Tag Archives: Catherine Massey

Becoming a Bridal Consultant

I’ve been writing this blog for two years now, but I’ve only just realised that I’ve barely introduced myself! I reckon it is about time that I told you about myself, my background and explain why I’m qualified to write all these articles about wedding dresses! My name is Catherine Massey, and I am 32 years old.  I have been running the family bridal boutique for the last nine years, and just so you know ‘bridal’ was never my plan!

Catherine Massey, Cathedral Gowns

My mum and aunt decided to open the boutique when I was 18 and in the midst of my A-level exams.  To tell you the truth, I barely even noticed. I took myself off to university in England and four years later, after completing my degree (BSc Hons Communications & Society from the University of Leicester), I moved home with the plan to get a job in PR in Belfast. It was the middle of August aka bridal mad season, and mum was run off her feet and needed a hand, so I went to work with her. That was 9 years ago!

Cathedral Gowns, shop front

Somehow I got the bug for bridal and it turned out that I was actually pretty good at it. It’s bizarre to think how this all came about by pure accident, but somehow everything I had studied had somehow led me to be doing this.

My favourite subject at school was history of art and I can hardly believe now how much that prepared me for what I am doing – I reference something I learned there nearly every day. And as for my degree… I use it all the time, especially my marketing and PR skills.  However, more than anything, it was the film studies portion of my degree that informs my decisions regarding looks, details and accessories the most. If you’ve ever had an appointment with me you’ve probably heard me get excitedly geeky about ‘old hollywood’ and the imagery of ‘film noir’. Even just today I told a girl how her look in a particular dress was very ‘Veronica Lake’ and described the kind of way she should wear her hair.

Cathedral Gowns, wedding dresses on a rack

Sometimes it feels like fate brought me here. One of my first bridal clients was a girl I went to primary school with, her name is Katrina. During her time visiting us she told me how she’d always known that this is what I would be doing when I grew up.  Apparently all I ever did at school was draw dresses – if I wasn’t going to be a designer she was sure I was at least going to be doing something in the fashion realm!

I started out as a bridal consultant, but as time has progressed, mum passed on more and more responsibility on to me and now I am running the boutique and take care of everything except the accounts. I get to go to trade shows, meet the designers and buy our dresses.  Whilst I enjoy all those adventures the part I love the most is meeting brides and introducing them to their dream dress!  There is nothing quite like the buzz of suggesting a dress to a girl, and watching her fall in love with it. I never thought a job could be so fulfilling but I genuinely leave the boutique every day with a smile on my face, and I never dread having to go to work!

Article by Catherine Massey

Catherine has been writing Bi-Weekly Article for us since the 8th May 2012 and is our very talented Bridal Specialist. Catherine is a Bridal Stylist for their family Bridal Boutique, Cathedral Gowns. Find them onlineat http://www.cathedralgowns.com or on Facebook.

Any questions, email catherine@thebeautycloud.co.uk

Why does it take so long to buy a Wedding Dress?

I’ve noticed a huge trend recently for girls to leave bridal gown shopping until it’s almost too late! I hear lots of different reasons; some girls simply have only just gotten engaged, some girls have been dreading and putting off shopping, some haven’t had the money until now and others have been enjoying shopping too much and don’t want it to end!

The unfortunate reality of the wedding dress process is that they take quite a long time to be made and delivered to the bridal boutique. So when you leave it too late you really do limit your dress choices and options, and choosing a dress is hard enough!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

A wedding dress is typically made for the specific bride who buys it and orders it through a bridal boutique. The dress doesn’t exist until you order it, which is why it takes so long to be delivered. Bridal designers don’t operate like Marks and Spencers with epic warehouses filled to the rafters of spare stock, they might have twenty or so of their bestselling dresses available but the vast majority of dresses are made to order.

