Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Brides come to me either wanting a particular gown I've designed or after visiting salons and finding not one gown they like but components of many.  Here is a series of FAQs a custom bridal designer gets  My email box is proof the two most frequently asked are 1.) How long does it take to create a custom designed gown? and 2.) How much will it cost?


We designers put in many hours and a high level of craftsmanship when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind gowns. Imagine working with fragile, white fabric and delicate laces as an art form. Add to that keeping those fragile laces intact and white gowns looking fresh through fittings and such takes care each painstaking step of the way. So a gown hand-crafted by a designer usually takes 4-6 months to complete from a listing of your measurements. The greatest thing about custom design is that you'll have more of a one-on-one collaboration with the designer and input on any choices of fabric, silhouette and overall style.


Chances are, no, unless you order Lady Di's silk taffeta gown with the 25 foot train and layers of uber-pouf. Most custom designs run neck and neck with the prices you'll find in better salons. Custom designers usually work all the materials and labor into the price of the garment. Prices can range from, $1000.00 for something simple and unadorned up to $16,000.00 for the works: full trains, petticoats, underskirts, bustles, intricate beading, etc. Medium price range for a custom wedding gown as of this writing writing would be around $2500.00-5000.00.

Overall, brides are happy with custom design because of the leeway it offers. Where and in whose bridal collection can you find cotton wedding dresses these days? Or suits? Or two-piece dresses? Or convertible gowns? Custom design is optimal for the bride who wants some individual touch not offered in the designer lines you find in salons or bridal boutiques.


The designer/client relationship is one that's very special so choose one with care. Just like any relationship you must be in simpatico. In simpatico first with the design vision and then your working relationship. You can help by bringing photos, magazine clippings, sketches or swatches of fabric. All this is discussed with the designer running a few ideas back to you. Choices and cost of materials, fabrics and a few other details are usually explored.

If the designer has a small sample collection, this is usually when you can begin trying gowns on to see what the fabrics are going to look and feel like with you in them. This is the time too to look over how well the samples are made. Don’t worry about whether or not you know haute couture techniques here—just pull up a hem or look at the inside of one of the garments and you’ll know if its cleanly made and as beautiful on the inside as out.


Eventually, a gown is in the making. After a final sketch is approved, a written estimate follows, complete with fabric swatches and your measurements are finally taken. For every gown order, a paper pattern is made. Think of the paper pattern as a blueprint, a record with all your dimensions on it. From this, most designers (some dressmakers too) work out a muslin. A muslin is an actual cotton mock-up and ‘living pattern’ of the gown design, fitted exactly to your body. Now, think of the muslin as the foundation work—laying all the necessary groundwork upon which your dress will be built. This is where most of the fine-tuning is done to get the perfect fit before one cut or stitch goes into the true gown fabric(s).

After your muslin fittings (there may be two of them), the muslin is unstitched and laid out on the actual fabric and the gown is made up. Since most of the fitting is worked out on the muslin, second and third fittings usually follow up with finishing touches on the gown like, final hemline, closures, remaining design details, etc. Be prepared for more than three fittings though. A gown made from the ground up is a work in progress and each step along the way is painstakingly taken, checked and rechecked.

Keep in mind you want your gown delivered at least a month before your wedding. Yes. You need to synchronize your calendars on this one. You want to be able to relax and deal with all those other last minute details involved in your wedding, not still fussing around over hemlines.

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