Introducing a brand new fashion series where you experience the best bridal boutiques in the country, without leaving your sofa. We’ll tell you if the fitting rooms are big enough, the collections versatile enough, if your mum will love the experience as much as you, and crucially, what it’s all going to cost.
First up is Halfpenny London where you’ll covet the vintage lighting, antique furniture and bespoke floral installations as much as the dresses (there are 600 pieces to play with!) and the Sophia Webster heels in the fitting rooms.
When Kate launched Halfpenny London back in 2005, she did it with one simple ambition, to dress any body shape. ‘This is not a place that will encourage you to alter your shape to make the dress work,’ she says today. ‘The dress needs to work for you. We celebrate women’s bodies in all their glory by focusing on what you want to show off, not what you want to hide.’ Kate is a ‘fabric obsessive’ (she has a Masters in textiles from Central St Martin’s) and today sources all her silks from Italy, laces from France and intelligent recycled fabrics from Asia. Her vast, versatile collection has interchangeable pieces you can play with, rather than serving current trends.
All her dresses are made in London and her three current bestsellers are indicative of what the broader collections offer: The much-loved and many times copied Cheryl, a silk bias cut dress from 2015, halter necked with a draped back; the tiered ruffle Rihanna skirt (named after the singer wore it for The Only Girl in the World promo) and the new Mikado Dahlia dress, cut with a square neck, a column skirt and hidden pockets with the option to add a dramatic oversized bow at the back. It’s from the latest 3 Collection of simple dresses that come with standout details – a box pleat shoulder, a dramatic bell or puff sleeve shape, a delicately printed fabric or an integral cape.
‘We offer multiple looks to wear over one day or one epic standalone dress that will fit you perfectly,’ adds Kate who is currently dressing 800 brides a year with her ‘something for everyone’ philosophy.
A snapshot of the space:
Halfpenny London occupies four separate spaces on Woburn Walk in Bloomsbury. Number 10 remains the original bridal boutique. Number 9 houses the atelier and fittings space (think crittall glass doors and windows, giant burnt orange curtains and vintage Tom Dixon lighting) and No 1 is where you’ll find the head office (and Kate’s Eero Saarinen white kitchen table that the management team now work around). The top floor houses the production and design studios, two cutting rooms and the sewing rooms.
Kate’s boutique looks like no other bridal space. Walls are painted in deep Obsidian Green and the floors in Livid, both from Little Greene Paint Company. Expect pale blue and pink velvet couches, chairs and footstools from the modernist Calvers & Suvdal. Strip lighting is banned. Instead there are stylish cream orbs with golden halos by Lee Broom, golden reclaimed radiators, antique marble lamps and cubes, all personally sourced by Kate from favourite haunts including Kempton Antiques Market; Ardingly Antiques Fair, Faversham antiques and vintage market, Goldborne Road and Alfies Antique Market. The dyed fern installations suspended from the ceiling are an original commission from the florist and set designer Juliet Glaves.
‘It’s important that the boutique feels the way my sitting room used to when brides originally had their appointments at my Mews houses, in Ladbrook Grove, then Camden,’ says Kate. ‘It helped them feel at ease, they weren’t walking into an alienating white box. For some women buying a wedding dress is a scary prospect so we do everything we can to alleviate that. The interiors are much like my dresses, ever changing. A feast for the eyes.’
Who is dressing you?
You will work with one of five retail staff on the day of your appointment, all of whom are fully trained stylists, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of, not only Kate’s 600 strong line-up of pieces across all her past and current collections, but also special one-off archive pieces. Book on a Tuesday or Wednesday and you may see Kate herself who you’ll recognise immediately by the bold glasses (usually Alexis Amor, Cubitts or Cutler and Gross) and her preferred Quite The Standout MAC lipstick. A trusted friend and stylist to Kate Moss, Erin O’Connor (one of Kate’s bridesmaids at her 2012 wedding) and Emilia Fox, Kate is also incredibly down to earth. She offers a warm and insightful glimpse into her private family life across the Halfpenny London Insta channel, choosing not to filter out the heart-breaking lows as well as the creative highs. Watch this space for an exciting book deal and podcast to come.
