Thursday, July 31, 2008


There are FAQs I get all the time. 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 does it cost?
We designers put in oodles of hours and a high level of craftsmanship when it comes to creating one-of-a-kind gowns. Working with fragile, white fabric and delicate laces is an art form. Add to that keeping those fragile laces intact and white gowns looking fresh through fittings. Figure 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 $10,000.00 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 convertable gowns? Custom design is optimal for the bride who wants some individual touch not offered in salons or boutiques.
The designer/client relationship is one that's very special so enter with care. Just like any relationship you must be in simpatico. In simpatico first with the design vision and then with your working relationship. You can help by bringing photos, magazine clippings, sketches or swatches of fabric to the initial consultation. All your ideas are 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.
If you want to view some awesome samples of custom design, visit my new pages at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Thank God for Etsy! Their bridal accessories shops are growing and a boon for brides who want to bypass run-of-the mill salon offerings in hair chic. Check out Jennifer's gorgeous hair combs, head bands and barrettes if you are thinking about a headpiece to accompany your veil or going with great hair styling and adding hair ornaments. She hand makes these pieces herself. You can see more at

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Back in the Middle Ages when fabric was in short supply, the length of one’s train conveyed a person’s wealth and standing. For Victorians, bustling the train was considered an art form with all kind of intricate floral and lace treatments. Today a gown with a train still suggests formality; typically the longer the train, the more formal the wedding. So what is a train exactly? A train is that extension in the back of the skirt that follows when you move. Read more

Monday, July 28, 2008


Imagine the formality of an elegant silhouette with all the ease of informal cotton. Here's my 'Daisy' dress in a pure white eyelet. I love this fabric. Every bride who has tried it on says its so comfortable. Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina was my original inspiration for this design. The bateau neckline pictured above was actually renamed after this character from the mid-1950s movie. The rest of the dress is a classic A-line with a to-the-floor skirt held out by layers of petticoat. I topped it off with one of my shorter veils reminiscent of 50s-60s brides.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Here's a preview photo for an article I've wanted to post for some time, Small Veils for Fashionistas. I'm still gathering all the photos on it but I promise once that's done, this will be one killer piece. The gist of it is, shorter veils have been chic lately not only as a topping for informal gowns but brides in formal gowns as well. At left is one example of the smaller bird cage veil. Wrapped in either netting or tulle, (netting in this photo) this veil falls above the shoulder line. Since it’s a shorter style, it tends to look structured, more hybrid of headpiece and veil. Great for fashionistas wanting sophistication and/or a variation on the traditional veil.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


All images by Bill Smoot Photo

I visited Bill Smoot yesterday at his Berkley Hills studio. We're planning an editorial for Bride Chic and I had the luck of getting an up close and personal look at his work and techniques.

This is a montage of several weddings actually. From the time I first saw Bill's work, I was impressed with his use of light and composition. I've reviewed the work of many photographers.
Bill's photographs are unique in the sense they reflect not only mastery of technique but his philosophy of aesthetics.

Here is part of Bill's philosophy in his own words: "My aesthetic is old-fashioned. I strive for beauty. I try to appeal through the eye of the soul. I use light and tone, balance, tension, harmony, presence, totality, measure--the ingredients of aesthetic form. But I want form to serve content, not replace or undermine it. I do not want to separate light from the water on which it falls, shadow from the arm which cast it."

You can see more images on Bill's website

Friday, July 25, 2008


Above are two brides marrying men in circumstances that changed history. Both wore tailored looks on their wedding day. Did they want to keep the nuptials low key or did Camilla and Wally
just feel more like themselves well tailored? Maybe it was a little of both. Lately more brides are considering the suit alternative. I'm getting emails like this one.
I’m 38, professional and getting married in New York this October. I’ve done the salons from the east to west side hoping to find something with more tailoring and less frill. Not much luck. Even the alternatives feel too Mother-of –the-Brideish for me. I’m thinking custom design/tailoring and hoped we might experiment with the idea of a suit or coat. Any thoughts?
By all means consider that suit or some form thereof. Something about a well-tailored suit on the right bride suggests a certain élan—she projects sophistication and independence. The good news is, for the most important day of your life, you can wear a suit instead of ‘The Dress’ without being mistaken for a Bride’s Mom. You’ll just have to hunt a different direction than the traditional bride to find those clean lines and fabrics you like so much. Read more . . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Photo: ejones photography
Color! From the iciest pastels to deep jewel tones, some brides are going for dresses of color or touches of it. We’re also seeing white and ivory laces laid over color; subtle color under white and ivory chiffon giving off that hint of color happening below the surface. Have you seen some of the gowns all done up in hand painted laces that look like stunning watercolors? The gown above incorporates touches of color through accessories and design details on the gown.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


