There are many beautiful dresses to choose from in any bridal shop, but if you have your own ideas of what your dress should look like, don’t want to be a cookie-cutter bride, or want to bring your own personality and style out in your dress, then having a custom designed dress is for you.
The decision to have a custom designed wedding dress creates a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any bride. It is an exciting process to share with fiancé’s, maids, friends and family members. It is one of the best ways to guarantee your unique personality will shine through in your wedding gown. This amazing time is a process, so give your designer 4-6 months to create your custom gown.
First, gather together a collection of your favorite bridal gown images. This will entail perusing Pinterest, magazines, and trying on dresses at as many bridal shops as possible. Try on gowns with different shaped bodices, necklines, skirt shapes, sleeves, etc. The more you know what you want, the better.
Find a qualified designer/seamstress who understands your vision. Interview as many as it takes to find one you trust. Remember that experience is the key when it comes to designing a couture gown from scratch…much different than a friend down the street who knows how to sew. Most often in this department, you get what you pay for. The more they have done, the more likely you are to get the gown you want. Don’t make the mistake of going to someone who is cheap just to save a few bucks. I have dealt with many brides who have purchased a dress elsewhere just to come to me to fix it. Sadly, those girls end up paying for the same thing twice.
Most custom designers are by appointment only. This is the best way to give you their full attention. Be courteous of their appointment schedules. They usually have a system in place as to what type of appointments they see on certain days and times. It all works to help you have the best experience.
At the first meeting with your chosen designer, bring all your ideas for your gown. Most girls come in with their ipad and pull up their Pinterest page with their favorite on it. Together we talk about what design elements they like and don’t like. There are usually more commonalities than they think. It’s my job to pull out the dominant ideas and combine them into what will ultimately become the dress design. We discuss the importance of each of those elements and how they work with each other as well as how they work with various types of fabrics. Each bride is the expert on her own vision and taste; I am the expert on solving the practical issues of design and construction. I’m happy to offer advice and suggestions, but the design process should never be a guessing game; client and designer should be on the same page. Working together, it’s amazing for the brides to see their ideas come to life when I sketch out their dress for them right there. We modify the sketch until it is exactly what the bride wants, down to the types of fabrics, lace, buttons, embellishments, etc.
As soon as the design elements are decided, I drape the bride in various shades of the fabrics she has chosen for her gown. There are a zillion different shades of white, ivory and off-white; in my studio I carry dozens of different shades of those colors! The perfect shade will make the brides skin glow, her teeth will appear whiter, and her eyes will be brighter.
Because you will be measured at this fitting, you will need to bring the foundation garments and shoes with the same heel height you will wear with your gown. This is absolutely necessary. There are over 35 different measurements that need to be taken, much more than just bust, waist & hips. Even if they don’t appear to shape your body much, your foundation garments will affect the way the dress hangs on your figure. I have had brides come to fittings wearing their favorite bra and finally bring in the NEW one for the wedding. When she puts on the gown, she wonders why the dress fits so differently. Depending on the design and cut of the dress, wearing the wrong bra effects the entire fit and line of the dress, it can even affect whether the hem hangs evenly. Different heel heights affect our posture differently, so that effects the measurements too. Bring the shoes and undergarments to each fitting.
Now the real fittings begin. This first fitting you will be fit in a muslin, which is a mock-up 3-D pattern that I have made from your one dimensional measurements and sketch. At this fitting it is helpful to bring any jewelry that you may be wearing with your gown, especially a necklace. With the necklace on, I can make sure to craft the neckline deep enough or wide enough to showcase that necklace. It also helps to pull your hair up for each fitting. Even if you will be wearing it down on your big day, it helps to see the lines of the gown, especially at the front and back necklines.
At every fitting ask any questions that you have. It will keep the lines of communication open and if you’ve changed your mind on a certain part of the dress, you’ll need to ask what affects that will have on the rest of the dress. I will ask each bride very specific questions regarding the dress & design each time I see her. I have found that the more I educate the bride at the fittings, the more she appreciates and understand the intricacies of her unique gown.
There may be anywhere from 2 to 5 more fittings with test garments, linings and the real fabrics until your dress is complete. You will see your gown come to life as you put on a more complete version each time. At each of these fittings your dress will be pinned, marked, pinched and adjusted until it fits you like a glove, and has the perfect neckline, sleeve length and hemline for you. When determining where a neckline, sleeve length or hemline should be, I always have the bride look in the mirror while I place the fabric on various points on her arms or legs so she can determine which looks best. It’s true that there is a place on each person’s legs that shows us off better than at other spots. I want to find the perfect point on your leg, neck or arm that shows you at your best.
At least 2 weeks before you need your dress you should have the final fitting. Any closer to the date and you might not have time for any last minute changes to be made. Any further and there is a chance that the dress won’t fit right. Many brides lose weight from stress, or get swamped with last-minute things and simply forget to eat. Almost every bride I see loses several pounds during the 4-6 weeks prior to the wedding, whether they are trying to or not. At the final fitting you will try on the gown again to make sure it is perfect. If a headpiece or veil has been custom designed to match the dress, you’ll put that on too. Bring earrings, all jewelry, shoes and a camera!
Enjoy each and every fitting. This is a special time that you will never have again. Getting a wedding gown custom made for you is an endearing experience. You will love it!