You might be surprised that: Nearly ONE THIRD (31.3%) of the women marrying in the UK are over 40 years old* 17.4% of the women marrying in the UK are over 50* 26.7% of all marriages in the UK are not first marriages* Yet the UK bridal fashion industry is generally not catering for this market. We speak to Kate Andrews from sheque.co.uk about this topic…
As we get older our clothing style changes. So naturally Brides over 40 want different things from a Wedding Outfit than someone in their 20s or 30s. We want something that makes us feel gorgeous despite our lumps and bumps, wrinkles and sags is comfortable, has simple, flattering lines and is sophisticated.
Most over 40s would feel uncomfortable not wearing a bra on their Wedding Day, especially those of us who breastfed, so backless dresses or very low cleavages are impractical. Many also hate their ‘bingo wings’ so want a dress which has sleeves or drapes to hide them. Some of us (especially those who have been married before) may not want to wear white or ivory.
As we aren’t as comfortable with our bodies as we were when they were nubile many of us avoid getting changed in public. So the thought of a Wedding Shop assistant half our age, helping us in and out of Wedding Dresses, however lovely she is, is terrifying! We would much rather try on dresses in the comfort and secure environment of our own home, perhaps with a group of friends and/or family and maybe a glass of prosecco.
Our priorities regarding the Wedding also change – many over 40s don’t want the big wedding they would have had in earlier decades, so they want a dress which is more understated and affordable. After all, many of us are desperately trying to top up our pensions before it’s too late, so spending loads of money on a frivolous wedding is madness!
So why hasn’t the vast proportion of the bridal fashion industry recognised this? They are essentially ignoring 1/3 of their UK market. The Wedding Trade Show in London was a prime example. Nearly every supplier’s dresses were designed for young women. All the models were size 6 and in their 20s. Isn’t it about time Wedding Dress designers developed a range for women over 40 and showcased middle-aged ladies wearing them? When was the last time you saw a middle-aged lady modelling a Wedding Dress?!
The buying model also needs to change. If ladies want to try on their dresses at home, the ‘shop’ doesn’t need to be physical. By not having a physical shop a Bridal Wear company’s overheads are drastically reduced and these savings can be passed to the customer. I was astonished to learn the average markup on Wedding Dresses but I can understand why Wedding Shops have to make that margin, with their large overheads and the fact they have to buy a large range of sample dresses at their own cost and pay staff to look after their customers.
The original idea of forming Sheque was born in the Summer of 2022 when I was chatting to a colleague about her forthcoming wedding plans. As it was her second wedding and she was in her 50s she was looking for a non-traditional outfit and hadn’t been able to find it anywhere. She told me how frustrating it was that nobody seemed to cater for older or second time round brides.
Having done extensive research and surveyed loads of ladies over 40 I decided it was time to try and fill this huge gap in the market. I didn’t expect to face some of the hurdles I’ve encountered, to be honest. The vast majority of designers won’t sell to Sheque unless I order a minimum number of dresses and have a physical shop.
So I’ve had to find designers elsewhere – online wholesalers who have low minimum order value and who can deliver to me within 3 working days in standard UK dress sizes. My ‘just in time’ philosophy allows me to minimise my overheads, so my margins don’t need to be nearly as big, making the dresses much more affordable, and still deliver dresses to my customers within a working week.
Sheque also tries to fill the ‘second time round dress’ gap. Sourcing dresses in cream, light grey, taupe and champagne colours for those ladies who feel those colours are more appropriate for them. Sheque and I have come a long way in 10 months and I’ve learned a huge amount. Not least building my now extensive online boutique! However, I still wish the bridal fashion industry would wake up, look at their market statistics and move forward into the 21st century!
*Office for National Statistics Marriages in England and Wales: 2020 data, Issued in May 2023