Charlotte Pearson heads to a bridal boutique in East Grinstead to talk wedding dresses and Princess Diana.
Chances are if someone said to you ‘Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding’, your first thought would be the dress.
Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, it screams eighties and, like the Duchess of Cambridge’s gown in 2011, at the time brides wanted to recreate the look.
But it wasn’t just brides-to-be that fell in love with it that day in 1981.
“I was seven years old,” recalls bridal dress designer Emma Tindley. “It was like a fairytale. I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to design dresses like that.”
Although it was the inspiration behind becoming a designer, Emma never tried to recreate the Emanuel look – even when designing her own dress.
“I wore a two piece – skirt and bodice with a jacket,” she reveals “It had long sleeves as that was in at the time.
“It had a little beading, but it was March and freezing.
“My dresses are a more classical style. Very ‘traditional English’, people getting married in churches and then ‘a do’ in a marquee.”
Wedding dresses tend to follow fashion and when Emma opened her bridal boutique in London Road, East Grinstead, in 2002 the two piece was all the rage.
“It started with corsets, very fitted with a-line skirts,” she recalls. “After Kate Middleton got married to Prince William it was all about lace, longer sleeves with a sleek look.
“Brides didn’t want to copy Kate but they wanted a chic dress.
“It is starting to go a bit more boho now. Floaty styles with flowers in your hair.”
With a team of three people, Emma likes to meet the girls to get an idea of what dress they would like and finishes them herself.
“I love my brides,” she enthuses. “I form a very close relationship with them.
“The secrets I could tell. Brides tell me so much, I get their family problems, dress issues…everything.”
These personal touches mean that even after the wedding has passed Emma still gets updates from her brides, including Peter Andre’s sister-in-law Sunny who married Danny Andre last year in Cyprus.
However how the pair met was not the usual bride-enters-shop story.
Emma explains how she had been to an awards ceremony in London with her husband and had won Best Designer of the Year.
Her seamstress had missed her train, so they decided to wait with her for the next one.
“When my husband and I got on our train I noticed Sunny and Danny and said ‘that’s Peter Andre’s brother’,” she recalls.
“I had had a little Champagne so decided I would go over and say congratulations as I knew they had recently got engaged.
“We started chatting and I said if she ever needed a dress to get in touch.
“She tweeted me, and we went back and forth and then one day she said ‘you know you said if I needed a dress…well I’d like to come see you’.
“And it started from there. We went to Cyprus and had a great time at their wedding.”
Although she forms close relationships with the bride and her family sometimes Emma does have to be firm.
“Most come in with their mum, sisters or friends, they try something on and I can tell it doesn’t look right but everyone loves it,” Emma explains.
“If I don’t think a particular dress is right for them I will say – carefully.
“I always say you have to trust a professional eye. I know what I am doing and sometimes having a big entourage is not a good thing as people have different ideas and tastes.
“I do ask some brides to come back on their own.”
But it is also Emma’s keen eye that has people flocking to her store.
“I can look at something 3D and know how to make a pattern,” she says. “I can also see if something is a millimetre out.
“But not just dresses. I had some doors put up in my house and I said to the builder ‘one of the handles is two millimetres off’, he didn’t believe me and in the end got a tape measure out and I was right. It was driving me crazy.”
At the end of the day Emma wants brides to feel their best when they walk down that aisle.
“I love my job and creating these beautiful dresses,” she smiles.
It’s true that every woman should feel like a princess on their wedding day and thanks to Emma they can.
For more information, visit www.emmatindley.co.uk
All pictures courtesy of www.woodlandhillphotography.co.uk