The first email I got from Alyssa said she wanted a white dress with a pop of color, mostly likely purple- subtle, but also noticeable. And sparkle. When she came in with her mother in law, she looked through the books of lace in the studio, and little by little started to pick out what she was curious about. We start with curiosity because this process takes on a life of its own.
Curiosity lets us have fun with the process, and allow the fabric to tell its story. Yes, I know fabric isn’t sentient, but it does beg to be treated in one way or another, depending on what it is. I originally told Alyssa I was going to put way more layers of purple (we chose 2 different shades) layers of tulle, but during the process I found myself stopping when I did. I knew I could add more layers if she wanted them, but she agreed that the dress worked really well as is.
Soft, flowy, and magical
How do you make magic? Is there a way to assure that something made of yards and yards of fabric will feel magical to wear? That is part of the process. In light of that, you really want to be working with someone who you trust to not just give you the options you ask for, but to give you more developed options as well. A designer’s brain never turns off. Once I’m working on a project, it’s always simmering in the back of my mind. I may look like I’m hand stitching lace to a veil, and while that is what my hands are doing, my mind likes to play with what could be in other projects.
Magic is in the eye of the beholder, and a lot of times I have to sit with a client, an idea, a fabric, to be able to develop a magical idea. A lot of it is about intuition, and listening to what is being said, and finding where the spark is coming from. Once I can hear the spark, it’s a matter of putting pieces together.
A dress is much more beautiful when it fits, and getting the fit right is always the part we spend a lot of time on. I like for people’s bodies to look like their body, not like they’re trying to fit into a garment that makes them feel like there’s something wrong with them. We started with the mock up over her regular undergarments so that everything would feel as comfortable as possible. The mock up was shaped around Alyssa’s body for the fit you see here.
Once it was cut out of the fabric, we still made some changes to the fit. Every appointment was focused on fit and comfort. I love drama but I love even more to feel comfortable, so I always make sure my clients sit down in their look. Moving around is the best way to check how it feels. Letting the dress warm up is always crucial so I can tailor it to fit so that it’s still fitting perfectly at the end of the night.
But how much drama?
I’m talking about train lengths, veils, and all the details that will make guests’ jaw drop. A long, full dress (or skirt) made a big impact when Alyssa walked down the aisle. Yes, it made the dress really heavy, but since it fit well, she barely felt the weight. With a good fit the weight of the dress is better distributed, and those shoulder straps are there as a design element, not to hold the dress up.
We added buttons and thread loops so that she could walk around the reception without having her train stepped on. I love how you can still see the fullness of the skirt in this picture when she’s dancing. Another option we talked about was making a detachable overskirt so that she could take off the long skirt, and have another garment, be it a skirt or pants, underneath as a second look for the reception. Alyssa loved the star lace so much, she couldn’t imagine taking it off ever, so we kept it all one piece.
Here you can see Alyssa’s husband dancing with his mom, Tammy, who actually came to most of Alyssa’s fittings. As most mom’s of marriers, she was having a hard time finding something to wear that was comfortable but also special and elegant. Tammy had a hard time picking fabric only because she loved so many options but after deciding that this wouldn’t be her only custom dress ever, she went with this beautiful watercolor silk georgette. The drape of this fabric showed off when Tammy walked into the wedding with her husband. It felt like it moved in the most beautiful slow motion ever.
Location location location
It’s really helpful to know where someone is getting married so I can keep that in mind when designing a wedding look. I don’t want a look to completely mimic the venue, though now that I think of it, that might be fun, too. In this case, Alyssa and I wanted to make sure the dress worked with this gorgeous window feature.
The star lace almost looks like it’s been plucked from the sky for Alyssa’s wedding. Which reminds me of something Neil Gaiman wrote in Stardust:
“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now, that’s a question.”
Thanks to all the vendors who made Alyssa’s wedding possible:
Venue: White Chapel at Rose Hulman, and Red Barn at Sycamore Farm
Lens: Amanda DeBusk Photography
HMUA: Serendipity Salon
Dress: The House of Breton
Florals: Maggie and Moes Poplar Flowers
Catering: Butler’s Pantry
Cake: Red Room Cakery
Video: Replogle Studios