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 26th, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
Today’s gorgeous couple were married at Broadoaks Country House in the heart of the Lake District.
Shabby chic vintage vibes? Check. Moody autumnal skies? Check. Jaw-dropping lakeside photographs? Check. Readers, you’re going to love this.
And flower fans, get those Pinterest-clicking fingers ready – I guarantee that this is the most beautiful bouquet you’ll see this year.
With images by James Tracey Photography
laura says: We got engaged on 29th September 2015. Rich took me to the Lake District, our favourite place, and had set up a proposal at Broadoaks Country House – we’d stayed there before and loved it. Rich had arranged for his brother to be there to secretly photograph the proposal. We had afternoon tea out on the terrace and Rich had bought a mug that said ‘Does this ring make me look engaged?’ The staff brought it out with the afternoon tea and Rich said ‘I think this is for you.’ Suddenly he was down on one knee and proposed with a ring that he’d chosen himself.
We wanted an autumn wedding and so we set the date for the 27th October 2016. We chose Broadoaks where we got engaged for our venue. Rich set up an appointment with the wedding planner there and we knew that was the only place we would want to get married.
We had a small wedding and didn’t want everyone to have to wear matching suits and so on. In fact, the whole day was really laidback. Our theme was vintage/shabby chic because I just love that style.
We didn’t really have a colour scheme. I don’t particularly like reds and oranges but wanted my flowers to reflect autumn; I eventually opted for berry colours and dusky pinks. My sister was my bridesmaid and I told her she could pick her own dress to go with the flowers, so she chose a dress in a mink colour.
I knew from the start what style of wedding dress I wanted and I had an idea in my head. I must have tried on more than 50 dresses, but none of them were right and then I found my dress at Lace and Co Bridal in Horbury, Wakefield. I knew it was the one as soon as I put it on. It was a Charlotte Balbier dress and was called Tabitha. I absolutely loved it. I thought it needed something extra, though, and my mum found a sparkly brooch which I added to the front of the dress to personalise it.
My bridal makeup was done by Lisa from Lime Beauty at Equinox in Bowness, and my hair was by Louise from Equinox. They came to the venue and were absolutely fab! I’d recommend them to anyone, they’re so friendly and put us completely at ease.
Rich decided he didn’t want to hire a suit and so he bought one from Hugo Boss that he could keep. It was a blue two piece and he added a grey waistcoat also from Hugo Boss which went really well.
For our wedding party we just had my sister, Amy, as my bridesmaid and Rich’s best friend Matt as best man. As Rich had bought his own suit, we asked Matt and my dad to wear what they wanted – they didn’t have to match.
My sister’s dress was a mink coloured 50’s style dress, which we ordered online. She also bought a pink petticoat which she wore to make her skirt flare out more.
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.
January 3rd, 2017 | Laura McDonagh
It’s holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a short break, we’ll be leaving you with a reduced blogging schedule so that you still get your daily dose of wedding lovely. Usual service will recommence on Monday 9th January 2017 but in the meantime watch out for recaps of some of our favourite Real Weddings from 2016.
Drop in every day for the very prettiest, most unique wedding inspiration and – if you are a Brides Up North bride – to see if your real wedding was one of our top picks.
Luisa and Peter pulled off the impressive feat of a winter wedding without a can of snow spray or a gilded pine cone in sight. Instead, their big day at Colshaw Hall in Cheshire, was led by an organic woodland theme, full of warm earthy tones and plenty of grown-up black-tie glamour.
The food and the playlist were particular focal points for this Manchester music-loving pair, and the following day saw the festivities extended with an aprés-ski extravaganza. So get comfortable, perhaps with a glass of Malbec or a mulled wine – go on, Luisa would definitely approve!
With images by Jonny Draper Photography
luisa says: Peter and I got engaged in Barbados. One night we went down for dinner and, instead of heading for our usual table in the restaurant, we were led down a path lined with candles that took us to a private beach and a table for two. When we sat down and opened the menus, I saw all of my favourite foods and champagne. Then a steel band appeared playing Elvis Presley’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You. When I looked around, Peter was down on one knee; it was a truly magical moment. He made a beautiful speech and, of course, I said yes. We spent the rest of the week celebrating and relaxing; it was just so perfect!
