Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Finding a wedding dress in HK - Part I

Best of a bad bunch - the curtain effect

Finding a wedding dress in Hong Kong is challenging to say the least. So challenging, in fact, that it took me four months to find one. Not only do the bridal shops simply not stock anything you could vaguely ever imagine yourself in, but they make it virtually impossible for you to actually try and choose one.

Whether you go to Weddings in Central or Lusan Mandongus (not the most consumer-friendly name) or Designer Bridalroom, you will find that as long as you are looking for a large meringue of a dress, or something to star in a Disney musical with, you'll be sorted. If, you poor soul, you're actually looking for something a little smoother, and sleeker (read "boring" in Hong Kong shop attendant's minds) you're pretty much stuck.

To make matters harder, there's also absolutely no transparency about what dresses shops actually carry. So, you go on their website and think "ah voondabah, they have Pronovias" only to find to your dissapointment that they only have two Pronovias dresses, and not the two you like. But then you'll get convinced on the phone they they-have-something-very-similar-by-another-brand-so-how-about-coming-in-to-try? Then, once you arrive at the shop, they'll give you a pile of glossy bridal books filled with all the fantastic designers they carry, which you'll go through with great care and attention and choose the dresses you want to try, after which the sales assistant will let you know that they carry absolutely none of your choices. Perfect.

The other thing is that Hong Kong wedding shops assume that you're going to run off and have their dresses copied by a tailor in an alley for a quarter of the price. So, in order to stop brides-to-be from stealing their designs, wedding shops don't allow you to take any pictures. At all. To the point that they "help you" with your dress in the changing room in case you decide to take a clandestine shot. I can tell you that even if I had planned to have the latest Vera Wang dress ripped off, a photograph of me taken in a dimly lit bridal salon wouldn't exactly cut it.

You can probably imagine that none of this is very helpful when your mother and most trusted friends all live on another continent, and can't exactly help you choose your dress with telephone descriptions such as "well, it's long, and white and has sort of drapy bits that float over your I don't have a picture...yes, I'll ask."

Some wedding shops also charge you to try on their dresses. Non refundable. Yep. 5000HKD (500 Euros) to try on three dresses. No, you're not allowed to try on more than three. But here I'm rather pleased to say I was able to find a loophole. As the fee is for trying on three dresses, I found that if I asked to try on only two dresses, then they couldn't find a reason to charge me. Ha! Life's little wins.

Of course, the inevitable and naive thought that comes to every bride-to-be's exhausted mind is, "Ah, I'm in China. The land of silk and sewing. Why don't I just get one made?!" Been there. And back. To cut a long story short, I'll just pose the question: how are you supposed to choose the fabric of your wedding dress based on a sample of cloth the size of your thumbnail? Need I go further?

p.s. Some good things, in case some of you are actually referring to this post for useful information:
- Peeps at Mariee don't have a fee to try on... at least not that I know of...they have some floaty numbers that are less stiff than the usual selection
-Joyce let's you try on their somewhat weathered Vera Wangs if you go to the back and smile a lot
-Hitched was incredibly helpful and have some cool retro dresses
-The WeddingShop has Jenny Packham which can sometimes give the illusion of hope. And other times not
-Blush had some possibilities and their short dresses and bridesmaid dresses were very pretty I thought

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Hong Kong on a clear day

It's on days like these that I really appreciate living in Hong Kong, and why I sometimes feel quite smug about coming back here after the holidays rather than somewhere a little colder...and damper..

Hong Kong with boat

Star Ferry making its way back from Tsim Sham Shui to Hong Kong

The odd surviving relic from the Victorians
Note the HSBC building behind which was built by Foster (Sir) and famous for its incredible detail to Feng Shui. My favorite part is that it's been built on our very own dragon's lair and so has a gap beneath it which has been specially designed for the dragon to sleep under it, and also to fly through.
Someone told me that at a party don't check my sources...

The Bay. Take that, SF

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The art of traveling with a hat

Our wedding was followed almost immediately by another wedding. And this wedding required a hat. Having decided to take on this challenge, I considered buying one (preferably disposable given our enormous apartment) in Hong Kong but couldn't face traveling half way across the globe to Rome and then Athens and then to Paros to Paris to Lyon to Pierrelatte with a flying saucer under my arm (in addition to a wedding dress and everything else one could need-for-ones-own-wedding).

That said, my friend Ms. TT wisely noted that it's perfectly easy to travel with a hat as long as you have a) a hat box and b) a gentleman to carry it. So I then knew that once I got round to getting a hat I would be pretty much sorted as long as I had a hat box. Thanks T.

I decided to wait until we got to Paris to seek out head gear. With our train leaving at 5pm, and all the French time needed for petit dejeuner, dejeuner and chatting (read sucking up) with the concierge, that left us with about an hour to find me something suitable that didn't make me look like a scarecrow. I also knew I would need a hat box, if I were to follow Ms. TT's advice and be able to travel in comfort and style.
Surprisingly, I found a hat pretty easily at what seemed to be the hat shop in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. I say that only because the owner and shop assistant were so incredibly bossy and affirmative in their opinions, that I could only consider them to be world renowned experts.

So once they'd decided on my hat, I then looked the owner in the eye and said, "Now I need a hat box."
She pursed her bright red lips and said, "No. You don't."
I stood a little taller (remembering to keep my shoulders back) and said, "No, really. I need it to travel." I couldn't believe that I needed to explain the basics to these hat masters. Tsk.
She shook her head and looked at me with scrutiny, "You only ave one hat, so you don't need a hat box." she shrugs, "If you ad many hats, then you would need a hat box. You don't. So you can carry it in a bag." She looked down at me again (even though she was half my size) and pursed her lips further, obviously thinking disapprovingly that il est evident que vous n'avez jamais eu de chapeaux de Rolls Royce ou d'amants celebres.

So, there I was, with a hat the size of a brass cymbol stuffed into a paper bag, and my dreams of T gallantly chaperoning me with a hat box squashed forever.

Note that me forgetting it on the train 3 hours later and T having to run after it and then sprint to the next station to pick it up before the SNCF closed forever is clearly a detail which reinforces Ms. TT's advice that you can really only travel with a hat if you have a) a hat box and b) a [fast] gentleman to carry [rescue] it. Ca c'est clair.

Mr and Mrs T