The time it takes to manufacture and deliver a wedding dress can vary. It will depend on how elaborate it is, whether the fabric is readily available, if appliqué and beading needs to be sourced etc. Contrary to popular fantasy, bridal gowns are not created by magical fairies! They are made by very talented seamstresses either in ateliers (high end designers) or factories (mainstream designers). The delivery time will obviously depend on where the dress is being manufactured, and how much the designer is willing to spend on shipping.  The whole chain of manufacture and distribution is longer, more complicated and long winded than you’d ever imagine!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

Most bridal gowns can be delivered to us within five and a half months of placing the order with the designer, but certain gowns and certain designers take much longer. I prefer a minimum of 7 months as it means that even if the dress takes six and half months to arrive we still have two weeks to organise fittings and the final prep and steaming of your dress. I do always encourage girls to order sooner though, just to make sure that the process is as stress free as possible.

Since a lot of girls don’t have the luxury of so much time, standard delivery isn’t an option, so what do you do when you are faced with this predicament? The most common option is the ‘rush cut’, where the designer can prioritise your order over all the other brides who have already ordered their dresses. Obviously since this equates to you bumping the queue and will require extra work behind the scenes for both the designer and the boutique, you will incur extra costs. Most rush cuts will be at least an additional £100 on top of the dress price, but can easily be more especially if you are really short on time. If the designer has to organise expedited shipping to get the dress to the shop as quick as possible, this can easily cost more than £100 alone. If you opt for the rush cut option be aware that any delivery dates will be approximate and the dress might only arrive with the shop days before your wedding.

Since a lot of bridal designers have noticed the trend for more and more ‘last minute brides’, they are trying to keep a lot of their most popular styles and sizes in stock, ready for immediate dispatch. But like I said before, they don’t have vast warehouses full of dresses, more like a few racks in a room next to their accounts office, so they may only have 20 or so dresses available. We are lucky that some of our designers will email us every few weeks with a list of what they have available, so you might be lucky and find that the dream dress you want is already made and ready to be posted!

Wedding Dress, Shopping, Order, Make time, Delivery Time, Cathedral Gowns

If the designer doesn’t have a dress in stock, and a rush cut is not an option or sounds like way too much stress, you will find that buying a dress ‘off the rack’ is your best option. Lots of bridal boutiques keep a clearance rail of dresses that they are willing to sell from stock, but your choices will obviously be very limited. On occasion the boutique might be willing to sell off the rail from their full price stock, but be aware that since these dresses are current the shop might not want to sell you their stock dress. Popular dresses are very valuable to a bridal boutique and to be without their best dress for several months could cost a bridal boutique a lot of customers, especially in peak busy season. If you are lucky enough to be allowed to buy the stock dress, don’t expect a discount. Be aware that the shop are doing you a favour by letting you have their dress. I know of shops that actually charge you more since it’s such an inconvenience for them to lose a top dress. So if you must have it, be nice to the girls in the shop and they’ll be more inclined to help you out.

So now that you know the options, I encourage you to book your appointments and to make sure to tell the girls how soon your wedding is. If I know my next appointment has a very close wedding date, I’ll call our suppliers to find out which dresses I can get in time for you, since there’s no point in me letting you fall in love with a dress that you cannot have. I’m not that mean!

Fall 2013 bridal trend report

I’ve always said that bridal style never changes, it simply evolves. So while sitting watching the designers new season styles on the catwalk I was surprised to see some really unusual new looks, unusual that is for bridal-wear! Peplums, sheer trousers and colour were the three main trends that seem to be emerging with many designers showcasing these looks.

1The sheer trouser was definitely the look that surprised me the most! I think I nearly choked on my champagne when I initially spotted them. My first thought was ‘what??’ and my second thought was ‘why?!’ and by the reaction of the designers agent when I said I wasn’t keen definitely suggested that this style hadn’t been popular with the other bridal boutique buyers. And that really is the major thing about bridal wear and bridal trends, a designer may produce it, but if the independent shops don’t think they could sell it, then the look will never be popular. So many interesting ideas have been showcased over the few years I’ve been attending the trade shows but unless it really is something that is flattering and will look appropriate for an actual wedding then we and other bridal boutique owners aren’t going to invest our cash into something that risky.