We chose to get married on 19th December 2015 because it was the closest Saturday to the Winter Solstice – a date important to me and my mum. We wanted a winter wedding as we felt that there were lots more options to explore in terms of the decorations and the vibe that we could create.
For the venue, we chose Colshaw Hall in Cheshire. We wanted to make sure that the event was totally private and this was the huge bonus of Colshaw: the venue and all of its grounds are hired exclusively so we wouldn’t be sharing our special day with anyone else. Secondly, as Peter’s family are based in Suffolk, we wanted to make sure that there was accommodation onsite to ensure that the wedding weekend was as easy as possible for those travelling. Having looked at quite a few venues in the area, Colshaw’s accommodation was, we felt, the most beautiful. Each room has its own stunning theme and beautiful view over the grounds. Colshaw’s Peel Suite also offered a beautiful blank canvas; no wedding looks the same there. We had hired the main house for the drinks and canapés straight after the service and this offered a unique, cosy, Christmas drinks party atmosphere.
Theme-wise, we wanted to create a natural and organic winter forest. Peter and I love walking our dog Digby up on the Edge and we wanted to recreate that same earthy, woodland environment. I wanted my wedding to be just that little bit ‘out there’, and having the trees as the centrepiece certainly achieved that goal. As our wedding was the weekend before Christmas, I think people expected us to go down the more conventional festive route and it was truly lovely seeing their reactions to the chapel and the main room. We’d focused on lots of earthy tones, such as dark greens and ambers, making sure that everything was lit by candles to create warmth.
I had chosen quite a traditional and simple gown designed by Stewart Parvin with the lace detail as a nod to my Italian heritage. My dress was bought and styled by the incredible ladies at LOVE Bridal in Cheshire. They helped accessorise my gown with a Stewart Parvin veil, lace jacket and honey-toned belt which contemporised it perfectly. My shoes were Hangisis by Manolo Blahnik; I just loved their quirkiness. In the evening, I removed the lace jacket and added a thin sparkly belt to liven it up for the dancing. I visited several bridal stores and LOVE Bridal’s service surpassed all the London boutiques. From the beautiful little cakes they serve to the ‘grand reveal’, the wonderful Emma and Clare have it covered.
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December 22nd, 2016 | Rachel Parry
While planning a wedding is a super-exciting and enjoyable task, it can also be rather time-consuming and daunting, so we’re always keen to hear of suppliers that can ease the pressure on busy brides-to-be. And in today’s post we have news of not one, but two, such businesses – David’s Bridal and Bridebook.
As the world’s largest bridal retailer, David’s Bridal has been helping brides to find their dream wedding dress for more than 60 years and has four stores across the UK, which act as one-stop wedding shops.
In addition to numerous stunning dresses from the David’s Bridal collections, the stores stock gowns by White by Vera Wang, Wonder by Jenny Packham, and Truly Zac Posen, ranging from sizes 4 to 34, giving brides of all shapes and sizes exceptional choice.
Furthermore, there’s lingerie, shoes, hair accessories, jewellery, and bridal party attire too, meaning there’s no need for brides to visit numerous boutiques to check off items on their ‘wedding shopping list’.
To celebrate the opening of its newest store, located in Birmingham, David’s Bridal has teamed up with Bridebook, a free online wedding planner, to co-host a £1,000 David’s Bridal dress giveaway.
Surely, that would be the icing on the Christmas cake this festive season?!
Spanning an incredible 15,000 square feet of everything wedding, from bridal dresses and head-to-toe accessories to stunning mother-of-the-bride and bridesmaid attire, the new store is almost too good to be true. The free-flowing layout and clean displays make it easy for ladies to see everything on offer, and with a remarkable 38 spacious changing rooms and exceptional customer service on-hand, there’s a sky-high chance of brides finding ‘The One’ during their visit.
Oh, and be sure to check out Bridebook’s fabulous online wedding planning resources too, which include a user-friendly supplier search directory, budget calculator, guest list manager and exclusive advice from a team of globally recognised wedding experts, giving you all the tools you need to plan your wedding in just one place. Hallelujah to that!
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
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