One thing I miss about being a kid is finding new editions of paper dolls. How apropos to spot these colorful little mannequins. They could be invites to a shower or thank you cards. Whatever you use them for they will be so appreciated for their originality and pop.
Ball Gown Note Cards
I found these on Liz Steiner's Etsy Store, Atomic Rabbit. She works primarily in paper goods.
You can view the entire note card collection at In addition, Liz has a great blog at

Single fold blank greeting card with envelope made of white card stock, with a hand cute paper dress on a paper dress form. Dress is white and light pink, with a rose pattern with train. Embellished with ribbon and a rhinestone. Would make a great card for weddings, bridal showers, maid of honor thank you note, or any other special occasion. Card measure 5 inches by 7 inches.

Single fold blank greeting card with envelope made of white card stock, with a hand cute paper dress on a paper dress form. Dress is white with a black paisley pattern. Embellished with tiny paper flower with rhinestone center. Would make a great card for weddings, bridal showers, maid of honor thank you note, or any other special occasion. Card measure 5 inches by 7 inches.

Single fold blank greeting card with envelope made of white card stock, with a hand cute paper dress on a paper dress form. Dress is pale blue with a white lacy pattern. Embellished with tiny paper flower with sequin center. Would make a great card for weddings, bridal showers, maid of honor thank you note, or any other special occasion. Card measure 5 inches by 7 inches.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Shoes by Camilla Skovgaard
What exactly is a stylist and why would you need one on your wedding day? A stylist is a bit different from a wedding planner in the sense a whole 'look' is put together for you. Styling is all about fashion. This means a stylist actually finds just the right hair and make-up people, the perfect gown, accessories, etc. Since we here at Bride Chic are so devoted to the bride from a fashion perspective, I asked Seth Friedermann an innovative New York City stylist the following questions:

Q. How can a stylist help a bride out?

Seth: From what I have seen a bride needs all the help she can get. Here it is one of the most beautiful moments of your life and you are prevented from enjoying it by the endless parade of decisions and choices that you are being asked to make. A good stylist will listen to you and cut down the amount of choices by not presenting you with styles that you would never pick anyway. You can see it your mind, the perfect dress, the perfect ensemble. A stylist will hunt it down for you, schedule the fitting, pick up the dress, deliver it to your house, show you how to wear it, help you pick the accessories and more. The stylist can do all of this and help with the outfits for the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. A good stylist will also work with your make up artist and hair stylist so that the whole magical vision that you see so clearly in your vision will be realized. The ultimate goal of the stylist is to give you that look that you desire and to save you the time and aggravation of having to do it for yourself. The more prepared and less encumbered you are the more you can relax and enjoy the day that you have dreamt of.

Q. How does a bride go about finding a stylist?

Seth: Now, I have never been a fan of telling someone that they need something without telling them how they can find it. So you need a good stylist; you also need to find them and be able to tell that they are good at what they do. A good place to start is with your local fashion photographers, they will usually be able to tell you which stylists have a talented eye and are professional, (read: dependable and honest), to work with. If that doesn't work talk to any successful models in your area they also should be able to give you the same feedback.

Once you have your list of candidates together how can you tell who is right for you? There are two major things to look for one is obvious the other not so much. The not so obvious involves anatomy, would it surprise you if I told you that the reason I get work as a stylist is my ears? I ask my clients a series of qualifying questions, then I shut my mouth and listen. A good stylist is good at understanding what you mean by the language that you use. If when you interview your prospective stylist they; A.) talk more than they listen or, B.) Show you pictures of what they like before you say a word, waste no time telling them to go home. The obvious quality to look for is compatibility/chemistry. Know how you and your beloved just click and understand each other so well? You and your stylist have to have the same relationship, (if you click with your stylist better than with your betrothed, consider marrying your stylist instead...only joking). Seriously though it should be that same kind of finishing each other's sentences, "hey that's my favorite too!", type of communication.
So that's my sales pitch for myself and my fellow stylist professionals, we really do love making women and men absolutely beautiful. And I for one would consider it a huge honor to be asked to help a woman look magical and glorious on that most special, of all days. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at

