We asked wedding gown designer Charlie Brear to share her tips for bagging the dress of your dreams.

Contemporary bridal designer Charlie Brear’s eponymous label exemplifies modern yet timeless grace, all fluid silhouettes and clean lines. Stocked in over 50 boutiques internationally, she hails from a fashion styling background and, fairly unusually, can pinpoint the precise moment when her interest in wedding dress design was piqued. The year was 2005 and, having been working on styling a music video, she suddenly found herself having to sell off a whole lot of vintage wedding dresses she’d sourced for the shoot. Inspired by their beauty, it galvanised her to launch her own bridal company, whose chief modus operandum was to unearth and sell beautiful vintage gowns.

As time went on, and by now steeped in what makes a really excellent wedding dress, she began to add some of her own designs into the mix of one-off vintage items she was selling. Things took off in earnest in 2011, when she took her capsule collection – which was designed to be styled in a myriad of ways – to retailers, who immediately loved the concept.

Her instant success in creating interchangeable looks has informed her label ever since; Charlie’s Iconics Collection is an articulation of the best-loved dresses she has created since 2011, each one versatile enough to be styled with a full range of accessories, including overdresses, skirts, sashes, belts, sleeves and panels, allowing brides to create their own absolutely bespoke look.

Here she gives us her very best tips on how to shop for a wedding dress.

Follow Charlie on Instagram here.

Can you share your top three tips for brides shopping for their dress?

1. Try not to go to more than three places – cancel if you need to.
2. Be confident in saying yes, no matter how early on!
3. Let go of the idea that there could always be another dress – you’ll often look back and think you could’ve worn something else. But the main thing about the ‘right’ dress is that when you have it on, on the day, you simply know you feel comfortable, relaxed, and like yourself.

Do you have any advice about choosing the shape/ silhouette of the dress?

Our USP makes it really easy for a bride to build from the base up, so she can choose the neckline and the cut of her dress, based on her favourite shapes and the points of her body that she wants to accentuate, and style it up from there.

How far in advance of the big day should you shop for your dress?

At least six-to-eight months minimum – don’t leave it too late. We do have an express service as we produce all of our dresses in London for those in a rush; but finding your dress is one of the biggest stress-busters, so allow yourself the time.

Bringing a gaggle of friends along to your appointment: good idea or bad idea?

Bad idea! Don’t bring too many people, or your baby/young children/dog. Two trusted friends or family is enough.

What should brides bring with them to their appointment?

Wear nude underwear, not black or fluorescent. Don’t wear fake tan!

Is it important to come with an open mind, or best to have a clear idea of what you want?

It’s crucial to come with an open mind. Some brides arrive with a really clear idea of what they want but might try things on and end up going with something completely different. Be open to change. Always!

Pros and cons of a train?

A train creates a dramatic look and is great for pictures. If you’re a bit clumsy it can be difficult to walk, but you can easily have a bustle put in for easier dancing after the main ceremony. In a train you really feel like a bride – after all, when else do you get to wear one?!

What are your thoughts on white vs ivory vs colour?

In the past we have sold more dresses in colour, and our ivory palette was slightly darker, but it has become lighter and lighter over the years. The very pale ivories and whites are much more popular now, with brides who want to wear colour tending to go for eveningwear or high street brands. Our audience tends to like a paler ivory with additional texture such as feathers, lace, or beading, in addition to their cleaner line dresses.

Do you cater for plus-size brides?

We do – our sizes as standard cover UK 6 to 18, with a range of our bestsellers available up to sizes 20 to 24.

Tell us a little about your new collection, Liberty of Love…

The current collection continues to explore ways we can reflect our brides’ unique taste and aesthetic. We placed clean cut silhouettes and luxurious fabrics at the forefront of the new collection, and focused on designing beautiful overskirts, tops and accessories to sit with these, which allows brides to personalise their look. New fabrics feature a heart print and sequin flower embellishment – we always like to give brides the option to add texture and detail in less traditional materials.

Most iconic brides of all time?

In my opinion, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy was massively before her time wearing a beautiful bias-cut dress in 1996. Hailey Bieber’s Off White dress by the late Virgil Abloh was also pretty iconic, even more so now; as was Zoe Kravitz’s drop-waist, Hepburn-esque Alexander Wang gown.

What bridal trends do you predict for 2022?

We have introduced some fuller overskirts into our collection, whilst staying true to our sleek brand aesthetic. Prints, sequins, and embellishments are fun ways to experiment with texture and detail alongside more classic styles.

By Nancy Alsop
March 2022

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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.