Banish all thoughts of a scene from Bridesmaids. Clients are occasionally encouraged to visit alone the first time, so they can work out with their stylists what they love and what they don’t. ‘Sometimes it’s better that way so there’s no pressure,’ says Kate. ‘Then, bring your crew to see your final edit when you have it.’
Virtual appointments are gone. ‘This is a very tactile experience,’ says Kate. Chances are you will speak to or have email contact with one of the stylists before your appointment. Any favourites you have already flagged will be waiting for you in the fitting room. Prosecco or crémant is served in elegant stemless glasses, ‘and we’re very generous with it’ adds Kate.
There is a spacious fitting room in the back third of the ground floor with a large sash window overlooking a private garden. Downstairs is another fitting room, so you won’t overhear another bride’s verdicts while you’re trying to work out your own. Dress samples are available up to a size 22 in some styles, ‘pieces that we know previous brides have loved’ says Kate, plus a larger edit of samples in sizes 14, 16 and 18.
Appointment costs for 1.5 hours: £30 mid-week, £45 weekends and evenings, £85 VIP with Kate (Tues & Weds only)
Your dress will be made in the nearest standard size to you. Then you can opt to use the alterations package or your own tailor. The waiting time for appointments is around six weeks. If you arrive early, pop into Casa Jardin opposite for an oat milk latte and a pastry or stick your head into Nepenthes for some of Kate’s favourite ‘edgy, Japanese garments’. She is wearing one of its patterned mohair cardigans on the day we speak.
Post appointment head to The Standard on Argyle Street for a frozen margarita on the rooftop bar. ‘It’s my second home’ says Kate, who will stay over if she’s not travelling home to Kent in the evening.
Go online to explore twenty past and present collections, spanning more than 600 dresses and separates and the archive collection. The blog pages are an excellent resource to view hundreds of previous brides’ looks. An entry level, simple slip dress with an accessory (a simple overskirt or a top to sit over the slip) is around £2,000. A look designed bespoke by Kate with full access to her throughout the process starts at £15,000.
If you have a short lead time, there is a Halfpenny edit on Net-a-Porter that can be shipped globally and a ready-to-wear 15-piece collection in multiple sizes in Harrods. It includes some exclusive dresses not available anywhere else, including the Love Dress which holds a very special place in Kate’s heart. It was the last dress she worked on with her mother before she passed away in November 2021. ‘There are only ten of these dresses available and mum handmade all the hearts that drape around the arms,’ Kate says. ‘It was a clever way to repurpose otherwise wasted fabric. She taught me how to turn the smallest things into something magical.’ The Love Dress is available in bright red and ivory and costs £6,600.
Demand for dresses is so high that accessory appointments are no longer offered. Clients can choose from a collection of around 25 veils of different lengths, some very simple, others heavily embroidered and embellished. Kate recommends Tilly Thomas Lux for head pieces, Sophie Webster for shoes (you’ll find a selection to use in the fitting rooms) and Harrods’ Shoe Heaven.
At a glance: Entry level dresses are around £2,000 rising to £15,000 (starting price) for bespoke commissions by Kate. Appointments start at £35. Alterations packages start at £575. Sample sales are scheduled throughout the year and you can expect discounts of up to 40%.
Your 15 second sneak peek inside:
You’re sitting on. . . a Calvers & Suvdal pink velvet chair
You’re drinking . . . a glass of crémant from a chic stemless glass.
Hold the dresses, you’ll take the . . . Diptyque Baies in-house scent that creates a calming waft of rose and blackcurrant leaf the second you step through the door.
Nothing says Halfpenny Bride like . . . beautiful bespoke embroidery sewn into the waistband of your dress on a blue, ivory or pale pink ribbon.
You had me at . . . the curb. It’s full Dickensian vibes on Woburn Walk, one of the oldest pedestrian shopping streets in London, dating back to 1822 – even the original gas lampposts are listed. The converted shops are former merchant houses designed by Thomas Cubitt, each with a beautiful bowed front window. ‘It’s one of those streets that you’d never know existed, unless you had a reason to be here,’ says Kate.
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