Bringing out a new collection is such a lengthy process that it seems like an age since I actually designed this season’s bridalwear. It’s wonderful to see Folie Frocks finally available at Ian Stuart stockists nationwide – and of course at our very own Blewcoat store.

There is no theme as such. We just made a conscious decision that this collection would only include pieces that carry my signature styling and scream Ian Stuart loud and clear!

They are structured, high fashion gowns that create a dramatic silhouette – a strong contrast to my last bridal collection, Le Jardin, which is more dreamy and romantic.

I’m always asked what the inspiration was for any given collection and on this occasion I can honestly say it was the real brides that I meet at The Blewcoat. I love chatting to them face-to-face to understand what they dream of for their big day and it was such an honour to be recognised for Best In-Store Design at this year’s bridal Bridal Buyer Awards.

The current trend is for ethereal, boho-style wedding dresses so I like the idea that Folie Frocks is a sassier, more glamourous option for brides who want an alternative to the vintage look. This new collection offers a wonderful palate of colour options, luxurious fabrics and as always, the potential for each gown to be customised to the individual.

Folie Frocks has options for brides that are marrying in a cathedral, on a beach, in a town hall or at a woodland festival. I have to bear in mind that we have brides who are in the 60s getting married for the first time. Not everyone wants a Cinderella ball gown which is why diversity is so crucial.

When we first released images from the Folie Frocks photoshoot, the reaction was amazing (particularly to the more dramatic dresses like Flamingo Flair, which is the one covered in feathers!)  It means we can all breathe a sigh of relief after months of hard graft. I sincerely hope that the reaction to Licence to Frill, my lastest Occasion Wear collection, is just as encouraging.

I hope you enjoy the Folie Frocks gowns, whether or not you are getting married!

Stay fabulous,

Ian x

 


Alex and Toby’s wedding photographs caught our attention because the style of Alex’s bridal gown was so perfectly suited to the venue. The dress is unmistakably Ian Stuart, so we wanted to know more about how and why it made such a statement on the day. Alex generously agreed to tell us more…..

Set amid 250 acres, Buxted Park is a beautiful Palladian country house in East Sussex (think grand staircases, high ceilings, wide terraces and Venetian-style columns). The building dates from 1722 and is undeniably grand. Having driven past it by chance, Alex knew that the style and location would work perfectly for the wedding.

But she also knew that her dress could easily be overshadowed by such an imposing setting. “The current trend is for boho or slinky, ethereal dresses and I just knew that wasn’t going to work for my figure, or for the venue,” says Alex.

She was honest enough to admit that, despite being massively excited about the idea of marrying Toby, she had gained weight since meeting him and was therefore not thrilled about the idea of trying on wedding dresses, or being the centre of attention on the day.

Women are supposed to have this magical experience of shopping for THE dress and yet the reality is often very different because there is such enormous pressure to look their absolute best on their wedding day. Alex looks every inch the radiant bride in the photographs, so it was a surprise to hear that she found the whole thing quite daunting – until of course, she found the perfect dress.

Alex recruited her mother and two close friends to go shopping with; one of whom was to be her Maid of Honour, the other a close male friend (who just happens to be a wedding planner – more about that later).

Although she didn’t set out to buy Ian Stuart, Alex does recall that in her younger days, her and her friends would look at his website and daydream about their future weddings! Alex says she has always been drawn to Ian’s flamboyant, theatrical elements, his attention to detail and the quality of the fabric with its sparkly embellishments.

Alex worked as cabin crew for 12 years and despite those early aspirations for a dream wedding, it wasn’t until she changed career that she met the dream husband. On her first day working for a new homes developer, she ran into site manager Toby who had a “cheeky twinkle in his eye” that attracted her immediately. Although it took him a few months to ask her out for dinner, they were engaged within the year.

