February 8th, 2017 | Rachel Parry
While there are numerous stunning wedding dress designs hanging on the rails of boutiques, for some brides nothing completes the dream wedding picture like having a couture gown specially made for their big day.
Brides Up North Sponsor and dress-maker extraordinaire Antonia Aitken of Blossom and Belle, is fully versed in the art of creating beautiful bespoke wedding gowns, from the structure and cut to the fabric and finish. As such, we’re putting the blog in her skilful hands this afternoon so she can tell us exactly what couture is, and how she goes about creating it through her one-off, timeless wedding gown designs.
She also has news of a fabulous Blossom and Belle charity tea party event taking place in York on Sunday 26th February, which will feature workshops, high-end suppliers and delicious treats, so be sure to read to the end of the post for full details.
With images by All You Need Is Love Photography
How would you define a couture wedding gown?
antonia says: Couture is not ‘dressmaking or copying a design’ – rather it is the creation of a luxury item which starts from design through to pattern cutting, toiles and fittings and the final amazing result.
Couture is not off the peg. It is a unique creation that no one else will have. It is a process that takes time, not something that can be made in an instant. Specialised elements, from hand stitched hems and embellishments, to steel boned bodices and button and loop detailing, are the epitome of a couture gown. It is timeless piece that will look just as wonderful in years to come as it does on the day of the wedding.
What skills must you have as a dress maker to craft such creations?
As the design director at Blossom and Belle I pride myself in my skill to create a one-off bespoke gown or outfit.
It’s having the ability to see a client for the first time and knowing exactly what she will suit. It is the art of how fabric will work and fall on the form. Knowing about colours, textures and the cut and line of a design. How to emphasise the best features of a client and disguise those that they are less keen on.
I do not work from someone else’s pattern, I make my own, which is a meticulous process requiring great skill and an art form in itself.
What do brides enjoy about having a couture gown for their big day?
For my clients, it’s the knowledge that they are wearing something truly unique and luxurious and in their own size – not mass produced and not off the peg – something made especially for them.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the process a bride can expect to follow if she decides to have a couture Blossom and Belle gown made?
The whole process of having your own gown created is really quite lovely. After your first free consultation, where we go over ideas and look through fabrics and any trimmings or embellishment ideas, I will design a range of gowns for you to choose from and take your measurements. I also say at this point that the bride should get their underwear as this is vital to the fit of the gown. A toile is then made in calico, which is a mock-up of the wedding dress and where tweaks and design decisions are made. Having a couture gown made just for you is a very private affair and no one else, unless you want to, will see your gown being created.
There should be no more than five fittings, although some brides like to have more as they love to see everything taking shape and enjoy the process so much.
Finally, for the full experience, I’m available to dress the bride on the day of the wedding to make sure everything is perfect.
What would you say to brides who are worried that having a couture dress made will be expensive and time consuming?
A couture gown is unique and made just for you, which is why it can cost more than an off the peg gown. Only the finest of fabrics are used, meticulous hand beading and hand stitching are all involved in the process of having a couture gown made. It can take several months just to make one gown, which is why fittings are spread over time to suit the bride and to allow for any tweaks to be made.
We never ask for the full price of the gown to be paid upfront, rather it is paid by instalments, which takes the pressure off. I do say that you never lose money on a couture gown as it becomes an heirloom passed down through the family.
What is the feedback like from brides who have had a Blossom and Belle Couture dress made?
I always receive wonderful feedback from brides, and have even been invited to the wedding. Over the time of the dress being made we get to know each other very well.
I have had one bride recently send me a photograph of her 17-year-old daughter wearing her gown that was made by me 20 years ago and it still looks wonderful and timeless. I also had one bride love the style of her vintage inspired gown so much, she had another two made in different colours!
January 19th, 2017 | Julia Braime
In our line of work we’re fortunate to feast our eyes on some of the most gorgeous bridal dresses out there and a definite highlight of the year for us is viewing new bridal collections at White Gallery in London. Among the labels that we’re particularly keen to see is Caroline Castigliano, who never fails to blow us away with her beautifully feminine and effortlessly glamorous gowns. As such, we’re honoured to be adding Caroline to our fabulous list of designer Sponsors.
