So... Bridal stores in our great capital. They had a lot to live up to, and in sum, they fell well short!
I said I would name and shame and I have no problem doing that. I won't go on for ages about what was wrong with the places because I simply don't want to be a complete mare. Maybe I caught them on a bad day, maybe they're feeling the pressure of the recession, maybe they have had it too good for too long. They don't seem to mind treating their customers like second class citizens because they think another queue of girls with fistfuls of cash in their hands are going to bring up the rear. Only one shop was I truly impressed with in Dublin City.
So first up was Sharon Hoey (Upper Mount St), a shop which gave you 40-45 mins. Not a bad selection of dresses but a poorly qualified floor staff who were no help at all in guiding you to what styles they had in store, which might suit you. To make things a little more awkward, it's a very small shop which takes three appointments at the one time, meaning you have a gaggle of strangers staring at you as you are trying to see if this is the dress for you. Hmm. Sales training required for the old shop girls methinks. Plus a different person at the door (could have been Sharon herself, we were not introduced) calling out prices and pushing the "we're selling them at sterling prices because of the recession so book fast" sort of thing...
Next up, Bridal Wraptures on St Stephen's Green. I have heard very mixed reviews of this store from different girls. Some thought they were snooty, some lovely. I think it depends on who you are lucky/unlucky enough to be landed with when you walk in the door. I have been in twice, once when they were operating as normal and once when they were having a big sample sale. I have since heard a rumour that they are closing down so if you have your eye on a sample give the girls a shout. The dresses - some are in rag order, some are still shiny - so you may be lucky. Shame they are going out of business (if it's true!); one of the girls in there was really nice. They may not have been extremely helpful but if they are in financial difficulty then you can understand a lack of interest in their job at this point.
deStafford Bridal on Exchequer Street in the city centre...oh my gawd. MOST unpleasant experience of them all. We arrived about 5 mins early for our appointment and were glared at, eyes rolled to heaven, the works. We sat on the couch to wait our turn, and were told to go and look around. We did so, and the dresses were pretty awful. I'm sure they were lovely when they left the designers' but these ones were ripped, filthy, and most unfortunately - rammmmmmmed into the rails so that it was difficult to get a good look at any. Most of the staff of four were dependent on one single colleague to do everything - take calls on the phone as she was meant to be squeezing a girl into a dress, talk to drop-in customers at the door, answer queries on orders that were arriving - the whole shebang. She wasn't the owner, just the most hard working person in the place. And as hard as she was working I was very far from impressed. The floor was filthy so no wonder the dresses were so dirty - they hadn't a hope. In the changing room there were pins and discarded packaging all over the place, it was horrible! Ugh, being in bare feet between dresses was NOT fun! The changing room is in the middle of the shop, with the mirror in front of the window so passers by can see in. No bother in a backstreet but Exchequer St? Your mates could be passing!!! Anyway, after arriving 5 mins early we were left high and dry until 20 mins past our appointment time. As I mentioned - the one girl doing any work was pretty busy! I felt sorry for her, but then she started talking up lots of different local suppliers and I felt like she must have been on commission. Bless her if she was genuinely trying to be helpful, but it just came across as pushy. Needless to say I gave up on the final few dresses and just wanted to get out of there.
Berketex is over in the Jervis Street Centre and has quite a nice setup. They only take 2 appointments at a time so it's not as bad as Hoey's over in Dublin 2. The dresses are not that expensive but alas, they look it. I felt a lot of the dresses looked really, really cheap. I'm all for a bargain but I don't want to look like one on my wedding day!! What I will say is that they hold more than one size in their more popular styles, which I think is a brilliant idea - I wish more places could do that. I realise it's expensive but we B2B's come in all shapes and sizes... I went with a friend, who is very petite. I can only wish I was so! We have similar tastes in dresses so it was great that the same dresses were there in 2 sizes. They also had a wide variety of styles, colours and uber tacky accessories. What I did NOT at ALL like was how incredibly pushy the sales people were. They were SO pushy!! Putting us both under pressure to buy a dress, hoping to panic us into a sale. Not impressed. Seriously girls, you are not selling cars... Nice clean shop though. And you can bring as many little helpers as you like. (see, I am trying to be nice here...)
Last but not least, was the King of Wedding Dresses, Colm Flanagan in Town Bride. The man is a wonder; he starts from scratch and talks you through entire styles. Takes a look at you, measures up your shape and guides you away from racks full of dresses that he can tell just won't suit. What a breath of fresh air... We spent less than an hour with him and came away reassured that I would not look like a crazy person on the big day. His subtle tips and gentle nudges in the right direction...just magic. The sample dresses in Town Bride (which is in the Powerscourt Centre) come in without bones, which means they are easier to get in and out of, and then they are easier to close in the way that they will look when they are boned. I saw a finished dress just ready for collection when I was there - they do all their own alterations in-house - and the finish was exquisite. I was really, really impressed with the level of service at Town Bride. I only wish I had found my dress there!
Moral of the story folks...don't take my word for it, give the half-bad ones a second chance to redeem themselves, but prepare not to be totally wowed everywhere you go in the city. The only one I would hang a warning sign on is deStafford's, they were utter rubbish. I'd also like to hang a neon sign over Powerscourt with a big arrow pointing "go here" for all the worried brides out there who need some style advice - with no pressure to buy, none at all.
I'm not linking to the bad sites, they don't deserve the traffic. And Town Bride doesn't appear to have a website...
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