Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How To Get A Custom Wedding Dress Made Without Really Trying.

I hope you'll forgive me for publishing two guest posts back-to-back...

Genevieve of TELL YOU (TODAY) promised me a while ago she'd write up this story and I've really been looking forward to it.

I kind of got into making wedding dresses by accident. I know how to sew, I hang out with other girls who like to sew, some of them even like to sew wedding dresses. For like, brides. But not me.

The first time someone asked me to make a wedding dress, it was a nightmare. Not enough time, a picky bride with the terrible combination of demanding without knowing what she wanted, and a dress abandoned and unpaid for two weeks before the wedding. I cried and slammed doors, cursed brides the world over, and vowed never ever to do a wedding dress again. But time heals all, and then when good people like my friend Afton over at Freckle Farm come along who share a vision and an aesthetic, and I learned that doing wedding dresses can actually be fun, and rewarding, and best of all, don't have to cost the lucky lady the equivalent of a down payment on a cute place in midtown Manhattan for her to look like a million trillion dollars on her wedding day. And even better yet, she can look like herself.

Even those of us who didn't grow up dreaming of their wedding are suddenly confronted with so many choices when we decide to get married. Long or short? Casual or fancy? Simple or embellished? White? Red? Black? Having a picture in your mind of what you want to wear at your wedding makes developing the ideas for your wedding dress so much easier to piece together a design. Afton came to me with a few basic ideas: short, white, un-embellished, deep vee-neck, silk. All of these ideas suit my personal aesthetic very well (ahem, see: my wedding dress) which, as a non-wedding-dress-designer designer, made my job that much easier. Another thing that made the process easy was that she even put together an inspiration board for me! Thanks, Afton! Knowing where she was coming from, and what was in her head was key. We shopped together for fabric, discussed things like bodice shape and skirt length, and how her jewelry would work with the dress. And shoes. And hair. And shoes again. (We've seen the shoes right here on ESB.) These were all very serious conversations, handled with great levity and concern, of course. Not fun at all.

(Editor's note: I couldn't resist posting another photo of the shoes.)

In all we had about 6 fittings. A few things were adjusted here and there, but we went for a straightforward approach and the beauty was in the details. Banded armholes, small yellow covered buttons up the back, tiny inverted pleats in the skirt...that's what made this dress special.

And here is the kicker.

Outside of the fabric, the dress didn't cost her a dime! Afton, as you may know if you read her blog, is a very talented graphic artist, and at the beginning of the process we decided that she would design my shop website for me, and I would make her wedding dress. Two talents, meeting in the middle. Making a trade was a fantastic idea, and it was also a nice way to keep sharing ideas through the whole process. As people working in creative fields, it is also nice to know that while we may not have tons of dough, our skills and talent are viable and worthy.

So go forth brides, and be not afraid to find your perfect design match, and may you have much fun and laughter during the process (and no crying and slamming of doors. At least not too much.)

Afton had this to add:

I couldn't have been happier with my perfect little white wedding dress! Not only was it exactly what I envisioned, but the whole process felt genuinely personal and collaborative, and it was great seeing how our ideas evolved together. For me, picking a dress off the rack just didn't suit me. Not to mention I could not for the life of me find one that even came close to what I envisioned I'd wear on my wedding day. It was an awesome feeling to swap talents with a fellow creative friend, and I think we both walked away with a stronger appreciation for each others' craft. And—my favorite part (besides getting the EXACT dress I wanted)—she smiled and squealed and awwwwwed with me each time I tried it on! Being away from my sisters and closest girlfriends, this meant the world to me to have someone to share those moments with. And, it goes without saying, I felt like a million bucks on my wedding day. Thanks, G!

(Photos by Alyson of unruly things)


  1. Great story... I still have only the vaguest of vague ideas of what I would like my wedding dress to be like. I love the shoes too :)

  2. this post makes me so happy. i had my dress made and i can't emphasize enough what a wonderful experience it was. my designer was totally in tune with what i wanted. my closet is 90% vintage and i did not want a vintage dress, but i did want that vintage feel. real vintage wedding dresses can be a bit stuffy for me. i also knew i definitely didn't want the "go-to-strapless-mermaid" dress. not me at all. i gave her pictures of all of my ideas for the wedding and gave her these guidelines:
    1. i want to be able to wear a regular bra and underwear.
    2. no beading!
    3. definitely lace.
    4. i want a dress i can eat in.
    she came up with the most beautiful design and suggested i use vintage fabrics to get that "feel" i was looking for. we got most of the fabric on ebay and including her labor, the dress totaled at $750. that's less than a lot of david's bridal dresses and those are yuck! now i have a very genuine, one-of-a-kind dress and i couldn't be happier. so, take that vera wang!!

  3. Celia, you realize you've basically just committed to writing a guest post...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Loved this post, and it was an added bonus to learn you're behind Here at Holme, which I drool over regularly. (psst: I've been eyeing that lace frock for months now. Maybe it's time it became mine.) Thanks for inspiring us to think beyond the rack.

  6. amazing. i'm still in awe of afton's shoes... now i have to envy her dress too!

  7. ah, a behind the scenes story of a fashion designer... love it.

  8. That dress is so cute, and finally something different in a wedding dress. It's refreshing.

    Have a great day!

  9. I want that dress, and I'm not even getting married.