Having been at the forefront of luxury bridalwear for 25 years, this talented lady is certainly an expert in making brides look and feel their most fabulous for the biggest day of their lives.
Particularly well-known in the industry for her expert corsetry, Caroline Castigliano dresses are recognised for their perfect fit, clean classic lines and contemporary touches.
But that’s enough from us, let’s hand you over to the main lady herself to tell us more about her fabulous label whilst showcasing some of her stunning creations.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to work in the bridal design industry?
caroline says: I studied acting and dance at Italia Conti Drama Academy, everything in my life growing up was related to the crafts. My mother taught me to sew when I was five-years-old and by the time I was ten I was making clothes for myself. This was the best training you could ever have, thankfully my best friend also loved sewing and our idea of fun was to travel to London to shop at Liberty and purchase fabrics so we could make clothes in our summer holidays.
My career started when I was twelve-years-old and the BBC offered me a role in a television play, I started acting professionally and went on to a number of films and TV series through my teenage years.
It was only when I was twenty-two that I started to wonder what else was out there for me. I fortunately met a very successful businessman and he suggested I would be good in business. It didn’t enter my head that I would go into wedding dress design. I came up with the idea of Survival Kit, a kit of sportswear and dumbbells to travel with, they were high fashion and bright colours and I went off to New York and was really lucky as I sold it to Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus – quite incredible for a beginner! Everything moved very fast and before I knew it I was living in Miami, designing and manufacturing active sportswear – I was the first person to come up with g-string leotards!
Once I knew my career was going to be design focussed I decided to really consider where my talents lay and it didn’t take long to realise it was in wedding dresses! And so began the brand Caroline Castigliano, I opened my first store in Esher in Surrey in 1991.
What was it that attracted you to the world of weddings and what do you love most about your job?
To design and be part of the most important day in a woman’s life is very special and I am honoured to have been able to take this role in so many brides’ lives. I love making a woman feel and look the most fabulous she ever has in her life.
What type of bride is a Caroline Castigliano bride?
A Castigliano bride is aware of fashion but is nor ruled by it, she understands quality and cut, she is looking for a classic feel with modern contemporary inspiration for her bridal gown.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs from?
I am inspired every day of my life, whether I am watching a 1950’s movie that inspires classic tailoring and clean styled lines, or I am at an 1800’s design exhibition or even wondering in the woods and think of magic and fairies – my mind is never far away from a new bridal gown design.
Are there any materials in particular that you tend to use in your designs?
I love silk organza so you will always find gowns in my collection with beautifully floaty skirts – I also love silk Mikado and I use this structured fabric to create gowns with strong silhouettes – of course I also work with silk duchess satin and many different laces. At the moment I am working with layering Chantilly lace with guipure and it creates a stunning 3D effect and is very modern.
Similarly, are there are details in particular that tend to feature in your designs?
I like to create a corset in as many of my gowns as possible as it really helps a bride to stand well and walk nicely, it also effects the way she sits so ultimately has a sensational effect on all the photographs and videos taken on the big day. This being said, it also has a very flattering effect on the bride’s figure – I design the corsets to really balance the figure and extenuate a small waist – I have a number of different corsets that create different effects depending on the design of the gown – nothing will ever compare to a beautifully structured corset creating the foundation of the gown.
Can you give us a little overview of your 2017 ‘Love is in the Air’ collection?
Love is in the Air is all about romance and femininity. I have created a group of gowns that are corseted with a bra cup, so you get the shaping without the lingerie effect, I have moulded Chantilly lace over the base corset and then hand appliqued guipure lace over the top – it gives a stunning feminine silhouette and the lace trickles down onto the skirt.
I also designed gowns in silk Mikado with strong, deep sweetheart necklines underpinned with silk tulle to hold the deep neckline – this creates a playfully sensual feel but is really wonderful on brides with a fuller figure.