Seth also has an interesting blog about his experiences as a NYC stylist complete with runway photos, addition, his website, Couture Tours NYC, is something I intend taking once I get to the Big Apple. It offers pre-packaged or custom tours of New York City's fashion world. To somebody like me who lives and breathes fashion, Seth's innovation is a boon! As he puts it, “New York City’s best fashion shopping neighborhoods are spread out over the length and breadth of Manhattan and the borough of Brooklyn. Not only is finding the best stores challenging but you can take all day and still not find the best. You don’t have to exhaust yourself to have a great shopping experience. All you have to do is select one of our neighborhood or citywide tours.”
And what a menu of tours. Check this out: East Village and Alphabet City Tour, Soho Tour, West Village Tour; there are even specialized citywide tours such as, The Vintage Tour, Icons of Fashion Tour and even a Rising Stars Tour. You can read his whole menu of tours at

Monday, July 21, 2008

My fiance wants me in a traditional gown with the long train and veil. While I like the idea of going all out traditional, the problem is I’m short-waisted and most every big dress I’ve tried on has some kind of waist issue that leaves me looking boxy. I know that perfect gown is out there, I just haven’t found it.

Sounds like you have the classic undefined, boy waistline. Boy waists aka short waists are common and can be worked. Focus on styles bringing all eyes up to the face, shoulders and bust line while minimizing or hiding your waist. Opt for styles like A-line and princess seams that elongate. Madonna is a fine example of someone who has done well at camouflaging this tricky boy midriff (I’m thinking Evita here not Truth or Dare). Check out her gown in Evita when she does a death waltz with Antonio Banderas—a white A-line shift with a V-neck. Stunning! ·

Empire waists. They look great on you. This style hides the natural waist and focuses on the bust and neck area. An empire can have slim or full skirts, take your pick. ·
Sweetheart or V-necklines. They lengthen your bodice and extend your neck. ·
High necklines like jewel and turtlenecks. They extend the bodice. ·
Vertical lace patterns and prints. Make sure the pattern travels upward. ·
A-line and princess styles. They flatter for the reason there is no defined waist. Fitted through the bodice, these styles taper down to a full skirt. ·
A trapeze or tent style. ·
A suit if the idea appeals to you. Make sure the jacket fits below your bottom.

*Any detail that points to the waistline such as, wearing a gown that has a natural waist, a veil that ends there or any gloves or sleeves that are three-quarter length.
*Any lacy, ruffled or tiered designs.

The gown pictured below is ideal for a short waist as it is both an empire waist and a modified A-line.
The gown below works because it has a jewel neckline.

Top photo by ejones photography
Gowns by Amy-Jo Tatum

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Only within the last twenty years has the evening gown silhouette become so popular for brides. Once upon a time bridal gown meant traditional. Traditional as in Tricia Nixon/Lucy Baines Johnson’s Priscilla designed gowns. Though both gowns were top of the line even by today’s standards, there was little variation on the concept of formal from 1960-1982. If you married in anything different than peau-de-soie or satin, wore your dress shorter, or say a suit, it was considered informal and you belonged at city hall.

The popularity of the evening gown silhouette was clinched when Carolyn Besette wore that clingy crepe-back satin for her wedding to JFK Jr. in the nineties. Before that the evening gown was around and accepted but more as an alternative in bridal wear; something you donned if you were an outside the box bride getting married in a garden or restaurant. Churches still had issues with clergy starring down into cleavage and guests feasting on bare backs and shoulders during nuptials. After Carolyn’s photos hit the media, designers brought out their own versions of the evening gown from Jean Harlow classics to sheath designs in more structured fabrics like faille. The evening gown silhouette has been one of the most beautiful additions to bridal wear.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Photos by Ron Greystar Photography
Gowns and headpieces by Amy-Jo Tatum

Whether you opt for a veil, wreath or hat, whatever you put on your head is one factor that will pull your whole look together. From the high drama of a picture hat to the ethereal sprinkle of tiny florals in your hair, there's a choice for every bride out there who wants to look unique.

The lace mantilla. Tulle and a wide border of Chantilly lace add a bit of romance to this strapless A-line.

Want a more sophisticated look? Picture yourself in this summer hat all decked out with a dozen hand-rolled cabbage roses. Versatile, wide brims work with a suit, an A-line, evening gown silhouettes; even a ball gown.

The net pouf is a choice for brides wanting a hybrid between headpiece and veil. Wide netting attached to florals make this look a cross between romantic and chic.

Want to look like Giselle? The floral wreath is ultra-romantic inspired by images of sylphs and ballerinas. This wreath of dried silk roses and baby's breath is the perfect compliment for tulle and floral ball gown.

