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Is the make-up-free Miss GB contestant empowering women and girls? What about brides?

One of the top ten most read BBC News stories this morning concerns Elle Seline, a contestant in Miss GB, who plans to appear without make-up at this year’s competition. Ms Seline, who was bullied about her appearance in her teens (as I was), says she is doing this to challenge patriarchal standards of beauty and to empower other women and girls.

But does it? And why does it have anything to do with me, or weddings?

What I find more interesting than the story itself is that a woman choosing not to wear make-up on a particular day is such big news. I often don’t wear make up; when I’m working, I usually end up inside wedding dresses between layers and don’t want to leave marks. Sometimes I just don’t want to wear it. Hardly hold-the-front-page stuff though, right?

The difference is of course the context, i.e. an event at which a woman would be expected to wear make-up. Weddings, specifically being The Bride, are another example. So here’s the relevance to us.

Some brides (like me, a natural extrovert) relish the attention on their wedding days while they, as tradition dictates, look their best. But this pressure to look “your best”, what your best self actually looks like, AND being the centre of attention makes many – maybe most, in my experience – feel very vulnerable. Judged. Absolutely bloody terrified.

So I believe Ms Seline’s message for brides is empowering: (with apologies to my make-up artist friends), you can go without make-up when you’re expected to wear it and still be beautiful. Your best self. Stick THAT to the patriarchy.

However, let’s not get carried too far away from the feminist track. Ms Seline is taking control of her own narrative to stick one to her former bullies, yes. However, entering a competition that judges and ranks women on their appearance, whatever standard employed, is a massive self own in this narrative. It says: how women look is still the best way to judge us.

You don’t defeat bullies who think you’re ugly by changing their minds into thinking you’re beautiful; you slay them by demonstrably not giving a shit what they think of your appearance. And that can’t include entering a competition to be judged on just that. So her message is NOT empowering for women and girls generally.

For brides, wear the make-up, don’t wear the make-up. Just know you are giving your best self to the person you love the most, whatever that looks like.

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From “Help!” To 🔥Hot🔥- an alterations story

“I need help,” began Catherine’s first message to me. “I got swept up into buying a wedding dress. I love it on the hanger but on me, I just don’t feel right.”

Worse was to come: “I wonder whether it’s more me that is the issue rather than the dress. I’m just so worried I haven’t found the right dress and have wasted my grandmother’s money. Please can you help?”

That’s a lot of pressure for a bride, especially the belief that the reason your dress isn’t fitting is somehow your own fault (it’s really not).

I hear what Catherine said very often. It can be utterly overwhelming to be planning a wedding, making big (expensive) decisions and feeling anxious about being the centre of attention.

It’s a very common concern to second-guess your dress, especially before you’ve had it altered to fit you properly. It can feel like it’s not your dress and that you’re playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes! Of the hundreds of brides I’ve worked with, I’ve only known one actually change her mind and buy another dress (and she was already on her second when we met!).

It can make a world of difference just to have it fit you properly so that it feels like it’s your dress, it flatters you and it moves properly as you move rather than dragging on the floor under your feet, slipping off your shoulders, digging in in some places and gaping in others. 

It’s MY job to make your dress fit and work for you so delegate that pressure to me.

Today, I received the loveliest message from Catherine, who married last month wearing her dress after I’d altered it to fit her. She ended it: Thank you. You really did make me feel like the bride I wanted to be.”

Real bride Catherine Carini in her wedding dress with alterations by Holly Winter Couture. 2021 wedding. Real customer.
Catherine before I altered her dress and on her wedding day, 15 June 2021. 📸 Pippa Carvell Photography

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Karma and Covid Collide

Oh, irony, you sweet, delicious bastard. 🍏

Someone I know who was stridently opposed to same-sex marriage is now engaged and trying to plan a wedding. And she is stridently complaining that it can’t currently happen because of Covid-19 laws (in our part of the UK, we’re in Tier 4, which essentially means we’re in lockdown and weddings can only take place in exceptional circumstances, usually to do with terminal illness).

Apparently, she doesn’t like being legally prevented from marrying the man she loves. Imagine that! Isn’t it outrageous?

My heart goes out to everyone trying to organise a wedding at the moment. I don’t wish the stress, hassle and expense of replanning a wedding on anyone. Even her. Seriously.

But. Still. Mwahahaha!

It is all I can do to resist replying with something about them apples.

🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏🍎🍏

#loveislove