The Love is in the Air collection has all silhouettes, from full skirts to fishtails – lace to georgette – it is about enjoying being a woman – understated, feminine, glamour.
Do you have a personal favourite within the new collection?
My favourite gown in the Love is in the Air collection has to be Tertia – it is everything the brand stands for. I layered a soft mocha base with Chantilly lace and hand appliqued guipure lace to the corset, it has a circle tea coloured silk organza skirt. It says – style – modern – feminine – understated – it is truly beautiful.
December 17th, 2016 | Julia Braime
Caroline Castigliano is regarded as the connoisseur of luxury bridal wear in the UK and this year celebrates 25 years in business. Her name is synonymous with understated chic bridal gowns and contemporary designer style.
Castigliano’s signature is an unquestionably feminine silhouette, which is effortlessly glamourous. Her unique ability to cut and construct a garment, enables her to create a gown that is confident and sexy, yet exudes a deep sense of style. Everything about a Castigliano gown is unique; from the exquisite choice of fabric, to the foundation of the gown, which is created using unique corsetry and undergarment techniques. All Caroline Castigliano gowns are handcrafted in the United Kingdom. Here at Brides Up North, we fell in love with her delectable creations a long time ago.
Now, new exclusive bridal gowns have arrived at Caroline’s Knightsbridge store and Castigliano are offering brides-to-be a fantastic shopping experience to celebrate.
caroline says: Brides (along with a chosen family member or close friend) who join us in store over the festive season will be able enjoy champagne and delicious treats as they are guided through their appointment by our experienced wedding stylists who are all experts in bringing each brides vision to life.
These stunning gowns are all created from luxury fabrics and laces and handcrafted here in here in the United Kingdom.
All brides who order their dress before the 30th of December will be offered a festive seasonal gift – £500 off Caroline Castigliano’s made to measure service! What better reason to take a break from your Christmas shopping and commence a festive dress hunt?
Appointments can be booked on 0207 590 9120 or on firstname.lastname@example.org
December 8th, 2016 | Rachel Parry
Cressy & Piper
We’re all about pushing wedding boundaries, thinking outside the big day box and sometimes, just sometimes, breaking the bridal rules. This is perhaps why we’re such a fan of the super-stylish Separates collection from our good industry friend and Sponsor, Charlotte Balbier.
Daring to go where other bridal wear labels won’t, Charlotte was one of the first British designers to introduce an inter-changeable Separates range to her collections, which enable a bride to build and create her own individual big day look using slips, skirts, toppers and belts.
Encouraging fashion-forward and free-spirited brides to throw the wedding attire rule book out of the window, the versatile range provides options beyond the traditional wedding gown and helps a bride to express their unique individuality, personality and style through their bridalwear choices.
Better still, when broken down into individual components, the pieces can be worn long beyond the wedding day – so while not conventional, they’re certainly both practical and pretty.
This new imagery from Charlotte Balbier showcases perfectly how the Separates can be teamed for a high-impact wedding day look and then switched-up and restyled for cool and edgy casualwear.
For example, brides wanting a classic yet contemporary look for their wedding could pair the lace Cressy topper with the voluminous Piper tulle skirt, while for the boho bride the Rowe satin and lace topper and Saint chiffon skirt provide a dreamy duo. For a flirtier look, the Una thick lace topper and pretty, flared Pippa puff-ball skirt is most definitely a winning combination.
Following the big day, brides can then add their Separates to their everyday wardrobe with toppers doubling up as on-trend cropped tops and soft jackets and gilets providing classy winter cover-ups.
Cressy & Piper
Personal favourites that would earn a place on our wardrobe wish list include the Cressida satin and lace topper, the fabulous Marabou feather Sparrow jacket and the super-soft Hester fur jacket. If Santa happens to be listening, we’ve been awfully good this year!
For more, visit www.charlottebalbier.com.
December 6th, 2016 | Julia Braime
Understated glamour is the buzz phrase within 2017 bridal collections as designers strip back the beads, pearls and crystals to create fuss-free and flawless gowns with minimal detailing.
