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!
November 11th, 2015 | Julia Braime
One otherwise unremarkable Wednesday evening last month, I was invited along to a rather sensational little soiree at the atmospheric Barley Hall in York to celebrate the launch of blossom & belle, and preview their inaugural bridal offering. The creative brainchild of two sisters in law, Antonia Aitken and Sarah Cartwright, Blossom and Belle is the inspiration of two women whose ultimate aim is to make a woman to simply feel beautiful when she puts on one of their unique dresses.
With images by Oliva Brabbs Photography.
Originating from a particularly ‘bad wardrobe day’ by Sarah when feeding her first child, and knowing Antonia’s original background in fashion design, Sarah asked Antonia if she could make her something just for her to wear to make her feel special again.
Antonia, with a BA in Fashion and Textiles, and Sarah, with a Marketing degree, got their heads together, and after many a long night over cups of tea, texts and phone calls, the first Blossom & Belle wrap dress was born.
With Antonia’s creative juices flowing, she started to think about the wedding dress designs she had previously enjoyed creating before she had started her family. Sarah, in the meantime, was using her marketing and business experience to get the Blossom and Belle word out there. In fact, their very first web order came from a twitter follower!
Sourcing beautiful fabrics and unique vintage additions, the collection now composes of Ready to Wear, Prom and Bridal Couture. Every garment is created lovingly by hand by Antonia to the client’s specification. Sarah now works hard behind the scenes helping to drive the business forward as part of her own Sales & Marketing agency, Searson Fox.
From a custom butterfly print in organic cotton which was commissioned specifically for Blossom and Belle, silks, Irish linen and swarovski beads, each Blossom and Belle dress is completely unique. Wedding dresses comprise of a mix of french lace, duchess and crepe silks, organza and dupion silks. All the bridal dresses are lined in silk for the ultimate in luxury
If you choose a Blossom and Belle gown, Antonia will go through designs, fabric samples and your own ideas on the first consultation. There will be several fittings of both the toile in calico to ensure the fit and look is perfect and of the gown itself. You go away in plenty of time before your wedding with a gown created just for you and Blossom and Belle can also be there on the day of your wedding to help you dress.
What stood out to me was the very personal nature of every gown, along with the collection’s ethereal influence. It might have been the flickering candlelight or the baby ballerinas who took to the catwalk between scenes, but the vibe was almost medieval, with laced ribbon sleeves and long, trailing veils.
If you’re a free spirited lady who is looking for bespoke service and design for a unique and stunning wedding day look, you might just like to give Blossom and Belle a call.
Diary Date: On the 21st February 2016 Blossom and Belle are having a Bridal Tea Party at the historic Tithe Barn, Nether Poppleton from 1pm to 4pm. There will be a vintage tea room and luxury bridal exhibitors from flowers and cakes to photography. Blossom and Belle will be available to discuss and showcase their beautiful couture bridal wear range and any ideas you have for your dream dress.
January 29th, 2015 | Julia Braime
Here at Brides Up North HQ, we really care about the fabulous industry suppliers who support the growth of our brand and business, both online and off. I love nothing more than to hear the stories of their own success and development and how they helped our readers to achieve their dream days. This afternoon I’m proud to welcome Jessica of mother and daughter dress designer duo Jessica Bennett Bespoke Bride back to the wedding blog as they recap a great first year in the business.
jessica says: We could not have asked for a more exciting or successful 2014, our first year in business. We have been overwhelmed by the interest in the services we offer and all of the lovely comments and feedback we have had from each and every one of our clients. Both my Mum and I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with such lovely ladies and to have been a part of every one of their special days.
Our main wedding of the season, for this Cheshire August celebration we were commissioned to design and create the bride’s gown, bridesmaids and Mother of the Bride.
They were such a fantastic group of people to work with and the bride, Zoe knew exactly what she wanted for her bridal party from our first consultation. Being a stylist she had dreamt up exactly the gowns she wanted us to create for her, starting with her own gown. It was so exciting to work with someone that fully embraced the opportunity of having a truly bespoke and unique gown tailored to them personally.
She had specified all silks for her gown, we knew she wanted a very subtle blush peach colour and a very full tulle skirt. After a lot of sourcing for the perfect fabrics we began work on her gown – firstly, making a toile for her to see the overall shape and style before we began work on her silks for her final gown.
The design evolved throughout the bespoke process and the run up to her wedding, with every one of her weekly fittings was a dream and it was so rewarding to see how delighted she was and how incredible she felt in that dress.
Likewise, her look for her three bridesmaids was equally well thought out – the girls were to be in a contrasting white, playing with traditional norms but also ensuring their look was elegant and classic. Each bridesmaid wore a white duchess cowl drop back dress with fishtail skirt.
The bride’s Mum also knew exactly the silhouette that flattered her shape and with this we went for a 60’s inspired, fitted bodice with full circular skirt – such an elegant and feminine Mother of the Bride dress with a powder blue silk underneath with embroidered lace overlay.