Dress shopping was in Tunbridge Wells, with appointments at Pantiles Bride and its sister store, Go Bridal. Conscious of her body shape (she is quite large busted), Alex was nervous about being on show, even in front of such close confidants.

“I wanted a dress that would make me stand out amongst all the grandeur. Some were beautiful but reminded me too much of a 1920s theme, others just looked ridiculous because I am quite top heavy,” Alex explains.

Her doubts were cast aside when Go Bridal stylist Laura suggested she try Ian Stuart’s ‘Frederique’. Everyone instantly knew it was the one and Alex recalls there being an audible gasp when she walked out of the changing room. “You just know when it’s right. I didn’t want to take it off. I loved the metallic feel to the fabric and how it embraced my curves,” she says.

Wedding planner Aidan Flynn was on hand to advise on all aspects of the wedding. He recalls that Alex tried on lots of lovely gowns, but it was only when the Ian Stuart came out that the ‘wow’ factor entered the room. “I could see from Alex’s gleaming smile that it gave her confidence. I loved it too; full of glamour, detail and such an unusual cut,” he remembers.

Glamour became the theme for the wedding and to avoid it being too twee, Aidan came up with the concept of ‘modern glamour’, inspired by the silver tones of the lace. “This fabulous dress opened up so many options for me to style the day and to maximise the décor, confident in the knowledge that Alex would still stand out and take her guests’ breath away,” Aidan says.

When Toby finally got to see his bride at the altar on a particularly hot day back in May, he immediately commented on how much he loved her dress. And that’s all that matters.

Images by @mystyledshoot


Ian Stuart- The Posh Frock Shop

What a memorable summer this has been!

The Channel 4 show about my flagship London store finally aired after months of nervousness about how it would be received. And just to add a bit more pressure, we had two days of catwalk shows to launch my latest Occasion Wear collection, Licence to Frill! Not to mention the photoshoot we had to organise for Folie Frocks, which is next year’s bridal collection.

I’m extremely happy (and relieved) that the response to The Posh Frock Shop has been so overwhelmingly positive. Up to a million viewers tuned in each weekday to see what goes on behind the scenes at The Blewcoat (the most common complaint being that the half hour show wasn’t long enough!)

There were so many memorable, funny, tear-jerking moments and I’m really proud of how our small team coped with the pressure of filming on top of running the business as usual. It was stressful at times, but also a lot of fun.

We are used to people getting their kit off at The Blewcoat, but burlesque dancer Miss Strawberry Moon took it to a whole new level! And who could ever forget the Chihuahua bride, or Belinda, who needed an outfit to match her parrot?!

We are lucky to have such a unique mix of clients and hopefully the show portrayed us as real, down to earth people who genuinely want to help women look their absolute best. I think our passion for the job was evident.

Lots of women are daunted by the idea of going to a ‘posh’ boutique which is one of the reasons I agreed to do the show. They will often say to me; “I’d love to wear that if only I was younger/slimmer/taller/more confident.”

Experienced designers know how to dress ANY body shape and there should be no snobbery about who can and can’t shop in boutiques like mine. I honestly believe that anyone can look incredible given a bit of help from the experts.

I am very aware that not everyone can afford designer clothes, but cost aside, my collections are accessible to all women, irrespective of age, shape or size. Each dress is a labour of love and the amount of skill and time that goes into making them is reflected in both the quality and the price.

Lots of you are asking whether there will be another series of The Posh Frock Shop and the honest answer is that we really hope so. The production company has announced that they are now planning the next series so it looks promising. We will let you know when there is any update.

You can imagine how nerve-wracking it was to open ourselves up to criticism, so I want to say a big thank you to each and every person who has been in touch to say how much they enjoyed watching us. I have been so touched by all the supportive messages and words of encouragement. I’ve even had gifts in the post, such as the adorable hand-knitted scarf I’m wearing in the photo. I never expected viewers to be so thoughtful and generous.

