The Perfect Dress by Louisa Leaman – the romance of wedding dresses for the right person


The romance of a wedding dress is central to this book; seeking the perfect dress for each bride, bringing the unique sense of vintage dresses to women who need either a lift, a refocus or an outward expression of their personality. However, there is more to this novel than just another romance of perfect weddings; it draws attention to unhappy marriages, repressing and abusive for women. It also comments within the story of dubious celebrity weddings, and the power of publicity to affect lives. While Fran is the central character, her own sad experiences mean that she has an interesting concept of romance and marriage, despite her enjoyment of others’ ceremonies. When Rafael Colt appears, his own memories of long term relationships is less than positive, and he has his own challenges to deal with despite his apparent wealthy and influential lifestyle. There is at the heart of this story a specific wedding dress, breathtaking in its beauty, design and work, notorious for its history, and an obsession for Fran. As this dress becomes both a connection and a block for relationships, the fate of a business, a foundation and several people seem to hinge on its fabric and identity. This is a lovely book to read, giving a fascinating view of relationships, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.


The book opens with a view of “The Whispering Dress”, a wedding dress shop with a very individual identity. It is the dream and work of Francesca Delaney, who discovers, researches and displays each dress to its best effect, creating the whole image of the distinctive design and cut of every dress. She also finds the perfect accessories for each dress, which can become part of its story. Fran tries to discover the original bride who wore the dress, something of her story and marriage. She sells dresses on the basis of a perfect match for every woman who enters the shop, even if it at first it does not appeal. The opposite to mass selling, Fran obtains the dresses from a variety of sources, and it is when Mick, her business partner and friend, hears of a house clearance of a hidden huge house, she travels with him and finds a remarkable dress seemingly abandoned. She sees it as a rare if not unique example of a famous design house early in the twentieth century, but when she tries to explain to the house’s owner the importance of the discarded gown, he throws it away, distracted by the arrival of a strange woman. The eventual rescue of the dress means that Fran meets Rafael properly in difficult circumstances, but their immediate attraction is blocked by their difficult pasts, a family at war and the dress that Fran will never acknowledge. 


This is essentially a romance novel that offers insights into the power of a wedding dress to women, and the effect of the correct dress on a marriage. The episode concerning the celebrity is an important comment on the negative effects of publicity, as well as relating to the problems of a negative public image. Not that the perfect dress always equals the perfect marriage, but it can suggest a whole new aspect of the day and successive relationship. I was fascinated by the fashion history at the heart of this book, and the research behind the fictionalised memorable dresses. The book is really enjoyable for its obvious insight into the whole business of fashion, specifically the pinnacle of wedding dresses. The large element of romance is well handled and Fran and the other main characters are well drawn. I recommend this book to people interested in fashion history as well as romance, a really enjoyable read.