Fringe Box



A Peek Inside Bridalwear Business’s New Premise In Former Chapel

Published on: 21 May, 2014
Updated on: 21 May, 2014

Reporter Victoria Lazarevic gets a special preview of Miss Bush Bridalwear’s new premises in a former Methodist chapel in Ripley.

The hustle and bustle outside the old Methodist chapel in Ripley on Tuesday, May 13, was too exciting to ignore.

A friend and I were passing by after our dog walk along the canal en route for a pot of tea in the village when we saw the doors to the prettiest village chapel – thrown open.

Specialist events florist Gayle Evans of Bloomingayles, based in Kent invited us in to come in and have a look – was it really that obvious we were being so nosey? We tied our dogs to the railing, which in my haste turned into a Krypton Factor style challenge that could only be likened to a child learning to tie his/her shoe laces for the first time.

The entrance to the chapel with flowers by

The entrance to the chapel with flowers by Bloomingayles.

We discovered the hype that day was all about the relocation of Miss Bush Bridalwear in Ripley from its premises across the road to the tiniest and prettiest chapel next to Nest Cafe. The chapel was deconsecrated 10 years ago and has since been sheltering Miss Bush’s team of seamstresses.

The Miss Bush bridalwear blog tells us how its previous shop next to the pub used to house Ye Olde Sweete Shoppe and generations of ‘Miss Bush’s’ ran it. When Gen, Emma’s mother started the bridal business there 26 years ago the bridal shop was named as such as homage to the generations of ‘Miss Bush’s’ that had gone before.

As we stood in the doorway of the chapel dressed in our mudding walking boots and scruffy jeans, we gazed in awe into the prettiest and most magical room. The most incredibly beautiful dresses hung in sumptuous fabrics crafted into exquisite shapes – there was a natural harmony between the wedding dresses and the ecclesiastical architecture of the chapel and its soothingly tasteful décor. The feeling was of extravagance within a churchly calm.

Some of the dresses on display.

Some of the dresses on display.

Despite my somewhat ‘understated’ appearance I managed to blag an impromptu invite to its exquisite launch party that evening where Emma Meek of Miss Bush Bridlewear told me: “Wedding dress shopping is about the shopping experience.”

Emma Meek (black dress)

Emma Meek (black dress) of Miss Bush Bridalwear.

She added: “Everything at Miss Bush is made to order … and to have the skill in house means you understand the construction of a dress.”

Emma Meek joined her mother in their family business when she moved out of London to have a daughter nearly 20 years ago. Had her mother taught her the trade?: “No, I can’t sew a stitch. I can’t even put a button on!” But clearly she sells the dresses of people who can; to include well-know designers, Susan Neville, and dress design royalty – Jenny Packham, famous UK designer to the Duchess of Cambridge.

I was pretty glad I had changed out of my dog walking tatties to meet dress designer and seamstress for Miss Bush – Laurie Smith. She said: “I used to make costumes for film sets, (specifically) Michelle Pfieffer in Dangerous Liasons and have worked with dress designers the Emmanuels.”

But are people still getting married I asked Emma Meek? She replied: “It is a dwindling market … it’s not a growing market share… which is why we are going into the production side of things and looking for more production space.”

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports the long-term picture for UK marriages has been one of decline, from a peak of 480,285 marriages in 1972. But good news for bridal wear is that 2010 showed the first increase since 2004, the provisional number of UK marriages in 2011 was 285,390.

The ONS state this is a rise of 1.8% compared with 2010 when there were 280,444 marriages, with civil ceremonies accounting for 70% of all marriages that took place in 2011, an increase from 64% in 2001.

Wedding caterers Kalm Kitchen of Puttenham.

Wedding caterers Kalm Kitchen of Puttenham.

If the legacy from the generations of the Miss Bush name added the sugar and spice to a growing bridal business over the last 26 years and with marriage on the up, perhaps Miss Bush Bridalwear’s move across the road to the chapel is a more fitting platform to showcase her sumptuous style, elegance and grace.

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