Technology is not being kind to me this week. Firstly, the original version of this blog post disappeared and now my emails are playing hide and seek with me. So please excuse the rather hastily written post today but I was adamant to get it published following several queries from our lovely readers in the past few weeks about bespoke dresses.
My Wedding Dress Search
I haven’t written much in the past about my search for a wedding dress. To be honest I felt a little betrayed by the idea in my mind that dress shopping was going to be a fun and fabulous experience. For me, my first experience in a bridal boutique was far from that*. I sifted through dress after dress on that rail feeling completely out of place. As beautiful as the dresses in that shop were, they just were not “me”. I tried a couple of dresses on, just in case my opinion would change, but that proved to be my biggest mistake. The samples were all a size 10 (with the sales assistant informing me that someone of them actually measured at an 8!) and shoehorning my curvy size 12-14 post-baby body into them was never going to be a pretty sight. Perhaps the sales assistant could read the panic signals I was giving off but nonetheless she didn’t make any effort to help fit the dress as best as possible. Instead I stood in front of the mirror holding this dress to me that was simultaneously too tight (because it was several sizes too small!) and too baggy (because it wasn’t buttoned or laced at the back). The final straw for me was when the sales assistant informed me that this dress cost €2,000. I could not fathom the idea of ordering a dress that I could not even try on properly.
As I left the shop feeling very deflated by this experience I had to admit that I was partly to blame for my feelings of disappointment. The fact that this particular shop only stocked small sizes was not my fault but looking back I should have researched those first bridal shops a little better. At the time I knew that I didn’t want what you might call a traditional wedding dress and perhaps I was a little naive in thinking every bridal shop would stock dresses that were a little different from the norm.
Although this first dress shopping experience left me feeling a bit miserable, it did at least force me to do a lot of research on the style of the dress that I wanted. My next shopping trip was a million times better and I was able to try on dresses that I could actually envisage myself wearing. There was one particular dress which I really liked but there seemed to be something missing which stopped me from absolutely loving it.
I spent a few weeks feeling quite despondent that I couldn’t find “the one”. I thought maybe it was me. Was I being too fussy and expecting too much from what essentially is just a dress? I was so close to ordering the “almost one” when the idea of a bespoke dress came to my mind. I knew of Charlotte from Wilden Bride and had seen some of her incredible designs in styled shoots. I pretty much google-stalked the poor girl, finding as many pictures of her dresses as possible. I even contacted the lovely Alexandra from Bijou Bride when I discovered that Charlotte had made a dress for her. I eventually plucked up the courage to email Charlotte. I’m not sure why I was so nervous about contacting her, perhaps it was the weight of expectation which I had built up about finding the perfect dress. Charlotte and I had our first meeting the next week and within minutes all my worries and concerns had disappeared, like Charlotte had literally lifted them from my shoulders.
The Bespoke Dress Process
I have had a few queries from brides asking about the steps involved in making a bespoke dress that I will try to answer here. Obviously this is only my own experience of working with Charlotte and every designer will have their own process.
- Did you have a clear idea of the kind of dress you wanted from the start?
Some brides may approach a dress designer with a clear vision of what they want. I certainly didn’t. What I did know from the start was what I definitely didn’t want so I guess that helped to narrow the options down.
- How did you explain your ideas to your dress designer?
After discussing what I did and didn’t want in my wedding dress, Charlotte asked me to send her images of dresses that I liked, explaining why I like that dress or part of it. From this Charlotte was able to see a pattern develop in my choices, for example, most of the dress I liked had straps.
- How did your dress design begin to take shape?
Charlotte sketched out several different designs from which I picked my favourite. From there she made a toile of the bodice of the dress, which is essentially a mock-up calico version. My last few fittings with the toile have been really exciting as it is at this stage that the dress begins to take shape, rather than in the initial sketching stage. During the toile fittings myself and Charlotte have played around with the design of the bodice, cutting away some parts, adding to other parts and pining the straps in different positions until I found the exact style that I wanted.
In the meantime Charlotte has been working on the embellishments to the dress. She tea-stained old lace and has been meticulously cutting it to add to the waistband. She has made a beautiful blush pink peony and is hand sewing pretty sequins flowers.
We are still working on the toile but once this is finalised Charlotte will begin to make the actual dress.
- Did you have to buy the fabric yourself?
No. Charlotte and I discussed the type of fabrics which would best suit the shape and silhouette of her design. With a toddler in tow on our wedding day it is important to me that my dress is not too heavy and will not easily rip. We also discussed colour and Charlotte got several fabric samples for me to choose from. From there she was able to recommend the types of fabric which we should go for and she ordered them.
- Isn’t a bespoke dress much more expensive than buying a pre-designed dress?
Many brides do not think a bespoke dress is an option for them as they perceive it to be out of their budget. Of course, if you are asking a top name wedding dress designer to create a bespoke dress for you, you can expect to shell out a lot of money for it. But there are some incredible lesser known dress designers out there creating one-of-a-kind bespoke designs for a reasonable price.
- Are you worried that you will not be able to see your dress until it is finished?
One of my initial worries before I spoke with Charlotte was “what if I hate the end result?”. But because I am so involved in every stage of the design process it will be impossible for me not to love the dress. Charlotte had been open to every single one of the suggestions and changes that I have put forward so I feel 100% involved every step of the way.
This post has turned into a mammoth monologue, sorry! If any brides have any questions or queries about bespoke wedding dress please do get in touch.
Images © Wilden Bride
*The purpose of this post is not ‘name and shame’ bad bridal customer service so I won’t mention which shop it was. But in any event it was in Ireland.