Friday, July 5, 2013

What it's like to go wedding dress shopping in Malta (Part II)

I was lucky to work with three superb bridal shops in Malta: Camilleri Paris Mode, Alamango Bridal, and Pronovias. I hope by describing my experiences here I can be of help to other brides searching for their dress in Malta (I wish I had known what to expect), or at the very least, provide an insight about what it’s like to plan a wedding from abroad.

Throughout my dress search I was uneasy working with three shops. I felt like I would be betraying two of them somehow when I ultimately made my selection (did you feel that way too?) But I received exemplary service in every shop, and my final decision simply came down to inventory selection.

Before we get started, dear expat brides shopping in Malta, here are four expectations bridal shops have that may (or may not) be different from what you're used to (I'll be writing more about these cultural differences on Grey Likes Weddings later this month):
  1. You care if other brides have the same dress as you. Most bridal shops have a dress exclusivity policy, so no other bride on the island will have the same dress as you.
  2. You can walk in high heels and will wear them on your wedding day. (You must also buy the heels, and underwear, you will wear on your wedding before they will begin your alterations.)
  3. You are getting married in a church, and will require a veil, long train, shoulders covered, etc. (Not surprising, Malta is 99% Catholic.)
  4. You will wear a pretty slip under your wedding dress (or a crinoline), not an ugly support garment (like Spanx).
OK, here we go!
CAMILLERI PARIS MODE



Camilleri Paris Mode is located in Rabat, Malta, on an unassuming street, in a stunning industrial style shop brimming with the most delicious fabrics, bespoke furniture, fine oils, and artwork. Walking into Camilleri Paris Mode is like entering a playground for the senses, a Disneyland of design. It’s not just wedding dresses here: each level houses a new collection of temptations, and bridal wear is located on the second floor, adjacent to a collection of stunning imported textiles.


I went to CPM twice – once last fall, and once this winter. Both times I was lucky to work with the lovely Rosemary, who makes you feel as comfortable as though you have been longtime friends, and offers practical advice and a no-pressure approach. CPM’s seamstress, Mary, also leaves you feeling assured that you are in more than capable hands, speaking knowledgeably about alterations as you try on dresses (a very helpful experience most shops skip out on).


When I arrived I was seated with a large book of designs, from which I selected dresses I liked, and Rosemary made (useful) recommendations. I then got naked (save for skivvies and heels) and was helped into the gowns by Rosemary and her assistant. Easy.


trying on dresses by gemy

At CPM I gravitated towards gowns by Lebanese designer Gemy, and British designer Jenny Packham, but their inventory constantly changes, and with a dress exclusivity policy (yes, no other bride on the island gets your dress but you!) it's first-come-first-served. Overall, I found the dresses here to be one-of-a-kind, on-trend pieces, from €1,500-€3,000.

The details: Appointments are necessary to view or try on dresses. Camilleri Paris Mode also offers wedding registries suitable for couples with friends and families living abroad. Alterations occur on-site several weeks in advance, with final alterations a few days before. Camilleri Paris Mode offers dress exclusivity for local brides. You can find them on Facebook and Twitter.

images: 1, 2, 3, 4 (instagram)

ALAMANGO BRIDAL

Alamango Bridal is located in Gzira, Malta, in a traditional Maltese building with winding stone staircases, wrought iron bannisters, and 19th century parlour furniture. I went to Alamango once, alone, this winter. When I arrived I was seated with a large touchscreen monitor to view Alamango’s collection of wedding gowns. I selected three, which were retrieved from a back room and brought out to me.


I was shown to a dressing room where I put on an awkwardly large nude-coloured slip (to maintain any modesty they thought I had) and long, stain white gloves (to keep the gowns oil and dirt free). A kind woman (whose name I forget!) helped me into the dresses, giving me great advice about alterations and designs. From her I also learned that the peak season of weddings in Malta is May through July, and most weddings in Malta occur in the morning or at night, although afternoon and all-day events are becoming more common. Sit-down meals aren't often served, and most couples opt for a stand-up cocktail party, perhaps with a buffet. Interesting, right?