Thank you once again for all the love and loyalty shown to me and my team. Hope to see many of you at The Blewcoat sometime soon. You will always get a very warm welcome.

Ian x

 


One of the most memorable and touching moments of The Posh Frock Shop was when Army Captain Hannah saw herself in a wedding dress for the first time.

As a transgender woman, Hannah has been through a different journey from most brides-to-be and many viewers of the Channel 4 show were moved to tears by her honesty and optimism:

“I’m going to marry the man I love, looking like the woman I am. And I can’t wait,” she said on episode 4 of the show.

Hannah knew she wanted a figure-hugging dress and something to accentuate her waist. “I definitely didn’t want anything A line because my figure is straight up and down and I needed something to give me curves,” she explains.

‘Neptune’ from Ian’s ‘Runway Rebel’ bridal collection was the first dress Hannah tried on when she visited The Blewcoat just six weeks before her wedding to fiancé, Jake.

The classic, strapless gown made her look curvy, elegant and feminine which is exactly the look she wanted to achieve.  Hannah was clearly overwhelmed when she first saw herself in the mirror and was surprised by how beautiful she felt in the dress.

“It was an emotional moment because there was a time in my life when I thought I could never be loved. Any woman can relate to the dream of finding love and having the fairytale wedding, transgender or not,” she says.

Although Ian encouraged her to try on some of his other designs by way of comparison, it was ‘Neptune’ that Hannah came back to because it felt right and gave her butterflies in her stomach. Ian encouraged her to go with that gut feeling.

“Hannah is beautiful and her story touched us in a way that is difficult to describe. I’m honoured that she chose one of my designs for her big day. I wish her and Jake all the luck in the world,” says Ian.

Hannah describes her experience at The Blewcoat as “amazing”, although admits to being nervous about entering such a stereotypically feminine space. She feels more comfortable buying clothes online.

Store manager Carrelyn was able to reassure Hannah that it is normal for women to feel that mix of nerves and excitement as they try on wedding dresses for the first time. For Hannah, the emotions were heightened and magnified given what she has been through to feel entirely comfortable with who she is:

“I have always been a woman, I just had to do something to align my body with that,” she says.

Lots of women have body hang ups and Hannah is no different; she was very open about what she describes as the ‘emotional baggage’ that comes with being transgender.

Reflecting on the dress fitting, Carrelyn says: “Hannah is a confident and articulate woman, yet she has this vulnerability. I felt a real warmth towards her and was privileged to share such a special moment with her.”

31 year-old Hannah was assigned as a male at birth and only transitioned five years ago. She became active within the LBGT community which is how she met Jake, who is also transgender.

As early as the first date, Hannah knew that she had found someone she had a future with. “He impressed me straightaway and is all the things you want in a partner,” she says. “I never thought love and marriage was on the cards for me. I had genuinely prepared myself for being alone.”

As Jake and Hannah are both high profile advocates for LBGT rights, the couple’s March wedding received a lot of press coverage. They opted for a small, intimate ceremony at Chelsea Town hall, followed by a reception at an Italian restaurant.

They now share married quarters at Sandhurst, where Hannah is based, with Jake living part of the week in London due to his work commitments. They look forward to their big next adventure which is to have a family.

Jake and Hannah’s wedding photography is by Paul Grace.

 

 

 


Harry & Meghan

Not long now until the wedding of the year and I for one, cannot wait to see that dress! Whatever Meghan wears, it’s safe to say that it will be seared in our collective memories and will become an icon of its age. Who can forget Diana’s puffy sleeves that so perfectly capture the essence of 80s style?

A wedding dress is symbolic of an individual’s sense of self, which is why it’s so important to work with a designer who understands who you are and what you are about. You might have your heart set on a dress you’ve seen in a magazine, but it takes someone with years of experience to really know how to make the best of a woman’s figure.