6The next look that took me by surprise was the peplum. A few designers showed this look back in September, but this time they were everywhere! I love a peplum in real life but since it is such a statement trend I’m not so keen on it for bridal-wear. I did spot some really beautiful interpretations of this trend though that really had me tempted to buy but I fear that unless you are tall and slim it might be a very unkind and unflattering silhouette.

There also seems to be a resurgence of colour! Claret, burgundy and pink and apricot gowns were popular five or so years ago so it seems like the right time to see this trend re-emerge, but this time the gowns were a whole lot less embellished, and the fabric more matte.

2One trend that delighted me is the Downton Abbey inspired look! I have always been very keen on the general fashions of that era so seeing bridal collections launching that kind of look really excites me. Unfortunately most of the good examples I saw were from higher end collections that our wee shop doesn’t sell but I expect the look to be a much stronger feature by the time the next collection launch rolls around.

For the most though the new collections did seem to be a gentle evolution from what we already have hanging on the rails. I am delighted that the designers are continuing to embrace the more covered up look with lots of cap sleeves, high necklines and long sleeves available in a variety of fabrications. Our customers are definitely requesting these kinds of looks more and more so I’m so happy to be able to fulfil the need for sleeves.

To compensate for the very covered up fronts lots of dresses had interesting back features, from very red-carpet inspired keyhole backs to sheer embroidered back sections, the back of the gown has suddenly become very important.

4In terms of fabric, lace is still very prominent but I am very glad to see that more and more designers creating dreamy satin gowns. But where the satin gowns we had a few years ago featured a lot of embroidery and beaded embellishment, these styles were much plainer, instead of the beading becoming the feature these dresses were all about the texture and sheen of the fabric. Most of the styles we saw were either very sculptural or very fluid and floaty.

In terms of silhouette there were still a lot of semi fitted and trumpet skirt shapes but there seems to be a bit of a resurgence in the classic a-line skirt shape. There was also an abundance of beautiful 1950’s full gowns with natural waists and basque waists and super full skirts.

Of all the new looks in bridal I am most excited for the arrival of the plainer gowns and the gowns with higher necklines! Who knew demure would be the next big thing?!

Dress of the Month ~ April

My current favourite wedding dress is such a statement dress! She is called Shelby and is definitely not a run of the mill wedding dress! A fifties style full skirted ballerina length gown, this little beauty is the perfect choice of gown for girls opting for a retro rockabilly themed wedding day look.

Since she features a natural waist and a full skirt this gown suits most body types, but is particularly good for adding curves to athletic figures and wonderfully disguises a pear shape. The high neckline and cap sleeves add a great balance to the fullness of the skirt and since the lace is sheer it offers a perfect demure option for a fuller busted girl.

SHELBY

The gown features a tulle skirt and soft lace bodice with subtly twinkling beading, and also features gorgeous little covered buttons.

This dress is gorgeous alone but also looks amazing with the addition of a sparkly crystal belt, it adds just the right amount of definition and creates a focal point of the waist.

I feel that Shelby really is a fun and cute wedding dress, and perfectly suits a more relaxed wedding day style and is the perfect dress for showing your moves on the dancefloor!

Ultimate Wedding Dress Tip’s

When chosing your wedding dress and having it altered, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here are my ultimate Wedding Dress tip’s:

