MORE than 20 brides contacted the Observer last week, after being left without dresses and cash after a shop shut its doors.
Natalie Wileman ran Everything But The Girl Bridal Boutique, from The Boardwalk, in Chichester. But in June the shop closed, briefly reopening in Brighton, and then disappearing altogether.
Calls from brides-to-be have flooded into the Observer, with stories of missing dresses, lost deposits and rising stress levels in the build- up to weddings.
Left in the lurch
Emily-Louise Ford, 24, of Waterlooville, said: “This shop has taken not only mine but lots of other brides’ deposits, leaving us to try to sort other ways of getting our dresses sorted for our big day.
“No-one can contact Natalie and she has now vacated her last premises without telling anyone and no forwarding address.”
Elkie Thakery, 22, originally from Chichester, put a £560 deposit down on a dress from the shop for her wedding next summer.
“I ordered my wedding dress from her and found out around September they had disappeared,” she said. “I managed to contact the supplier and pay for it again.
“I am angry. I think it is a lot of money and something that is meant to be really lovely. It obviously taints it.”
Kim Leahy, 25, from Bognor Regis, ordered her dress in December last year, receiving it weeks before her wedding in September. It was four inches too small.
“She said I must have gained four inches in weight and it was my fault,” said Kim.
“If I had gained weight, none of my clothes would have fitted. I just think it was not my dress.
“Her customer service was disgusting. She would make you feel awful for calling her.
“She managed to get the dress altered, but I had to lose weight to for it to fit.”
Kirsty Matthews, 28, of Gosport, said: “She ruined the whole experience for me.”
Kirsty got married in May, and finally received her dresses three weeks before the big day.
“She ordered the wrong bridesmaid dresses and wouldn’t put it right.
“I said ‘I need my wedding dress’ and she said ‘I can give it to you the day before’, but I needed it fitted and taken up.
“I was off sick for six weeks. Weddings are stressful as it is.”
Rachel Jones, 28, of Portsmouth, paid a deposit of £560 to Natalie in March, but when the shop in Chichester shut she heard nothing.
“I rang the supplier to see if she’d actually ordered the dress. She had, but I had to buy it again,” she said.
“It’s been very stressful.”
Out of pocket
Amanda Spratt, 33, of Emsworth, is getting married in August, but her mum has been left £1,050 out of pocket.
“It’s worse because it is mum’s money,” she said. “I’m upset for her.”
Sarah Cameron, 40, from Westergate, got married on Saturday, but had issues getting her dress from Natalie, so had to purchase it again from the designer.
“My £600 hasn’t been refunded,” she said. “It has been really stressful.
“Losing £600 was bad enough. It is knowing she tells you all the way through you’re going to get your dress, sitting there as cool as a cucumber.
“The lesson to be learnt is to take out insurance,” she said.
Lucy Hatton lost £300 to the company, and said: “I have yet to receive a dress and have not received a refund.
“There are many brides-to-be who have had the same treatment.
Unfortunately, some brides were let down just two weeks before their big days.”
Just three weeks before their big day, Ashley and Lucie Pollicott were supposed to be looking forward to spending the rest of their lives together.
But Lucie, 33, was hospitalised from stress because she feared she would be without a wedding dress and would be £3,700 out of pocket.
Husband Ashley, 36, said: “Three weeks before the wedding, we discovered they were shutting down. Lucie was in and out of hospital for stress. We could not get hold of Natalie and she owed us £3,700.”
The stress of the situation hospitalised Lucie for four days, and then another week after that.
In the end, though, they received the dress. Ashley managed to track down the suppliers in Toronto, and eventually Natalie, and they received the dress two days before the wedding.
They had to take it to another bridal shop, JC Brides in Portsmouth, to have the dress altered in time.
“We told them the story and they were horrified,” said Ashley.
He said JC Brides had saved the day, but the pair are still angry about their experience with Natalie.
“It’s not on,” said Ashley. “It is stressful enough getting married.
“After hearing the horror stories since, we were lucky.”
The pair from Hayling Island were married on August 5.
A spokesman for West Sussex’s trading standards department said: “We have received complaints concerning this business and are investigating.”
Miss Wileman did not respond to the Observer’s request for a response. Anyone needing advice can contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Services on 0845 040506, or at www.citizensadvice.org.uk