How do you find your dream dress at an affordable price? The Wedding Dress Factory Outlet stocks its own ranges along with dresses direct from the factory, including samples and old stock. The result is 700 dresses each in three places (Burbage, Bolton and Bromley), all at good prices. Their main ranges cost between £150 and £449, with lace and designer dresses potentially costing more.
Over 700 dresses at any one time you say? The shop is indeed crammed full. but the number is a little misleading. The rails are divided by size from the petit 6-8 to the much larger 28 (GB sizes). Each size has a couple of rails. Some dresses are duplicates, with several on a rail because they're popular. Some are available in multiple sizes, while others are only available as one-offs, in a particular style.
They are arranged by colour too, with whites and ivories giving way to golds and champagnes, and occasional batches of bold, vivid dresses boasting maroon corsets or red trims. One effect of the sheer number of dresses is that it's hard to see them properly, in order to know what you might want to try on.
You can choose up to four dresses at a time to try on. These go on a rack, while you wait your turn for a dressing room. You do need to deposit the dresses as you browse, because they are very heavy. Once it's your turn, an assistant will help put you into the dress, and give you advice on sizes and styles to try. Some of the assistants are amazing, and will offer great advice. Different underskirts bulk up your fishtail or A-line skirt to make the most of it, and they talk you through the process with confidence and ease.
Don't be surprised if the dresses don't fit. They warned me that dresses there come up much smaller. It's not great for a bride's self-esteem to have to go up several sizes, but ignore the number and hunt for that dress which makes you smile when you put it on. You'll probably need some alterations, and the shop has a list of seamstresses they can recommend.
The four dressing rooms look spacious, but once you've got an assistant, a friend and several dresses in there, not to mention the assortment of underskirts, they soon fill up. Trying on wedding dresses is a hot and sticky business, and you'd be well-advised to take water with you, and to be ready to take a breather sometimes.
Back in the main area there are two mirrors with blocks in front of them, where you can stand and admire yourself. There are fans to help cool down the shop, or give you a windswept look as you pose. A rail of bolero jackets and veils, along with a cabinet of tiaras help to make sure the assistants can accessorise you appropriately and give you more of idea of what your finished outfit might look like.
There are a couple of sofas for your trusty companions to rest on, but in general, given how busy this store is likely to get on a summer Saturday, I was disappointed in the lack of chairs, and got very tired hanging around.
If you do make a purchase, the standard packaging is a clear plastic cover. For an extra £5 you can buy a breathable, opaque cover. This is really important if you're going to be keeping your dress for a while before the wedding, to stop it getting musty, and to make sure your groom can't sneak a peak.
Overall, this is an excellent shop which offers good service, good prices and a good range, but you do need to go quite clued up and determined to find something.
There is sufficient parking. You may be there for a while, and there's nowhere immediate to get refreshments, so it's worth taking yourself something. There are only a couple of toilets too, which on a busy Saturday may well lead to a queue.
It's a good idea to do your homework before you go. You may end up with something utterly different to what you expected, but at least have a thought about it. What underwear will you wear? What style do you want? Can you take the person who'll have to do you up on the day? The website carries a range of useful hints, tips and blogs to help you in the process.