Bridal gowns without the frowns

Lofty ambitions for sisters’ second hand enterprise

WHEN sisters Orla and Paula Mallaghan decided to open ‘The Ironing Shop’ in Omagh people thought they
were crazy and in fairness, there might actually have been a few times when the former Pomeroy ladies
questioned their initial brave decision. However (and it’s a big one), four years on and the Ironing Shop has notonly gone from strength to strength, it has also spawned a dry-cleaning sideline and most impressively, Loft Bridal, a completely original addition to the business which caters for brides-to-be who don’t want to part with an appendage in order to kit out their big day with the latest fashion trends.

In essence, a boutique offering new and used bridal gowns (from the bride to the flowergirl and everyone in-between), Loft Bridal itself is one of the few true success stories to come out of the recession because also in essence, it is a product of the recession.

“The idea for the business formed because we heard so many people complain about their wedding dresses, when they came in to have them dry-cleaned,” one half of the partnership, Orla Mullin (née Mallaghan)
said this week. “The biggest complaint was, ‘what am I going to do with the dress now that the wedding’s

“People had paid so much for the dress but now that the big day was finished they didn’t know what to do with it. That’s when we had the idea.

“So we decided to put a sign in the window asking for dresses to see what kind of reaction we would get. If it worked we would sell them on and the brides would at least get some money back, and if it didn’t work, there was nothing lost. We could hardly belief the response we got.”

In hindsight the sisters can now see that offering nearly new designer dresses for a fraction of the original designer price tag, was always going to take off like a retail rocket but even now they are constantly amazed by the reaction from brides-to-be, not only from Omagh and Tyrone, but even from as far away as California.

“These are perfect designer dresses only without the designer price tag,” Orla continued.

“At the start people would say to us, ‘And do you actually sell the dresses?’ But when we got our name out there and people learned about the bargains that were to be had, it all took off.

“People’s thinking had to come round a little but once that happened, we’ve been flat out.

“People come in here and they are literally blown away by the prices on the dresses.

“Some girls might have already picked their dresses and they only come in for a look around. But they
then see that we might have the same dress only it’s £1,000 cheaper.

“These are totally modern, designer dresses in perfect condition, the only difference is: They’ve been drycleaned.”

Business is booming to such an extent for Orla and Paula, Loft Bridal has had to stop taking in dresses on a Saturday because so many people are buying their Ian Stewarts and their Linea Raffellis and their Benjamin Roberts – among others – up in the Loft. Currently stretching their joint time between the Ironing Shop and the Loft, plans are already afoot for future expansions.

Citing the internet as a massive tool for any new business, the local girls admitted that evening work can
be tough going (when there are families and trips to the gym to juggle), but, they are at pains to point out, hard work tends to pay off.

“People anywhere in the world will ‘Google’ a dress and that’s why we have to have as much detail on the websites as possible,” Orla added.

“After the UHWedding Fair, we had people queuing up outside the front door on the Monday morning before we even had time to get into the shop. The word is getting out there but you have to work at it too.

“It’s hard work, don’t get me wrong, and there’s no more Coronation Street in the evenings but it’s also a total buzz. I love it.”

To find out more about Loft Bridal, find them on facebook, log onto or email

Loft Bridal is situated upstairs @ The Ironing Shop on Market street in Omagh. Tel 028 8225 0052.

Source: Ulster Herald on 24th February 2011.