That dress you are yearning for is not always the one that flatters you most, so my advice is to opt for a designer that you identify with and trust completely. My clients know that I am 100% committed to making them look and feel fabulous, not least because how they look is a reflection of me as a designer.

Ms Markle is a force to be reckoned with and a breath of fresh air for the Royals. I hope to see her in something a little bit edgy to reflect a new era of British royalty. Rumour has it that she may even wear two dresses on the big day. This would give her scope to keep the traditionalists happy with something demure and romantic for the ceremony, followed with a sexier, more revealing number for the evening, just to make clear her intention to be a thoroughly modern member of the Royal clan.

I’m a firm believer that brides should not feel restricted to wearing ivory or white, but I think perhaps one of my statement black gowns would be a step too far for a royal wedding, even for a modernist like Meghan. She is said to be a fan of the whimsical, romantic look so she would appreciate my current bridal collection, ‘Le Jardin’ which is all butterflies and meadow flowers with dreamy, romantic veils. The royals love a tiara so I’m willing to bet Meghan will be wearing one, in true princess style.

I hate to bring it up, but we have Meghan’s first wedding to go on, which gives us a clue to her sense of occasion. As this was a beach wedding in Jamaica (a far cry from St George’s Chapel), she chose a simple, strapless gown – a paired down look, perfect for a non-traditional ceremony.

I’m known for customising and accessorising my designs to make them unique to each bride and Meghan’s first wedding dress is a classic example of how a dress can be elevated with something as simple as a sparkly belt. I love her jewel encrusted version which made the dress that extra bit special (even if the husband didn’t turn out to be Prince Charming after all!)

Come May 19th, the eyes of the world will be on Meghan and I’m sure she is really feeling the pressure to get her look just right. The power of a dress means that we will be talking about it for years to come.

I relate to Harry with his cheeky sense of fun and down to earth approach. He seems completely enthralled with his sassy bride-to-be so I wish them lots of love, luck and laughter.

Enjoy the celebrations,
Ian x


Rochelle & Ben-real weddings
Rochelle & Ben

We want to know your story; how did you meet?
Ben and I have known each other for around 14 years. We met when we were in our early teens at a local carnival. We dated on a couple of occasions over the years but it never seemed to be the right time for either of us. We bumped into each other for the final time in 2012 at a mutual friend’s party and we have been together since.

How did he propose?
Ben whisked me off for a 2 night stay to Newcastle and we stayed in a gorgeous penthouse apartment. Although it’s so close to were we live, it has always been one of my favourite cities. I had no idea he was going to propose though, he just kept saying it was a treat for how hard i’d worked within my business – especially over the busy festive period. As it was a few days before Christmas, he had small gifts wrapped up which he gave me throughout the days while we were there. On the second night we were getting ready to go out for a meal to the Baltic Flour Mill (Six). He told me to open the gift on the table which was a set of Swarovski champagne flutes. When I turned round he was down on one knee and I was gobsmacked! Little did I know the flutes were for a toast, and the meal was for our engagement. I liked how confident he was that I’d say yes! He proposed with the LeVian ring I’d pointed out around a year prior, I had said If I ever got engaged I would want something like it – rose gold, distinctive with coloured stones. It still baffles me how he remembered, as it was only said in passing!

How did you know that your Ian Stuart Dress was the right choice for your big day?
I knew I wanted to be an Ian Stuart Bride as soon as I laid eyes on his designs. Run of the mill dresses just didn’t appeal to me and I love how unique his style is. Whether they are your taste or not; each of his dresses are timeless and a work of art in their own right, nobody can deny that. The closest stockist to where we live is Y.A.P Bridal Boutique in Newcastle. At my appointment I tried on only four of Ian’s gowns and I loved them all, but there was just something missing from first three I tried. The final dress I tried was La Fayette. Before my bridal consultant (Danni) got the zip half way up, I burst into tears. I knew I had found my dress instantly. When Danni pulled back the curtain for my Mam and Auntie to see, they both had the exact same reaction! I didn’t think the ‘bridal moment’ was a real thing, but it clearly was for me. I opted for the matching cathedral veil and I purchased my headdress from here also. The three of us had the most magical time at this boutique. I also decided to have the dressing experience that Y.A.P offers. The girls came out to dress me and my bridal party on the day and honestly, I couldn’t have managed without them. I would highly recommend it to anyone, even more so if if you have a big dress.

