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
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.
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,
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.
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.