Overall, I found the dresses here to be traditionally 'bridal', with a few great, unique pieces (I fell in love with a Spanish lace gown - with a cape!) thrown into the mix, from €900-€3,000.


The details: Appointments are recommended, however, I was accepted as a walk-in. Partial inventory is displayed online. Alterations begin on-site three months in advance. Alamango offers dress exclusivity for local brides. You can find Alamango on Facebook here.

images: instagram

PRONOVIAS

Pronovias is located in Gzira, Malta, in a modern shopblock at street level. Part of the great Spanish chain, its store design is sleek and comfortable. Its inventory is organized on two levels: cocktail dresses on the ground floor, bridal wear on the first.

from my first trip wedding dress shopping
I went to Pronovias twice – once in the summer with my mum and little sister, and once (solo) this winter. Both times I worked with the lovely Marisa. The staff at Pronovias were so sweet to deal with, called me by name, and were always ready to offer advice about alterations and designs.

Before you go to Pronovias you can build a 'Dressing Room' using their online tool, so the staff have an idea of what you're interested in (although the full line of Pronovias dresses are, understandably, not available at the Malta shop). You can also use this tool to make an appointment at Pronovias, and then the staff at the shop you visit have access to your 'dressing room' too. Or, you can browse through their inventory with a staff member on a computer during your appointment in-store. Unlike Alamango and Camilleri Paris Mode, inventory is also displayed on racks (and sorted according to fabric type - so helpful), so you can browse through dresses by hand. Overall, I found the dresses here to be on-trend, with a good mix of modern and traditional, from €1,200-€3,000.

The details: Appointments are necessary, however, I was permitted drop in the shop to look at their inventory. Collections are displayed on Pronovias International’s web site. Alterations occur on-site, several months in advance. Pronovias offers dress exclusivity for local brides. You can find Pronovias International on Facebook.

the day i found my dress at pronovias!

In the end, after trying on poofy princess dresses, sleek and sexy dresses, sparkly dresses, satin dresses, feathery dresses, and everything in between, I purchased my dress from Pronovias. But I'm not telling you what I got. You'll have to wait for August. (Mike does read this blog, after all, and although he accompanied me to a few of these visits, we're going to hold on to that little bit of tradition).

And yes, I went shopping and purchased my wedding dress alone. Contrary to what TLC would have you believe, you don't need everyone and their sister with you to make a decision. (And I always do my best shopping solo, anyway.)

What was your wedding dress shopping experience like? How many trips did you make, and with whom? Was it fun, or agonizing, or both? I find other women's "dress stories" fascinating, and would really love to know!

p.s. i'm writing about our wedding in a weekly column on Grey Likes Weddings, too! Join the conversation.

5 comments :

  1. I do my best shopping alone too :)

    I was nervous going into wedding dress shopping - I had one shot at it and basically one day of appointments before returning to Gabon. I booked in at 3 places (2 small, one large) but ultimately found my dress at the first small boutique. I even phoned and cancelled my 3rd appointment as I was happy with my options between the 2 smaller boutiques. In the end, it was much less stressful than I thought and I was glad to have had a time crunch - I'm certain it's a process that could go on and on and on!

    I feel a little creepy but I'm so looking forward to your wedding and seeing all of the details come together. (And August is close --- wow, you'll be a married woman next month!!!)

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    1. I wish I had more of a time crunch, and less options. I tossed around the idea of buying online, having one made, etc. Way too many options!

      And thanks, that's really sweet of your :) I'm looking forward to it to. August is SO close, it feels completely surreal!

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  2. Jay's post up above makes me feel better - I also cannot wait to see the details! Have loved reading your posts over on Grey's.

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  3. Alamango's ruined my sister's wedding by delivering the night before the wedding a dress in several pieces. I am not joking. My sisters wedding was ruined, as was the 5* hotel booked for the night before. When challenged, Mr Alamango turned out to be the rudest man I have ever had the displeasure of meeting. I hope this helps to inform you of the best choices available, & that this is not one of them.

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