A notice on the door of the once-stylish establishment advised the 40 or more distraught brides-to-be gathered outside that the premises would remain closed until further notice.
Inside, a few miserable tokens - two fancy floral arrangements and a couple of veils peeking out from the back of the shop - nodded to the erstwhile existence of what was one of the country’s swankiest bridal boutiques.
Yesterday, bereft of wedding dresses and strewn with empty clothes hangers, black bags, unopened mail and stacks of order books, it had all the appearance of a venture hurriedly abandoned.
“It’s gone into liquidation,” was the collective wail that echoed around the walls of Penrose Wharf. But there was no one on hand to respond to the plaintive pleas of wannabe brides desperate to discover if their dresses had sailed down the Swanee.
Josephine Carey, from Cobh, Co Cork, in tears and clutching her receipts, was devastated to have parted with €4,000 of her precious wedding day budget to pay for undelivered bridal wear.
“I bought my dress and the boys’ suits in The Wedding Dress last July. I paid 50% of the deposit up front. My dress was due in January, I rang them in February because I had heard nothing from them and they said there was a delay, but it would be in the first two weeks in March.
“I booked a fitting because I was getting the entire bodice made from scratch, but I got a call on Monday saying the dress would not be in until April. I was in a panic, but even on Wednesday they were telling me they’d work day and night to have it ready on time.”
The 28-year-old, due to marry Ross Gernon in Cobh on May 19, heard the distressing news from her hairdresser - The Wedding Dress had gone bust. Frantic calls to the shop were met by an answering machine apologising for the shop’s closure and informing distracted clients that they would be contacted in the coming days.
Michelle O’Leary, 23, from Blackrock, Cork, heard the bad news over the radio. She rushed into Penrose Wharf with her aunt Elizabeth McCarthy, due to fly out to Lanzarotte on April 9 for her wedding to Wayne Hourigan, also from Blackrock.
“I ordered all the groom’s party suits and shoes in January. I got a courtesy call yesterday [Wednesday] to say the shop manager had been taken ill so they had to close the shop. They reassured me it would be open again today and that they’d be on to me for final fittings. I had paid €1,000 towards the suits.”
Michelle Ginnifer, 27, from Mahon, Cork, paid for her dress in full last May. She got 10% off for prompt payment.
“The dress I picked out, I loved it. I know I won’t get anything like it again. I paid €2,000 for it and it was the dress of my dreams. I don’t know what I am going to do now.”
It was a familiar mantra among the budding brides pacing the tiles in Penrose Wharf. Stephanie Maher from Glanmire, Cork, Deirdre Dunne from Connaught Avenue, Cork, Maria O’Leary from Glenrichmond, Glanmire, Vicky Hudson from Carrigaline, Cork, Louise Fleming, from Gardiner’s Hill, Cork. All had selected the dress, the-love-at-first-fitting gown, the generous swathe of silk and twist of tulle that for one day would make them the Princess Bride.
Finding no answers to their plight in Penrose Wharf, some took off towards The Wedding Dress warehouse on Cork’s Centre Park Road. Arriving in tandem with the gardaí, it was to discover that a number of over-anxious bridezillas had taken the law into their own hands. A few had swooped on the unguarded warehouse and left laden with gowns.
Gardaí appealed for calm as those left with hands hanging demanded access to what was left behind. To no avail. It was now in the hands of the liquidator, gardaí said, as a mobile platform was shunted in front of the warehouse door to prevent further pilfering. It seemed there was nothing anyone could do, for better or for worse.