Body Confidential finds out whether Coast could be the new Vera Wang
Planning for a fictional wedding proved incredibly tiresome. Fake bridesmaids Tori and I were on a self-imposed budget of £150 or less per dress, plus we’re a completely different size, shape, colouring and height. Then there’s the whole debacle of not having an actual bride or groom.
But we were game for a challenge.
Last year, many major high-street stores ventured into bridal wear for the first time. Brands such as Topshop to H&M to Boohoo to ASOS all released bridal collections and garnered a positive response. It seemed as if we were in the throes of a budget bridal revolution. With the typical UK wedding costing anything between £15,000 to £27,000 signs suggested more frugal ceremonies were finally being embraced. For future brides and bridesmaids, could Coast be the new Vera Wang?
Always the bridesmaids and never the bride, L’Oréal Blackett and Tori Attwood headed to four popular high-street stores to find out if budget dresses could make it to the alter.
L'Oréal: "I was disappointed to discover that Topshop’s much-heralded bridal collection was no longer available at Topshop’s Trafford Centre store, the largest store outside of London. Yet a helpful assistant explained that another in-store concession, ‘Lace and Bead’, was a popular bridesmaid option. Off the hanger, it was a girlish, figure-skimming fishtail dress, adorned with glittering beads and sequins with a strappy neckline. I could see this worn at a bohemian beach wedding (maybe with sandals, flowers in hair). The quality is great and the material snaps to my physique and the intricate detail of the dress makes it feel ceremonial."(3/5)
Tori: "Sourcing bridal party gowns at Topshop felt a bit like trying to get a £30 bag at Selfridges – on trend though it may be, Topshop just doesn’t scream blow-out bridesmaid dress. Which is perhaps why the highly anticipated bridal section is no longer available in store. But, snarks aside, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the occasion wear. The embellished ‘Lace and Bead’ dress is pretty without being over-the-top, and the floaty tulle fabric would flatter most shapes. I could easily see a line of floral-garlanded bridesmaids floating down the aisle in this little number at a summer garden wedding."(3/5)
Tori: "My soon-to-be-wed friend is a firm advocate for Monsoon’s bridal wear, so I had high hopes for the store. But, what I think the bride-to-be had enjoyed so much about the collection is exactly what I didn’t like about it. The designs are smart yet simple, meaning little room for dispute over details from the bridal party. The tulle skirts were pretty, and the range of mix and match embellished tops offers some options for variety, but that’s about it. Monsoon is a safe bet for classic dresses that won’t draw the eye too far from the bride." (2/5)
L'Oréal: "I don’t think I’m Monsoon’s target market. Mainly because I haven’t been to the store since my gran would take me to the Arndale market to buy her bloomers. It’s a little more modern these days, and has become known for its failsafe occasion wear. You don’t get modern and trendy but you do get 'safe', with cuts and styles to suit most body types. We chose the long tulle skirt, with a separate sequinned top. I think I’m too old and cynical for this child-like outfit, reminiscent of my pre-teen ballet classes. As a full outfit, the top-half was ill-fitting and sequins looked cheap on close inspection. Monsoon's saving grace is its extensive range and choice, but don't expect something overly exciting." (2.5/5)
L'Oréal: "First tip: wear Spanx with this dress, it is not forgiving...
It’s a dress that would probably be more suited for a walk down Spinningfields than a church aisle, but it was insisted this forest green, fitted, fishtail number could work for an autumn/winter wedding. I’m keen on the idea of a bridesmaid dress (and indeed, wedding dress) that could have more than one life. From the mother of the bride to the wedding guests, Coast clearly is one of the better options for bridal-wear on the British high street. In fact, I’ve seen a beautiful Coast wedding dress in action and you would not have known it wasn’t custom made." (3/5)
Tori: "Coast just knows how to do occasion wear right. The blue dress is stunning and would definitely wow in a wedding line-up. The dress comes in a vivid blue or red for those looking for a bolder look. Again, I’d definitely be hiding a pair of spanks under this dress due to the way the fabric lies, but who wouldn’t want to invest in a pair of oversized knickers to get away with this dress." (4/5)
L'Oréal: "I feel like Kate Bush in Wuthering Heights but far, far less cool. To me, this frou-frou number epitomises the archetypal bridesmaid dress: unflattering, excessively feminine and, well… a bit ugly. Sorry. Of course, it's all a matter of personal taste: I'm not a pink, girly dress sort of person (I'd make one difficult to please bride and/or bridesmaid). And to be fair, this dress isn’t the best of Lipsy’s offering but it was the only dress in store that felt bridal. Lipsy's best dresses are perfect for corporate dinners, prom outfits and, you know, when you’re feeling fancy." (1.5/5)
Tori: "Oh, it’s peach - that colour-sapping, soulless shade that you only every consider wearing when you’re shoe-horned into a bridesmaid’s dress. Yet all credit to Lipsy, their online offering of bridal dresses looks a lot better than what’s in store, with flattering shapes and shades available to order. But this pasty peachy number is not one of them. With a heavy spray tan I could maybe… no, no. It would still look awful." (1.5/5)
L'ORÉAL: "I've only been a bridesmaid once and there's probably good reason why I haven't been asked since - I'm incredibly picky. For brides, I now understand just how difficult it is to cater for your bridal party's varying shapes and personal tastes. Screw 'em, it's your wedding. Nonetheless, it's good to know the high-street has made a conscious effort to provide a range a different dresses at different price points for couples with a budget. While I've been critical, I think the dresses combined with beautiful hair and makeup and a good imagination could look beautiful at the alter, while not upstaging the bride. After all, no one's actually supposed to be looking at you."
TORI: "Though my own wedding is nowhere on the horizon, budget brides shouldn't be so dismissive of the high street. There's a surprisingly stylish selection on offer, if you're willing to hunt it out (if in doubt, head to Coast). Plus, the versatile styles means value-hungry bridal parties can get dresses they can wear on multiple occasions, meaning happy bridesmaids. And those pinched pennies can be pumped elsewhere (perhaps the bar tab?) meaning happy guests."