Published: 09:07, 16 September 2021
| Updated: 09:08, 16 September 2021
A Sittingbourne woman has been reunited with her long-lost wedding dress, after discovering it had been inadvertently packed away in another bride’s loft due to an apparent mix-up at a dry cleaners.
Thanks to top sleuth work by a bridal shop manager, Michelle Drew and Nicola Links swapped their gowns last week, after Michelle launched an appeal to find the dress, which her late mum had helped pick, and had been missing for three years.
Watch: Michelle Drew kindly reenacts the reunion with her wedding dress for Kent Online
On finding her dress, Michelle said: “I did cry and hugged it, I was prancing around in it in my bedroom, I couldn’t bare to take it off.”
Michelle and Philip tied the knot in Thurnham, near Maidstone, in August 2018, two and a half weeks before Nicola's wedding day.
She wore a Justin Alexander Sweetheart Maisy dress, which her mum Patricia helped pick.
Patricia died unexpectedly in January 2018, and never got to see Michelle wear the dress.
Shortly after the wedding, Michelle took her dress to a dry cleaners to be professionally cleaned.
However, the wrong frock was returned to her, but she did not realise at the time, having only admired it from its box.
The discovery was made in April 2019, when she wanted to try the dress on.
While the bodices are very similar, the skirts and sleeves of the dresses are different.
What followed was an eventful two years which she says started with the dry cleaners, which Michelle has chosen not to name, denying issuing the wrong gown and eventually ended in county court, with damages paid to Michelle.
A social media plea by Michelle earlier this month was seen by Lucy Sissons, shop manager at Alta Costura Bride.
Realising her store is one of the main stockists of that dress in the area, Lucy whittled down their customers using factors such as the wedding date and the dress size, finding only one that fit the profile - Nicola.
Lucy promptly sent Nicola an email and then rang her a few days later. When Nicola got the call she said at first she didn't believe she had the wrong dress, but decided to check.
Nicola said: "I was quite shocked. I was convinced she would be wrong and when I first opened the box I thought 'oh there's my dress', then I opened it out and I was really surprised.
"I was like 'oh my god I have been storing this dress, I have moved house, all sorts of things, and carting this dress around that wasn't my own."
Nicola and Lucy met last week to exchange the dresses, and Michelle's wedding dress even had her original dry cleaning ticket still inside, she said.
On wearing her dress once more, Michelle said: “It reminded me how I felt the first time I put it on, how my mum looked at me and said ‘yep, that’s the one’, it was amazing.”
Speaking about the process of finding Nicola, Lucy, who has been with Alta Costura for four years, said: "With our system, with all our records, it was quite straight forward for me to search through and narrow it down, it only took a couple of minutes.
"All it needed to happen was for the right person to see the appeal. It was the case of falling into the right hands.
"When it all came together we were in the shop jumping up and down, it was such a happy moment, I almost felt like I was on long lost families."