High-street wedding dresses have become something of a full-time obsession here in the Who What Wear office. We've sifted through A LOT—and continue to do so on a regular basis—in order to bring you a definitive guide at all times. But each season, it gets that littler bit easier because, each season, another trusted retailer or two actually steps up to the matrimonial bar and gets aboard the (lace) train. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as high-street off-the-rack wedding gowns. If you were looking to be savvy, you'd make your own, use a hand-me-down or purchase an in-store piece that kind of, maybe, perhaps could pass as bridal. Not anymore.
When Whistles announced the launch of its wedding dress collection last year, I felt miffed that I'd already bought my bridal dream ticket a year ago… and that my ceremony is still not until June. Knowing that I'm a super-fan of Whistles' regular frocks (it has so many best sellers it's hard to keep up) and that I'm a low-key bride who'd love nothing more than to spend the budget on something other than one really expensive dress… well, the offering seemed too good to be true. And perhaps a little late for me. But not too late for you.
They seemed so good, in fact, that I thought it only sensible to try them on for size. Considering that the team told me the sign up to the private fittings at the St Christopher's Place store that notched up 50 appointments on launch day alone and that 70% of women who have visited since have left with a Whistles dress in hand, all signs point towards a big, fat "I do."
Keep reading to see what I thought of each of Whistles's wedding dresses (and one jumpsuit)…
So Rose is perhaps the most classic of all the Whistles wedding dresses on offer, and perhaps it won't surprise you that it's been the most popular so far too.
It's the first dress I tried, and while I don't believe myself to be classic at all, there's something quite magical about it. The size 10 fits like a glove (despite the fact that I'm probably bigger than a 10) aside from the fact that the hem is far too long. No problem, though—Whistles is working with a top alterations service to make those tweaks a (paid-for) possibility.
The lace feels thick and expensive—not flimsy or full of static—and a solid lining means it's flattering and falls correctly. "The specialist part of designing wedding dresses is all in the fit and comes in the technical and fitting process," explains Whistles' creative director, Nick Passmore. "Our team have been working with highly experienced garment technologists with a speciality in wedding dresses to ensure an excellent fit and premium finish."
I have to admit this one wasn't quite for me. Too ethereal, and as I've not got the most toned arms in the world (perhaps something to work on for the wedding?), I felt it cut me off at my worst point. Excellent for a tall, willowy girl, for sure.
As Nick tells me, "The Whistles bride is a modern woman who is innately stylish—yet understated. She is intelligent, confident and knows what suits her—she wants a timeless piece—but she also isn't afraid to experiment on her big day." Meaning if this kind of dress isn't your usual style, it's probably not going to be your first choice. However, it's always worth trying on and being open to surprises.
Well, here's something I wasn't expecting. Bandeau and short hemline? I hadn't imagined this would be my kind of wedding choice—and to be honest, it doesn't have hanger appeal—but once I put this on, it felt delightful and fun.
If you're having a city wedding or looking to get married somewhere hot, this is a very sweet option that translates from day to night. In fact, many girls are actually buying their "second" dress at Whistles—choosing something like this for party time instead of the ceremony. Also, it'd be a brilliant wear-again purchase—either keep as is or dye it another colour to enjoy a completely "new" dress.
Whistles Vivian (£549)
Also, the unusual floral organza fabric needs to be seen up close—it's really very pretty. Along with the tie-up back, there are enough tempting design features here to produce compliments throughout a long wedding day…
I'm a big fan of jumpsuits on a day-to-day basis, so I was keen to try on this vintage-look number. The caped detailing around the shoulders is ideal for anyone self-conscious of their upper arms, but it's also a safe choice if you're getting married in the UK and expecting inclement weather.
It was a little snug on my thighs, so I'd recommend sizing up if you're in between sizes and then getting it altered and taken in to fit elsewhere. Amy, my personal shopper during the private appointment, told me that a surprising amount of girls are now venturing into jumpsuit territory for their big day—so don't be afraid to experiment when you have the chance.
Ruffles are my catnip, so this was up my street upon first glance. It's a slightly off-white colour and features very expensive-looking tulle and embroidery. That's a theme I'm noticing throughout Whistles' collection: None of the fabrics feel like you're scrimping on the special purchase. If anything, I'm surprised you get quite so much bang for your buck.
Whistles Guinevere (£599)
Another bridal trend? Back detailing. This Guinevere dress also has a very adjustable back bow, so I could pull in the shape to nip my waist and expect excellent dress photos from every angle.
This dramatic gown was the one I was most concerned about trying on: I had a feeling it would make me regret my existing bridal purchase…
It's a really dreamy, very dramatic, and highly body-skimming and flattering silhouette with a swooping lace train… I can see why any girl who wants to make a really grand entrance on her big day would opt for it.
Whistles Juliet (£699)
It is, understandably, the most expensive of the bunch, but for the amount of lace used, £699 is still quite a phenomenal price. If you're the kind of girl who would like a "second" dress for the evening, choose this as your first—it won't be the easiest to prance around in come midnight (and lots of prosecco later).
Eve isn't available quite yet, but just from the lookbook imagery in-store and on the site, it's already got a waiting list building.
The style is ultra feminine yet super minimal at the same time. I wasn't so excited to try this one on, but once it slipped into position and fastened via a bow system at the back (which means it can work for bigger and smaller busts quite seamlessly), I was impressed. It's grown-up and rather elegant, a wonderful choice for a summer wedding and just right for someone looking for a backless choice that still supports and flatters. Upon showing these to my husband-to-be, this was his number one choice—so there you go.
Next up, the best bridesmaid dresses around. Another problem, solved!