  1. Your dress should be gorgeous! Obviously you aren’t going to pick an ugly wedding dress, but some designers do produce some questionable gowns that are definitely best avoided.
  2. Your wedding dress should flatter you in all the right places and balance your figure proportions – a wedding dress should ultimately result in an hourglass silhouette and make your waist look significantly smaller than your bust and hips, even if it isn’t like that in reality. Figure concerns and issues can easily be addressed by paying careful attention to your choice of gown silhouette.
  3. 2514HYour wedding dress has to fit well. It should not gape or pinch anywhere around your torso, no-one should be able to see down your cleavage or see a space between your chest and the dress. Neither should it be tight enough to cause ‘back cleavage’ or have your bust spilling over the top. Bear in mind though that it does need to start off as a very tight fit as once your body heats it up the fabric will soften and loosen slightly. A good fit is best judged after fifteen to twenty minutes of wear.
  4. It needs to be the perfect length. Too long and you’ll look clumsy and will struggle to walk. Too short and you might look like you borrowed someone else’s dress! When you are standing still it should look like your hem is resting on the ground, but your hem should be high enough so that when you walk your shoes won’t catch on your inside hem and cause you to trip. This is something that will be tweaked and perfected during the alterations process, every time your seamstress asks you to take a little walk she’ll be checking that you can manage the length and look elegant.

    Hem length is crucial in ensuring your dress is comfortable and easy to wear.

    Hem length is crucial in ensuring your dress is comfortable and easy to wear.

  5. Be location and climate appropriate.  You need to look comfortable in your dress especially if you are getting married in either extremely warm or very cold weather. Not only will you look and be cold in a slither of a gown in the winter but you also run the risk of looking silly and out of context. Likewise a cumbersome gown will look odd at a beach wedding and you’ll also most likely be roasting and very uncomfortable.
  6. Your dress should not scratch your skin or make you itchy. If it does there are lots of little tricks we use to overcome the issue, no one wants to see a bride with sore red skin from sharp beads tearing at your inner arms and you definitely don’t want to be the girl who feels the need to change out of her wedding dress half way through her reception.
  7. Be interesting from the waist up. In my experience most of your guests won’t take full length pics of you, instead they’ll focus on your face and the top half of your dress. So the more information you can convey in the top area the better. This is one of the reasons I love dresses with straps and interesting necklines.PHOEBE D.O ASM3605_front
  8. Be elegant and classy. No one wants to see a slutty bride. So aim for a classic and timeless sophisticated wedding look and if you opt for a dress with cleavage then make sure your back is covered and vice versa.
  9. Represent your style. Your wedding dress is the single most important garment you will ever chose so make sure you are happy with it and happy with what it says about you. It will sum up your personal style in one statement, so decide what you want to say! Are you funky, classic, girlie or vampy? Strangers will judge you based on your choice of dress and your wedding pics are likely to be the only photographs your great grandchildren will keep of you, so you’ll definitely want to make an accurate statement.
  10. Most importantly your wedding dress should make you smile! If you aren’t at least a little bit excited to wear it then it’s the wrong dress for you!HAPPY BRIDE 2

Dress of the Month ~ March

My favourite dress this month is actually three dresses! All are versions of the same dress – Adorae by Sottero & Midgley, and the reason I love each of them are that no matter your shape or size this dress will look fantastic! Adorae is the strapless sweetheart neck, Adorae Louise is a v-neck and Adorae Rose has one shoulder strap, but from the ribcage down these gowns are exactly the same.

Adorae Louise by Sottero & Midgley

Adorae Louise by Sottero & Midgley

It is the silhouette of the Adoraes’ that make them so flattering – a very figure hugging fit and flare gown that curves over the hips and through the thighs to really exaggerate your silhouette and make you look mega curvy. Its not too fitted though, there is still plenty of circumference on the inside around your knees and thighs, so walking, kneeling and sitting down won’t be a problem. It flares out gently from just above the knee to create a gorgeous fishtail shape and an amazingly full train. The gown is made from a really soft and silky pleated stretch demir satin that means it holds firm where it needs to but is also flexible and will move with you. The fabric gives the gown a really luxurious feel and a beautiful sheen, which photographs beautifully. For a slim girl this gown can really exaggerate and even add curves, whilst a fuller figured girl can be confident that the corset fit of this gown will do wonders for her figure, it can hold in a tummy like magic!

