8 Minutes to Perfect Bridesmaid Dresses . . .
with India and Sinclair Sellars, the sister founders of fashion label Maids To Measure. They reveal exactly how to ace your fittings appointment, the most flattering style for fuller figures (plus the most unflattering length on anyone) and why the January 2023 sale is their best ever!
Interview by Jade Beer.
Sinclair: January is always a super busy time but this year our sale is better than ever. We have lots of new fabrics coming into the new collections from February and so we have to make room for those new looks, it means there is much more in the sale now than there would normally be. As a small family business, we know we have to keep our bestsellers and everything else rotates. We don’t have set seasons. If there are less orders for a certain colour or style, we may let it go and bring something else in. We adapt to what our customers want.
India: When we launched the business back in 2012, Sinclair was a lawyer and I worked in finance. That year Sinclair had been to five weddings and struggled to find anything she liked to wear. It was either all very high end or very cheap high street fashion, there was nothing in between. I had started to do some work with Vera Wang on her bridal collections and I was hearing the same thing from customers there – there’s nothing for bridesmaids. So, we put our heads together.
Sinclair: There were no British brands catering for this market, so women were buying online from big American companies, dresses that were made in the Far East and with very long lead times. We wanted to fill that gap and we have stayed true to that ever since. We know bridesmaids, we know what girls want. We closely follow the trends and I like to think that we set them too. Everything we do is designed to work together across all the colours and the designs.
India: We are the perfect pairing because we have completely different tastes – Sinclair is far more girly than me – and we are completely different body shapes.
Sinclair: I like the frills and I’m a much fuller shape. India is more monotone and likes more masculine shapes. So, while India does the creative, I’m here to remind her that I would need to wear a bra with certain styles. We cater for everyone and if we don’t do it, we can add it very easily. At every appointment, there will always be at least one girl who has an issue with a part of her body. I have never, ever taken an appointment where that wasn’t the case. And I’ve never heard I absolutely love everything about me. Sometimes one will whisper to us that’s she’s pregnant and no one knows and we need to take it into account with her dress choice.
Sinclair: Whatever it is you think you don’t want we always say just try it and that’s the best way for girls to really feel comfortable with a look.
India: Comfort is vitally important so for example in our chiffon range, those dresses have a jersey lining which allows you to move more freely. Our Satin collection is heavier but not too heavy for the same reason, the girls will be wearing them all day and need comfort.
Sinclair: India spent so long finding a satin that is the perfect weight and matte, not shiny, and that has some stretch in it.
India: Very often brides will come in and know the colour they want. From there they are happy for the bridesmaids to choose their own style from the collections in that colour. It’s much kinder to do that. We have six or seven styles in each colour and as the average number of bridesmaids now seems to be four or five, there is something for everyone, we keep the variety for that very reason.
Sinclair: The Margot wrap dress works for me because I need to wear a bra, I’m a plus size, I want to cover up, but I still want to feel good. Most wrap dresses in my experience, come at a midi length but Margot is a full length wrap and it fits so nicely on the bust, it covers the arms without looking like you’re covering up too much, it skims the hips, you can cinch it in at the waist at the front or the back and I just feel so comfortable in it.
India: All our dresses are made two inches longer than the standard 46” from waist to hip. Some people may have to have them taken up but it’s much better to have them too long than too short.
Sinclair: It’s one of my pet hates when the dress isn’t a midi but it’s not full length either, it’s the awkward in between, it’s so unflattering. Cheaper dresses are made that way because they have to cut the fabric in a different way. It’s a real giveaway. Ours are very easy to hem.
India: We’re finding lots of people are having a destination wedding now or getting married in the UK with a smaller guest list, the post-covid micro wedding. As a response to this, in our new satin collection, we do several designs in the champagne ivory and it’s been really popular with brides, particularly the Jemima which has a lovely cape sleeve shape. It’s a really cool style.
Sinclair: Some brides will wear a look like this for the night before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner, or at a registry office. Our neutrals collection really fills a lot of gaps for some brides. But equally the champagne ivory colour is super popular for bridesmaids as well.
India: Now with sustainability being a really big focus, I have to be very mindful of the re-wear value of the dress when I am designing it. All our dresses work for occasion wear. I’ve re-worn a bridesmaid dress again to a wedding I was a guest at and the Daphne in hot pink to a christening.
India: Around half our orders come through the website, but so many women still want to come in and try on. They love that we have the flagship store in Chelsea. They can come in and see all the colours up close. Sinclair and I attend those sessions because it’s really important for our understanding of what brides want, so we rotate and always do at least one Saturday a month each. A bit of research in advance of your appointment is always good because we can have the dresses ready for you. But we had a lady who came in yesterday saying she wanted the navy and she left with the hot pink. You can be as prepared as you want but it can totally go the other way on the day of the appointment. All our appointments are an hour long so I would say look on the website and chose your top three or four dresses which will steer us in the right direction.
Sinclair: If you come in with no idea, there’s so many dresses to try on, you can get a little bit lost – and obviously everyone has an opinion and that’s when people can sway you. So even if it’s not definite, have a vague plan of what you’re trying to achieve and then within that, the girls can choose their dresses. It’s nice if all the bridesmaids can attend the same session, not for our benefit but for theirs, it’s a great day out. We’ve got The Ivy at the bottom of the road, loads of fun bars and restaurants and they make a bit of a day of it. Sometimes the bride will come in beforehand with her mum or maid of honour and shortlist their choices, then when they have their appointment with the girls no one gets distracted by everything else. Not everyone has the time to do that but it’s helpful if you can.
India: My wedding dress was by Andrea Hawkes. I wanted something very chic and simple with long sleeves and I couldn’t find it out there, so I drew it and Andrea made it for me. She was a dream to work with. I asked all my bridesmaids to wear the same dress, the Caroline in forest green. At one point I was going to make them wear hair extensions, so all their hair was exactly the same length. I wanted long, slick ponytails to match mine.
Sinclair: At this point I had to step in and say, look, I know you’ve got a vision but there are limits!