Perfect for those who believe that less is more, the fresh designs are all about clean lines and cuts with an emphasis on rich and luxurious looking materials that help to heighten the elegance. From sleek, slimline designs to eye-catching A-lines, there’s a style and silhouette to suit all shapes and sizes.
And if the perfectly plain creations are a step too sophisticated for some, there are designs featuring feminine detailing in pretty bows and soft lace trims as well as those with deep backs, plunging v-necklines and thigh-high splits, for the more daring bride to bare little skin.
For a truly classic look we love the structured and more traditional designs in rich Mikado silks. Meanwhile for the fashionista bride, there are beautifully uncomplicated jumpsuits and simple separates that provide a more on-trend alternative to the stripped-back trend.
Spanish designers in particular are doing the look on point, with ultra-ladylike designs coming from Rosa Clara and Pronovias, while Jesus Peiro offers more striking and statement pieces. Favourites for us include the stunning slim-line Nantes gown by Rosa Clara and the feminine yet flirty Tabina by Pronovias.
British designer Sassi Holford has also executed the art of simplicity beautifully within her recent collections with Davina and Darcy both proving to be big hits on The White Gallery catwalk earlier this year, and one of our favourite gowns from Charlotte Balbier‘s Untamed Love had to be the delicious Agatha.
Those that choose to go down the clean route can opt to keep their accessories and styling in line with the style with subtle jewellery and neat hair, or alternatively make more of an impact with statement jewellery and modern, undone hair styling to complete their desired bridal look.
December 2nd, 2016 | Julia Braime
Gals on the dress hunt, we’re stopping by this afternoon to bring you details of an exciting event being held by one of our fabulous Sponsors.
On Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th of December 2016, the wonderful team at Jean Jackson Couture HQ, located in the leafy suburb of Urmston, Manchester, will be hosting a Rue De Seine Trunk Show featuring the Love Spell Collection in its entirety.
There are limited places available for this exclusive event, so let’s not delay in handing over the blog to Rebecka of Jean Jackson Couture, who can give us full details, including how to secure an appointment.
What can brides expect from the Trunk Show event?
rebecka says: The Love Spell Collection Trunk Show will feature stunning Rue De Seine designs for brides to view and try on during their appointment. They will also receive a special goody bag too.
What are the benefits of the event to brides-to-be?
It is the only time that we will have the entire Love Spell Collection in the boutique so this is an exclusive opportunity to have full access to the collection.
How many appointments are available at the Trunk Show and how long will the appointments last?
There a few appointments still available on the Saturday and Sunday and each appointment will last an hour. We ask that brides only bring two guests and refrain from wearing fake or instant tan.
Tell us a little about the Rue De Seine collection…
The Love Spell Collection is a celebration of free thinking, bold and unconventional brides.
The inspiration for this collection ranges from the relaxed, romantic beaches of Bali to the daring and dramatic expressions of iconic trailblazers.
The collection boasts many unique and individual laces, which are designed and made exclusively for Rue de Seine. These laces have immense detail and rich textures making Love Spell a modern collection of bohemian fantasy.
Are there any particular favourites or stand out pieces within the collection for you personally?
One of my personal favourites is Blake, a slim-fitting, racer-back gown made from a heavy guipure lace featuring tassels.
What sizes are Rue De Seine designs available in?
The dresses are available in sizes 6 to 14.
What is the price range of the Rue De Seine dresses that you stock?
The dresses range from £1,850 to £3,200, but the majority are around £2,500.
What are you looking forward to most about the event?
We just love meeting with new brides and hearing all about their super cool weddings!
Do you have any advice for brides-to-be attending the Trunk Show?
It’s always good to come with a list of your favourite four to five dresses. Also, be open-minded to trying on a wild card, the result might surprise you.
How do ladies go about booking an appointment for the events?
To book an appointment go to the ‘contact’ page of our website, or alternatively call us on 0161 748 2878.
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