Saying 'I do' to the wrong dress
When Scotland's first couple, Andy Murray and Kim Sears, got married, expectations were high - then we saw her dress. But it's so easy to get the dress wrong, says Rachel Halliwell, and she should know
My first reaction on opening the newspaper and seeing the pictures of Kim Sears - the new Mrs Andy Murray - in all her bridal glory was: ''Oh, how lovely''. Because, of course, what other response is there to the sight of a beaming bride on her happiest day?
But then I looked down from her radiant face and took in the dress and my next thought - and I feel guilty admitting it - was, ''Oh, Kim, what were you thinking?'' Or what was your designer thinking?
This girl looks and dresses like a top model most of the time on the tennis circuit, and could undoubtedly have carried off all manner of modern silhouette: a fitted column or sheath dress, or even a complicated fishtail gown would have shown off her figure to perfection.
Instead, she went for an old-fashioned bridezilla frock that made her look almost matronly. Every woman I've spoken to thought the same. Loved the bride - and her beaming groom - but not so keen on the dress. It was too big and billowy on top; unflattering and bordering on an empire line at the waist; the beading on the shoulders reminiscent of military ornamental epaulette while the skirt seemed to drag behind her without any of the majestic flow I'm sure she was aiming for.
It swamped her. This wasn't the elegant Kim Sears we've observed admiringly over the years - a woman so adept at the art of dressing for the cameras that are constantly trained on her in the stands that you don't particularly notice what she's wearing, you just know she looks damn good in it.
I've never met Mrs Murray so I've no idea of her height - she could be five foot nothing for all I know - but she appears tall and elegant. Not so at the weekend. Even her hair, Timotei tresses that every female lusts after, was styled to be unflatteringly severe.
I suspect that one day Kim will look back at her wedding pictures and quietly wonder what might have been, perhaps wishing that someone close to her had sighed a little, frowned a little and pushed her towards a striking Vera Wang creation rather than vintage Packham. I know I certainly did. I have a wedding dress of my own somewhere in the attic that, if I had my own time over, I'm the first to admit would be very different. I wore mine 23 years ago this summer. With its pearl buttons up the back, and neckline of silk rosebuds, it was very much of that time but completely wrong for me. Take the length: how could I have thought it a good idea to channel Little Bo Peep? A crook instead of a bouquet wouldn't have looked out of place. It was also created for someone much taller so the waist was dropped when it should have been fitted.
I've always been impatient and I simply couldn't be bothered to try on countless dresses and spend weeks agonising over my final decision. I grabbed the first one that I quite liked, and which seemed to fit okay. I bought it off the rack and had it bagged up so I could take it home, foregoing the endless fittings that women insist on today to ensure an impeccable fit.
What a shame. Because back then I was an effortlessly slim size eight, and could have carried off a more fitted, classical number or even something more daring. As it was, at 23, I walked down the aisle looking like a child bride. (One guest went as far as to ask whether anyone had thought to call the police to arrest my husband-to-be - and he was only half joking.) A dress with a little more sophistication and that fitted better would have made me look as if I was old enough to take my vows without parental permission.
Wedding days are never just about the nuptials, at least not as far as we, the observers, are concerned. The dress - be it a hit or a miss - is always central to any post-marriage commentary. There are brides who, for a number of reasons we will never forget - not least because of their dresses.
Princess Diana's iconic fairytale gown, designed by the Emanuels long before their own marriage hit the rocks, is such a dress. It was the mother of all meringues and OTT in every sense, rather swamping the bride who'd lost weight since her last fitting. But, once she'd emerged from the carriage and all those creases fell out we were forgiving because, well, this was a genuine love story, wasn't it? And with a backdrop as opulent as London's St Paul's, Diana's dress needed to be larger than life.
The Duchess of Cambridge got it absolutely right 30 years later and her stunning Sarah Burton dress will be held up as a design classic for decades to come - a deceptively simple look and with its lace bodice so reminiscent of Grace Kelly, who set new standards for royal brides on her own wedding day in Monaco in 1956.
Camilla Parker Bowles was 57 when she married Prince Charles a decade ago, but sartorially speaking that April day she came of age with two stunning outfits, one for the civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall and the other for St George's Chapel.
Last summer, during her three-day wedding in Venice, Amal Clooney wowed the world with her wardrobe and that exquisite Oscar de la Renta creation was a celebrity wedding dress beyond compare.
The same won't ever be said for Emma Thompson, who appeared llike a strangely styled Harlequin the day she married Kenneth Brannagh in 1989. Some 14 years later, when she married Greg Wise, she opted for a far more conventional gown. Another miss was model Victoria Lockwood's dress when she married Earl Spencer. The poor girl; painfully thin in a gown that not only drowned her - and it was pouring with rain, too - but also looked as if it had been set free for the day from a display case in a Tudor archive.
Of course, I only regret my dress with hindsight.
On the day of my wedding I loved it, and was too busy having a fabulous time right up until the moment I finally stepped out of it to wonder whether it was a fashion disaster. It took many years for me to stand back, reassess the photographs and think ''Oh no!''
One thing is for sure, I doubt any one of my three daughters will want to borrow it for their own special day.