Adorae by Sottero & Midgley

Adorae by Sottero & Midgley

I’m so glad that Sottero & Midgley have three versions of this gown since it works so well for such a variety of sizes and body types! We have Adorae Rose in a size 8, the Adorae Louise in a 14 and Adorae in an 18, which just demonstrates how flattering this dress is! It is also a very versatile style and can be styled in a variety of ways. The Adorae Louise for example feels very classic to me and looks amazing with a full length ribbon edged veil, whereas the Adorae Rose can be more funky and looks brilliant with a millinery net face veil.

Adorae Rose by Sottero & Midgley

Adorae Rose by Sottero & Midgley

One of the most wonderful things about this dress right now though is that the designer have made two of the versions (the Adorae and the Adorae Louise) ‘Priority Gowns’ which means that we can get them much quicker than usual. This is an absolute blessing for us since so many girls are leaving it very late to order their gowns and don’t realise how long it can take for dresses to be made. So if your wedding is early next summer and you haven’t ordered your wedding dress yet then this dress could easily be the one for you! 

Straps or No Straps – It’s no longer a Bridal Dilemma!

Nearly every day I meet a bride-to-be insistent that she doesn’t want to wear a strapless dress. The strapless neckline has reigned supreme for over a decade, but now we are finding lots of brides are seeking something different and are searching our rails for gowns with straps and sleeves.

We make a determined effort to stock gowns with various necklines and right now nearly a third of our stock are gowns featuring straps; but what we also do is make sure that the strapless looks we choose can easily have straps and sleeves added. Sweetheart necklines lend themselves most naturally to the addition of straps, but with a little bit of tweaking most bridal gowns can have some sort of strap or sleeve added. And I’m not talking about just plonking on an extra bit of fabric! The kinds of straps we add are carefully considered and constructed to blend perfectly with your gown and also to form the most flattering shape on your body and against your face. We’ll source the exact kind of fabric, embellishment and decoration to make sure that they merge into your dress – it’s important that no-one ever guesses that the straps were an addition, we want it to look like they were there all along!

rosemary

I love using straps in creative ways to address figure problems or areas you are self conscious about – the right strap shape can draw the eye away from anything you aren’t so keen on and instead draw your eye to something that you love! It’s all about optical illusion!

My  particular favourite strap shape is the cap sleeve added on to a sweetheart neck as it serves to frame your face really well, can broaden your shoulders and draws focus to your waist. It’s a great tool to use if you feel like your hips look too wide – simply add a cap sleeve and suddenly there is balance and an hourglass proportion! However a cap sleeve is best avoided if you already have broad shoulders or if your dress is particularly straight as this kind of strap will just emphasise what you might not be happy to showcase.

natasha

A halter strap added to the widest parts of the neckline (just by your underarms) can also be a really useful figure balancing trick, and is also perfect for disguising that little bit of pudgy skin many of us can get between our bust and our arms where the skin folds. But definitely avoid a halter neck if you have sloping shoulders or wobbly upper arms. This is because the lines of the halter will act as an arrow right to these areas.

briege

If you are conscious of your upper arms then more of a sleeve effect can be added too. I prefer these done in sheer fabrics like lace or chiffon to keep them delicate and flattering, as these shapes done in a solid denser fabric can have the opposite effect and draw attention to the area and can even make you look bigger.

Sleeves can also be a really useful trick in making you look taller and lengthening your body proportions. I find that narrow fitted sleeves can really stretch you and sleeves that end right at your waist can have the bonus effect of drawing attention to your waist.

Pamela

A neckline that we are adding to dresses at the minute which I really love is the sheer tulle bateau. Again this addition looks fabulous added onto a sweetheart neckline but can work pretty well on a totally straight across neckline. I love that it instantly adds a chic ‘Audrey Hepburn’ type look to the plainest bridal gown. We’ve been making them totally plain but also trimming them in satin ribbon for a really retro look and adding lace motifs to match a lace bridal gown. This type of neckline can either be added as a tank shape or shaped more around the shoulders depending on both your dress and what flatters your body the best.

I love how little additions like these can totally transform your wedding dress and really make it individual to you!

So if you have a bridal consultation with us and I start grabbing random bits of fabric and pinning it to you – don’t be scared, I always have a plan!