Real Weddings

Was there a theme/colour theme at your wedding? 
The theme for the wedding seemed to evolve as time went by. We knew we wanted something glamorous as it reflects our personal taste both as individuals and as a couple. I’ve always loved really bright, punchy colours and I was getting so bored of seeing the usual anaemic colour schemes in bridal magazines. When I looked at La Fayette, I saw mix of say –  Marie Antoinette & Southern Belle. So I decided to run with that… you could say the theme was very much centred around the dress. The only way I could describe our theme is – Parisian Sophistication and New Orleans Colour Pop, with a hint of British Etiquette. The fabulous Kat from ‘The Whole Sch-Bang’ in Gateshead created the full decor including the flowers, our guests were simply blown away. They said it was so different to anything that they’d seen before.

Did you incorporate any specific traditions in your wedding, such as ‘something old, something new, borrowed and blue’?
Although the wedding itself was quite a modern affair. We still tried to do all of the usual wedding traditions. Myself and Ben stayed in separate houses the night before on Rockliffe grounds and didn’t see each other till I walked down the aisle towards him. My something old was also something borrowed, my mam’s white handkerchief that belonged to my great grandma Annie. It is over 60 years old has an A embroidered on it. This was so relevant with my new surname being Anderson and was perfect for dabbing away the few tears I had on the day. Most of the things bought for the wedding were new and my Aquazurra Bridal Booties had powder blue soles. My Dad also placed sixpence in my shoe for the ceremony.

Rochelle & Ben- Real Weddings

Do you have any advice to share with women who are about to embark on this incredible journey of planning their wedding and selecting their wedding dress?
Just try to enjoy it as much as you can. I spent far too much time stressing about minuscule details, that on the day I didn’t even notice. In hindsight, planning a wedding is very hard work – especially along with all of your usual daily tasks. I found it especially difficult trying to juggle running a house and two businesses, whilst also planning our dream wedding. Constant email threads, phone calls and questionnaires from suppliers became the bane of my life, my only regret is that I found it more of a hindrance rather than looking at the bigger picture. They were all just trying to make sure the day as seamless as possible; which is what it was.  Now I can’t believe it’s all over and would love to have the planning time back and re-live the day again. Select your suppliers wisely and most importantly, trust your venue. They will have likely done hundreds if not thousands of weddings before yours and they know exactly what they are doing. Oh and delegate… if someone can help you, let them!

With regard to choosing the dress, try and look at it more like the dress choosing you. You need to feel utterly beautiful & absolutely unstoppable in your gown while being the best possible version of yourself. Ian Stuart Bride certainly does that…


April & Andrew

April & Andrew

We want to know your story, how did you meet?
We met when we were kids (at 5 and 6) and have been lifelong friends, we were just always meant to be together. Our Families were close and always knew we would end up together, even when we tried to tell them we were just friends. We started dating when Andy came home on leave from his tour in Afghanistan in October 2012. The first few months that he was out there made us realise just how much we cared for each other. We stayed in contact during his deployment and have been together ever since.

How did he propose?
He proposed on a weekend away in the Lake District. It was a beautiful autumn day and we had gone for a walk in Keswick. While we were walking through Hope Park he got down on one knee, before he could ask me the question I threw my arms around him and said yes.