Go elegant. Simple gown, simple compliment. Three hand-rolled organza roses secured into a chignon.
Thanks to Ron Greystar for making this such a gorgeous and memorable shoot. Look for him at

Thursday, July 17, 2008

These are two of my favorite photos of all time. I adore seeing kids included in the bridal party. They really do add oodles of fun to a wedding despite some of them acting out and throwing hissy fits (usually when the reception is winding down). The top photo is by Amy Perl who has a special gift and passion for photographing kids (She's a great portrait and wedding photographer too).

The angels directly above were photographed by Hope Stewart who has retired but is fondly remembered by all of us in the Northern California wedding industry. These kids loved dressing up for the day. The great part of it was--the wedding was real and not make believe. They had an actual role in the festivities. For these little princesses, photographs like these will be cherished for years to come.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Knowing your figure liabilities as well as best features empowers you to formulate fashion decisions in the right direction. In your search, always keep in mind those gowns that make you linger and look a little longer than the rest—the ones that really grip your attention. Do you love that dropped waist because the model in the editorial looks great in it? Or do you go for the dropped waist because you instinctively know it would look great on you? My best advise here is this: learn to really accept and cherish the body you have then train your eye and thinking to embrace styles that compliment your particular assets. Pass up any looks you could wear if only you were taller, bustier, lost twenty pounds, etc.? Target your flaws then minimize or camouflage them; always, always heighten your assets.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Ever notice how designers add all these wowzer elements to make the back of a wedding gown pop? All you have to do is look at your body from all angles to see one of the most dramatic views will be your back. You’ll be showing it off once you pass down the aisle and the whole time you take vows. My bride above opted for a row of hook and eye closures instead of the classic row of buttons down the back. Now how cool is that?

Photo by Ron Greystar/All Rights Reserved

The deep V back pictured above is a classic back treatment. It'll be easier if you think of your back in components that make up a total picture of you. There’s the veil, back bodice, skirt and train. Choosing the right veil depends on the length of the gown and maybe the interest of the back bodice. You may opt for a shorter veil or no veil if there are some details you want to show off. These details can be as simple as a row of buttons all the way down the back, or as elaborate as silk flowers cascading the length of a cathedral train. How much or little detail you choose is a matter of preference.

The intrest on this gown is mostly in the back--a row of satin covered buttons, silk chiffon sash and hand made rose.

The row of fabric covered buttons on the back of the dress below work by all by themselves to create a certain simplicity.

Photo by Ron Greystar/All Rights Reserved
Gowns by Amy-Jo Tatum
Want to know more about how what to look for in a veil, a train or what a bustle is? To hear more back talk follow this link:

Monday, July 14, 2008


Planning an After Five Soiree is one way to have a briefer and more intimate event than the traditional all day wedding planned months ahead. Cocktail hour weddings offer an elegant, affordable alternative. Think about it: fewer guests, a shorter hemline and less cake and champagne can sometimes be more. Cocktail weddings are on the rise, especially for the couple with limited time and money issues. Often the bridal couple feels more at ease celebrating their nuptials as evening approaches with a few close friends and family present. The dresses featured here are all cocktail length. With some imaginative head chic and accessorizing you'll have your look.

The cocktail dress is perfect for this wedding of the same name. Defined, its street-length and typically made out of exquisite fabric or has special detailing. Though cocktail hour dressing can go either semi-formal or informal, the later doesn’t imply casual. It simply means you can go with elegant street-length attire; a higher hemline is acceptable and your groom,(again following your lead) can skip the de riguer white or black tie if he chooses, getting into a raw silk or linen suit instead. On the other hand, remember, while attire for the cocktail reception is elegant, its never max formal. Think of cocktail dressing as anything from a chic mini to a fitted floor-length sheath. The fabric can be luxe. For instance, you can wear a brocade cocktail dress like the one below.

ABS by Allen Schwartz
V-Neck Jacquard Dress is available at Nieman Marcus
Department stores and boutiques may be the best route to go for the shorter formal. Almost any white dress has potential as long as it works with your accessories, fits within the scene and theme of your wedding and you absolutely love it. Also, if you’re not into wearing white on your wedding day, boutiques and department stores might be your best option. Some stores work closely with up and coming specialty designers. With a little imagination and the help of professionals, you might be able to put some stunning looks together. Also a great option if you don’t want to wait 4-6 months for your gown.

Stella McCartney
Tie-Neck Dress available at Nieman Marcus
I love the topic of smaller weddings and the cocktail wedding is certainly an alternative. I'll be covering the restaurant/cocktail/ art gallery wedding scene in further detail with more silhouettes and fabrics in months to come.