‘I feel so uplifted’: Yorkshire bridal shop invites ‘real women’ to model dresses

<span>Photograph: Bethany Clarke/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Bethany Clarke/The Guardian

Tucked away in a corner on a steep hill in Skipton, a market town in North Yorkshire, stands the independent wedding shop Cinderella’s. After prompting an incredible response online this week, the owner, Mandy Abramson, is inviting women from all walks of life to try on a wedding dress even if they have no plans to marry. Everyone is welcome, she says.

December is a quiet trading month for the wedding dress industry, so for the past two years Abramson has found a week in her diary when she can hold what she calls “real women modelling sessions”. However, this time round Cinderella’s has found itself packed with budding models. The dresses, ranging from £100 to £2,135, come in all styles and variations.

The inspiration came from Molly Fuchs, a friend of Mandy’s, who is terminally ill and is ticking off her bucket list. One wish was to try on a wedding dress as she has never married. Abramson says the pictures of Fuchs in the gown went “absolutely viral” and now it has become an annual tradition.

Abramson said: “Initially, there were a few tears, and it was an especially emotional morning, but after that it was the best appointment in the world, such good fun. Molly was full of the joys of life and is enjoying every minute of what she’s got left. Most importantly, she looked amazing.”

Chrissie Hilliam, 80, who has been married twice, also popped in to try on the dress of her dreams. “I’ve never had a proper wedding dress, they’ve always been short, and these gowns Mandy’s got make you feel so special. It’s a really lovely feeling.”

Challenging insecurity among women and society’s conceptions of desirability was also high on the agenda when holding these sessions. Abramson said: “Twenty-five years in this job and I’ve met women who are all facing their own struggles and insecurities, and just because they don’t see themselves in the models in the bridal boutique magazines, they still deserve to feel beautiful, and it’s a huge boost for them.”

Gillian Robinson, 57, decided she would do something positive for herself and booked an appointment for Thursday. “It’s my birthday week and I finally want to do something for me. It’s amazing and empowering.

“I’ve removed all my winter gear and got into this gown. People think you only get to wear a wedding dress once, but it’s not true. I think it should be done more often, because I feel so uplifted and other women should too.”

As a local independent business, Cinderella’s lost two years of trade during the pandemic. There has also been a decrease in weddings during the cost of living crisis as people find themselves prioritising other commitments.

However, the local people of Skipton rally around each other. Abramson said: “Even though it’s a town, it’s a real village mentality, and we do tend to support each other as a community.”

Sisters Coral, 24, and Jasmine Haden, 26, decided to make a trip to Cinderella’s after Coral got married in January but her wedding dress experience was not what she’d hoped for because pregnancy limited her options.

Coral said: “I kind of regret getting married before having a baby. My wedding dress wasn’t as nice as these and I only paid £35 for it. This dress makes me feel like a Disney princess.”

Jasmine wasn’t sure if the wedding gowns would suit her and was nervous before the big try-on. But when she finally put a dress on, she was overcome with tears: “I look stunning. Wow!”