How did you know that your Ian Stuart Dress was the right choice for you big day?
I had looked at so many dresses online but none of them jumped out at me. I wanted something different, something that stood out from the rest. I had opened a bridal magazine and there on the first page was the dress – Evangelista. I hadn’t even tried it on but I knew it was the one. I called our closest Bridal shop that stocked Ian Stuart Gowns and asked if they had it. Unfortunately they didn’t but they had a Designer Day scheduled in the coming weeks and could ask to have a sample of it brought up. The weekend I was go try the dress on I was unwell and had to cancel my appointment, I was devastated but the teams at Ian Stuart and Anne Priscilla organised to have the sample dress kept in the shop a bit longer so I could try it. I am so grateful that they did. The moment I tried the dress on I never wanted to take it off. It was perfect. All I had to do now was order it and wait the 2 years until our wedding date to wear it again.

Andrew & April's wedding day

Andrew & April’s wedding day

Was there a theme/colour theme at your wedding?
Our colour scheme was Navy Blue and Silver and the theme was The Movies. My husband and I are a bit geeky and big movie fans so it made sense for it to be our theme. Instead of classical music or hymns we had overtures and iconic tunes from movies played throughout the day, at dinner and in our service. We had Capella Quartet play at our service and our guests were pleasantly surprised when we signed the register to melody’s from Gladiator and Jurassic Park and we walked out to the Throne Room Theme from Star Wars. We wanted to have a day that was relaxed and fun so nothing was too serious. We also had a popcorn bar and Navy Blue and Grey M&Ms for Favours.

Did you incorporate any specific traditions in your wedding, such as ‘something old, something new, borrowed and blue’?
We did. I wore my mum’s veil as my something old. My shoes were made with My Husbands Tartan and had blue glittery soles, this was my something blue. My something borrowed was a beautiful Tiffany Heart necklace and bracelet that my Maid of Honour Linsey wore at her wedding the year before. My something new was a beautiful ivory fur stole from my Maid of Honour Fiona and staying with tradition my Maid of Honour Catheren gave me a sixpence for my shoe for luck. Quite untraditionally I had three Maids of Honour and Andrew had two Best Men, Matthew and Cameron. Andy and my brother Matthew have been friends since they were children so it was really nice to have him there supporting us both on the day. My Mum who is a minister with the Church of Scotland performed the wedding ceremony and Andy’s Mum did a reading that we had asked her to pick and would be a surprise for us on the day. The whole service was just beautiful and so personal having both our mums involved.

April & Andrew- Wedding Day

Do you have any advice to share with women who are about to embark on this incredible journey of planning their wedding and selecting their wedding dress?
I think the most important bit of advice I can give is the same advice that so many people gave me and that I struggled to follow, ‘This is you and your partner’s’ day, it is about your love, your partnership and celebrating the life you have and will continue to build together. Do it your way and stay true to who you are as a couple. Your wedding is just one day, you still have the rest of your lives together so don’t get too bogged down with the details because things in life never go to plan and that’s ok. At the end of the day all that matters is that you love each other. You can’t ever please everyone and no matter what, someone will always find something they aren’t happy about. Fill your day with love, joy and people that love you both and it will be perfect.’

And as for finding the perfect dress I can safely say from shopping for my own and a few of my friends ‘The right dress is the one you put on and never want to take off again, the one that gives you confidence and makes you feel beautiful’

April & Andrew's Wedding Day

Signing the registry

Brides Name: April Hickman (now Sutherland)
Spouses Name: Andrew Sutherland
Gowns Name: Evangelista
Boutique: Anne Priscilla Bridal Glasgow
Wedding Date: 6th January 2018
Location: The Lochside House Hotel, New Cumnock


Hello 2018. It’s certainly going to be a biggie for me so let’s hope it’s a memorable year for you too (for all the right reasons, of course!)

I have been sworn to secrecy for months, but can now FINALLY reveal what 2018 has in store (The Blewcoat store obviously!) for the world of Ian Stuart.

Channel 4 has commissioned a documentary series entitled ‘The Posh Frock Shop’ about my flagship London store, which just happens to be housed in an exquisite Grade One Listed, National Trust building dating back to the 18th Century.

