married.

“It was a complete nightmare,” she admits. “My Mum is young looking, very trendy and wherever we looked it was too fuddy duddy and just not her.

“We ended up buying a dress from one place, a jacket from another and the same happened with her shoes and accessories. We spent far longer finding 
her outfit than mine, because there was simply nothing on offer.”

Hence the ‘light bulb moment’, as Kelly describes creating her ‘one-stop’ boutique. Fortunately, she has a strong background in the bridal sector, having studied fashion at Brighton University, specialised in corsetry at the London College of Fashion and worked with Go Bridal and The Pantiles Bride in Tunbridge Wells (where she met her business partner Helen), initially as a shop assistant but rapidly moving up to manager and then area manager.

“It was a scary thing to go out and do exclusively,” she says, “but I really wanted to provide an experience for the mums that mine just hadn’t had. Mother of the Bride is the second most-judged person on the day, but every woman has something she doesn’t like about her body and that only seems to get worse with age. I wanted to create an environment that was calm, relaxing and made mum feel special.”

Kelly and Helen have certainly achieved that with Any Occasion, just opposite the entrance to the Pantiles. Welcoming, unstuffy and stylish, the open main showroom with a curtained-off changing area is an appealing place to be with its black and white decor providing the perfect backdrop to the colourful rows of dresses.

And buying your outfit is just the first step, as Kelly explains. “High Street designs aren’t made to be adjusted, but ours are made to be tailored and selecting the gown is just the starting point.

“Once you have chosen your outfit we then do a fitting three weeks before the wedding date in case your body shape has changed. Most common alterations are little shoulder lifts and easing on the waist or hips, which is done in store by our team of very experienced seamstresses.”

While the majority of customers are after that perfect outfit for their daughter or son’s wedding, the boutique also caters for bridesmaids with a smaller first-floor area of delectable dresses in varying lengths and styles that would also work for increasingly popular Prom nights.

And for those in search of something special to wear for Ascot and similar events, there’s an excellent choice of hats and fascinators, shoes, bags and jewellery.

Although there are more than 1,000 outfits in stock, making this one of the largest selections of occasion wear in London and the south east, Kelly and Helen only ever buy three of any one design to guarantee exclusivity.

With prices starting from £150 up to £1,000 and designers including Linea Raffaelli, Condici, Cabotine and John Charles (new this season to the store) there is something for all tastes and budgets.

“We buy six to eight months in advance, which is hard, but we are not afraid of not buying a collection just for the sake of it,” says Kelly. “We’re now quite sought after for people wanting to have their stock with us, so we need each designer to earn their place on the rail. All our collections complement one another and I can now say, hand on heart, that I don’t have one designer who does better than the others.”

I ask whether seasonal fashion trends affect this sector and Kelly tells me: “For example, bolero jackets have been ‘in’ for the last eight years, but people are tiring a bit of them now and going for midi jackets.

“People don’t tend to like blazer styles because they find them a bit like a suit, while the ‘Middleton effect’ brought the long-line jackets back into fashion. There’s also been a change from straighter dresses to A-line, ruching became a phenomenon two or three years ago, and the vintage trend has started to trickle through from the bridal – which is why there is a lot of lace in Mother of the Bride outfits now.”

Kelly adds: “Colours change from season to season – two or three years ago it was all aqua and turquoise now it’s blushes, soft golds and silvers, more muted tones. Later we’ll be seeing more fuschias and lemons.”

What is the most satisfying part of her role? “I think it’s that we get all ages here, from very young Mothers of the Bride to Grandmothers, plus all shapes and sizes from 8 to 30. We are there to help, not to judge, and to bring out your best assets.

“We get so many lovely thank you cards, gifts and photos of the wedding; people come back in with their albums, so we get to see the daughter too. It’s lovely.”

Kelly’s top tips

● Be open minded; if you are looking for something that doesn’t exist, you are not going to find it

● Accept help

● Take someone with you whose opinion you trust but don’t forget it’s you wearing the dress; you have to feel comfortable as well as fabulous and know that you can put it on and not worry about it on the Big Day

● Make sure you are projecting how you want to look on the day

● Make sure it fits well; any designer boutique should ensure that is the case

● Wear proper foundation garments, to the final fitting and on the day: smooth-line underwear and a good bra with support

● You don’t have to follow the theme of the wedding; you won’t want to clash, but you can add subtle touches via your accessories to tie it subtly in. You need to look (and feel) good as an individual

● Get the right colour for your skin tone

● Choose the right shoe and heel height for you, the shoe company can then dye them to whatever colour you want (£35 cost, to include handbag if bought from store). It’s much easier to get the shoe dyed than waste time trying to find the right colour.- elsewhere.

Find out more

Any Occasion

1 Nevill Street

Tunbridge Wells TN2 5RU

01892 521177

Open: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-5pm, 
Thu 10am-9pm, Sun and late-night Thu 
by appointment only

Mail order: http://anyoccasionboutique.com

n

Find out more

Any Occasion

1 Nevill Street

Tunbridge Wells TN2 5RU

01892 521177

Open: Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat 10am-5pm, 
Thu 10am-9pm, Sun and late-night Thu 
by appointment only

Mail order: http://anyoccasionboutique.com

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