The first round of dress shopping was last weekend and it wasn't like I had expected at all.
I don't think it makes a difference that I'm not buying a dress, but that I won one and am having one made. I would still be doing this, round about now, either way.
But it was an odd experience, no doubt about it. What I wish I'd known was how much easier it would have been if I was even one dress size smaller - a 14, even. I'm a 16 at the moment and most sample dresses are in a 10/12. I had expected more of a range of sizes - up to the odd 16 at least, and while you can squeeze yourself into a 14/12 and leave it open at the back, it's not a great indication of how something will look. There were racks of things in 8s and 10s that were totally out of bounds to me, that i couldn't even try on. I know small stores can't stock multiple sizes but really, to have two thirds of a shop in one or two tiny sizes is sad.
I was glad a bought a sturdy bra with removable straps the day before, as lots of dresses were pinned to it, gaping open at the back. My underwear was less visible than I'd been concerned about - I think the bosomy middle aged shop assistants saw it but no one else. You get yourself into most of the dresses (though some were so huge I almost had to ask for help a few times) and then you're shoved in/zipped up from the back.
I liked some of the Jenny Packham dresses, which were beautiful. But honestly, I was happiest in Monsoon, where the dresses fitted and flattered and I felt quite pretty.
I am so glad I'm having a dress made. But another shopping trip in a couple of weeks to get through first.