The Frock Shop

The Posh Frock Shop

If you have not yet had the chance to visit The Blewcoat, you’re in for a real treat. The show will access all areas, giving you what I hope will be an honest glimpse into my life, my business and the world of couture fashion.

Viewers will get to know the different characters that make up my trusted team and will be introduced to some of my favourite (and not so favourite) clients and their entourages.

I was so excited to be asked to do the show, but I have to tell you that the 16 weeks of filming was full on. The cameras were with us for up to six days a week so that’s a fair bit of pressure in an already busy life. A lot of fun at times, yet stressful too.

I have no say in how the show will be edited so there is obviously an element of nervousness about opening ourselves up, warts and all. I operate in a glamourous world of high fashion, but I’m hoping that the show will also highlight the amount of work and talent that goes into each collection, each and every dress.

The hardest part was trying to ensure minimum disruption at The Blewcoat – our priority, as always, is to provide a top notch, luxury shopping experience for women with fabulous taste.

The Frock Shop

The Posh Frock Shop

We are small, tight-knit team at The Blewcoat and I’m proud of how we coped with filming on top of back-to-back appointments with clients all wanting the dress of their dreams.

The show will be aired from 11 June so look out for it on C4. I have put a lot of faith in the production company and I just hope the series is a fair representation of the Ian Stuart brand and of my loyal and dedicated team. I owe a huge thank you to all my wonderful, crazy clients who so generously agreed to be filmed at their fittings.

The Frock Shop show is my big news for this year, but alongside all that excitement I have been working away on my new collections. All will be revealed soon.

Happy 2018,

Ian x


It was obvious from a young age that I would have a career in fashion. What I didn’t anticipate, is becoming so tuned in to the female psyche! It’s not just how a dress looks that I’m concerned with, but what it says about a woman and how it can make them feel.

Ian Stuart- campaing image

I’ve been in the business for almost 20 years and my designs are sold in boutiques around the world. It’s only in the last few years, however – since the launch of my flagship store in London – that I’ve been able to interact on any meaningful level with the women I am designing for.

For this reason, I try and spend at least one or two days a week at The Blewcoat as it helps me better understand women’s body shapes and what they really want from my designs. It gives me that edge, ensuring that my collections are highly coveted and desirable, yet wearable.

The combination of Bridal, Special Occasion and Evening Wear collections means that my clients span a wide age demographic. It’s a thrill to be able to dress both the bride and her mother; each being at a different time in their life and wanting different things from my designs.

Personal shopping at The Blewcoat can feel a bit like being in therapy (though far more enjoyable obviously!) Clients feel so at ease that they really open up about their lives and how they feel about their bodies. It’s a privilege getting to know women from so many countries, cultures and walks of life – over the years I’ve heard SO many interesting stories about the women I dress.

Alongside the glowing brides-to-be and the ball-breaking diva types, there are just as many women feeling a bit down on themselves, perhaps because they no longer have the figure they once had, or because they’ve lost their way in terms of their personal style.

Our appointment service enables us to get to know the client and give them a different perspective on who they are and what works for them. Some can’t wait to try on my latest creations; others come with deeply ingrained ideas about what will or won’t suit them. They may need a bit of gentle persuasion to step out of their comfort zone and try something new.

It goes without saying that every bride wants to feel at her most beautiful on her wedding day. What is much less understood is the way the mother of the bride/groom feels about such a momentous family occasion.

Although mothers of the bride are usually happy and excited about the forthcoming nuptials, deep down they are often terrified about being “on show”. They feel under pressure to look fabulous without taking the limelight away from their daughter. They don’t want to get it wrong or feel like they have let their family down.

