Here we are in the midst of Awards season with the Golden Globes behind us and the Baftas and the Grammys this weekend. The media is full of ‘Best’ and ‘Worst’ dressed lists with Hollywood actresses parading in some seriously glamorous gowns which, for us tall girls seem purely aspirational. Whereas the high street is providing an ever increasing choice of party dresses and evening gowns for your average woman, tall women are left out in the cold wondering if this is one area of fashion where we fear we may never tread.
I was recently reminded of the near catastrophic stress caused by my need for a full-length evening gown last year. The joy of hearing of my brother’s engagement was swiftly followed by a panic about what on earth I would wear to a very glamorous, Spanish (or maybe ‘Spanglish’) wedding.
At 6ft2, evening gowns have not featured highly in my quest for clothing to fit my amazon stature. My years of searching for jeans, suits, shoes and t-shirts have been fruitful, however, it is nearly 9 years since I had to wear an evening gown so I really didn’t have any clue where to look.
On previous trips to New York department stores, I knew I had seen evening dresses what would fit me far better than anything I could buy on the high street here in England. There is something about the American cut and fit that suits us tall girls and women better than anything here in the UK. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to the Big Apple before the wedding: what was I to do!?
With two good friends for moral support in tow, I set upon Oxford Street one Saturday. I recalled the ‘Designers at Debenhams’ range used to have some great styles – I should emphasise ‘used to’. Their cut and fit, even girls of an average height (5ft 7 or so), was appaulling! Monsoon (too short), Long Tall Sally (frumpy), Karen Millen (might fit my left leg at a push) were equally disappointing. I even ventured into some of those old-fashioned evening dress shops run by frighteningly matronly, middle-aged women who seem to intent on making you look like an extra from Dynasty circa 1989. Everywhere I tried the gowns were not only badly cut, with cheap fabric and frumpy designs, they were also on average about 8 inches too short - guaranteed to make you look like the hillbilly sister from down on the farm. At this rate I was going to make it on to the ‘Worst Dressed’ list at my brother’s wedding!
Convinced I would be ex-communicated by my big brother if I didn’t manage to pull something off (he works in sports media, darling, hence he has the most fashionable and sophisticated friends), my thoughts turned back to the US. How could I get a dress from an American brand here in the UK? Then I had an idea. Bridesmaids dresses! If you’ve never been to an American wedding, you’ve probably seen them in films. Far from dressing their best friends in grown-up versions of child pageant dresses, as we seem to be rather fond of here, their bridesmaids and maids of honour wear dresses more akin to film premieres than ‘Miss Junior Oklahoma’.
I hunted down all the stores in West London who sold two brands in particular: Dessy and Watters. Both of these brands have several ranges, totalling hundreds of styles in a massive array of colours.
If you’ve never ordered from a Bridal Shop before, this is how it works:
- These dresses are made to order in standard sizes. Shops have many different styles, all in a different colour variation so don’t expect to get to try on the style you want in the right colour.
- You choose a style, and then a colour. The staff will advise you on the size required.
- You can choose to have up to 6 inches added on the skirt of the dress (which I needed).
- Once ordered, your dress will arrive between 6-12 weeks later.
- On arrival, it is best to try the dress on with a seamstress present (any good bridal shop will have one they use) as usually, they can suggest ‘nips and tucks’ to the dress to make it truly fit like a couture gown.
In the end, my gown cost £160 plus £40 for the seamstress’s alterations. Plus, I think I avoided all the usual pitfalls for tall girls - my dress was a lovely, amethyst halterneck number in chiffon and matt satin which was full length, even with my 4 inch silver high heels (from Amazona Style). I felt like an Oscar-nominated starlet!
So, before the wedding season sets in, your next black tie invitation or your invite to a film premiere with Will Smith (I can dream!), why don’t you plan ahead and check out what‘s on offer from those US dress companies. Almost guaranteed to make you look like a film star!