In the other camp, the mother of the groom can feel that she is somehow less important than the bride’s mother. It is all very British, not wanting to upstage anyone or draw attention to themselves. I find women can be anxious about committing a fashion faux pas such as colour clashing with the bride or bridesmaids, or wearing something too short/showy/shiny. It can all be a bit of minefield without help from the professionals.

My team at The Blewcoat have a wealth of experience and are highly skilled at finding what works for an individual (both visually and psychologically – it’s about looking AND feeling good). They are adept at making the whole shopping experience relaxing and fun. What’s not to enjoy about taking time out for yourself in such a beautiful, historic building?

We love having drop in visitors, but it’s much better to make an appointment to really get the most out of the experience. We need make sure the bubbles are on ice ready for you!

Although I joke about being a pseudo-therapist for clients, for now at least, I think I will stick to the designing.

Be good,

Ian x


My latest collections ‘Move Over Darling’ and ‘Le Jardin’ are available to buy in stores as of this month so I’m excited to see how they will be received.

Did I mention that ‘Move Over Darling’ won the award for Best Occasion Wear at this year’s Bridal Buyer Awards?! I’m best known for bridal wear so I was super happy to get this recognition for another string to my bow (although I did win Best Occasion Wear back in 2012 too).

2017 Award to Ian Stuart

People always want to know what inspires each collection and a lot of the time I can’t put my finger on it as I am always subliminally taking on new ideas. I get inspiration from everyday things like wallpaper, or a ceramic tile and of course, I’m always checking out what other people are wearing. It can be the tiniest little detail that gives me the gem of an idea.

Launching a new collection is a mammoth amount of work for my team although the actual designing stage only lasts a couple of weeks. Generally, I sketch out ideas at home so I can listen to different types of music and be surrounded by things that inspire me. I’ve got loads of books that I like to look through and I’m really into this idea that music can alter a person’s mood and influence the creative thinking process. With ‘Le Jardin’, I had been listening to lots of 1960s French music which is frivolous and fun as opposed to something with diva-style attitude!

I sketch anything up to 50 designs for each collection. These are all made up as samples and then we have what is known as a ‘line review’ to decide which ones should make the final cut – usually around 25 pieces.

Even after the line review process is complete, I’ll still be making adjustments to the patterns as I’m liable to change my mind once I actually see the design in the flesh on a real body. There is still time to make tweaks before the dresses hit the shops and I’m an absolute perfectionist as you can imagine.

For each collection, there is an industry launch before the focus turns to the photo shoot; the models and backdrops are all carefully chosen to emulate the overall vibe of the collection.

As the name suggests, ‘Le Jardin’ is very floral and whimsical (think butterflies and meadow flowers). Veils are very much a thing at the moment and they perfectly complement the dreamy, romantic dresses.

It’s not all sweetness and light though. Have you seen the black bridal gown from ‘Le Jardin’? It’s not one for your traditional bride, although it looks sensational on. I think the black is stunning and makes a real statement for a woman adventurous in her style. I’m known for experimenting with colour as I don’t think brides should be restricted to just white or ivory.

Black wedding dress by Ian Stuart

The reaction to ‘Move Over Darling’ has so far been great. It has a retro feel with lots of mid-length dresses, hence the Doris Day theme. Mothers of the Bride/Groom have traditionally worn a short jacket over a dress so I wanted to give them a bit more choice. For those who prefer to have their arms covered, this collection has lots of lace sleeved options and also some frock coats as an alternative to the conventional shorter jacket. There are sleeveless dresses too and some with a matching shawl which fits with the retro 60s look and is particularly flattering on the arms without being too covered up.

As you would expect from me, ‘Move Over Darling’ has a lot of colour – mainly pastel shades but also some metallic colours which can really lift the dress from every-day to special occasion wear.  In contrast to the pastel tones, there are some bolder print fabrics, including an all over floral dress which is one of my favourites and a polka dot print which is fun and frivolous – perfect for a day at the races or to stand out from the crowd at a wedding.

Until next time,

Ian x


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