Dressing all of these ladies on the day was the icing on the cake for us! Seeing months of hand work and fittings all come together in one morning was fantastic. We keep in touch with Zoe, having made further bespoke evening dresses for her since her wedding and plan to work together throughout 2015- this Bride has certainly caught the bespoke bug!
Images by Flawless Photography.
Kelly’s bridesmaids were our first set of Bridesmaids for 2014 – with her wedding in June it was a fantastic one to kick off the wedding season for us.
Kelly first came to us in January with a specific look in mind for her bridesmaids. The brief given to us was ‘suede, rose, vintage colouring’ with a very relaxed feel for her maids. She had 5 adult bridesmaids and was certain she wanted all of the girls to feel totally comfortable in each of their dresses and so we tailored them all individually – altering sleeves, straps, adding boning to some of their bodices, to ensure each girl was totally comfortable and feeling gorgeous and confident in their gowns.
The finishing touches and attention to detail that Kelly gave to her wedding day were so well thought out and can truly be seen in her beautiful photographs. The lace used for the bridesmaids’ dresses was added to each of their bouquets and matched the lace in the chair decorations. It was a pleasure working with Kelly and her bridesmaids and would like to thank her photographer for the beautiful images.
Image above by Phunk D Photography
Melanie was our first bride of the season, having come to see us in February to commission her bridal gown. We knew her main desire as a bride was to look classic and elegant in a gown that reflected her personal style rather than being too typically ‘bridal’. With this in mind, we used a range of silk fabrics from duchess to chiffon to create a contemporary design that was simple in look but executed with a perfect finish.
Mel looked fantastic and it was such an honour to dress her on the morning of her wedding.
When Catherine first approached us in 2013, before we had officially launched our bespoke bridal business, it was a real privilege that she had put her faith in us (before seeing any of our work!) to commission her own bridal gown and her sister’s bridesmaid dress.
We spoke about design and fabrics and agreed to meet again in Jan 2014 once we had launched and get the ball rolling.
Catherine was pregnant with her first baby throughout her initial consultations and she had a clear idea what her requirements were for her wedding dress. With this we came up with a design together based on silhouettes that would suit and detailing that Catherine liked: a lace bodice and scalloped edge neckline. At the toile stage for Catherine we perfected the fit of her gown, added boning to her bodice for support and began work on her final fabrics.
Likewise, for her bridesmaid and sister, Elizabeth, we designed a form fitting fishtail silhouette gown with an off the shoulder detailed bodice. The pair looked stunning on the day and it was such a pleasure working with them both.
Image above supplied by Jessica Bennett Bespoke Bride.
Our final bridesmaid of the season was Lou, her sister Clare was getting married in a beautiful Woolton wedding in October and the bride had already bought her dress which was a 50,s inspired knee length, full skirt silhouette and so the pair needed to co-ordinate well.
The brief given to us was ‘midnight blue’ and so we used a mix of silky satin and chiffon to create a beautiful feminine dress for Louise to wear. She paired her dress with bespoke underskirt for a dramatic shape, killer heels and a drop dead gorgeous white feather bolero ! Thank you to the sister duo for letting us be a part of their special day.
Image above by Ant Klausen Photography
mother of the bride
Mother of the Bride Josie wore an all silk sage, lemon and champagne coloured dress with pleated waist detail and matching sage jacket. Josie said she felt a million dollars in this dress and with this design we made a fully boned ‘foundation’ that was secured within the dress which gave her added support and structure.
the year ahead…
2015 is set to be a huge year for us, we have begun to expand our studio as we can’t fit all of our gowns in our existing one and we are already super excited about showing off our beautiful brides and their gowns with you all.
June 26th, 2014 | Julia Braime
Its holiday season here on the blog, and as the editorial team take a break to redesign, review and recharge, 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 7th July 2014, but in the meantime watch out for recaps of our favourite Real Weddings so far this year. 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.
First featured just before the turn of the year on Brides Up North, it’s a Yorkshire Austrian mash-up on the blog today (the bride’s words!) as we join Liz and Christian for their fun and fabulous Real Wedding in Hawes. Combining Austrian traditions with Yorkshire charm, their big day is pretty and personal.
With images by Brides Up North Featured Supplier Sarah Mason Photography.
Liz says: We got engaged in October 2012 in the Seychelles and were married on 16th August 2013 at West Burton Chapel, North Yorkshire with the reception at Simonstone Hall, Hawes.
We live in Vienna, Austria as Christian is from here. I am from Yorkshire and my family spotted Simonstone Hall while walking in the Yorkshire Dales – we trusted them! We tried tried to incorporate English and Austrian traditions into the day as much as possible, with a lavender and green colour scheme.
I saw a dress I loved in a boutique and then had it remade with some changes! I loved that it was one of a kind and I got to have some input from the drawing stage! We had two flower girls and a pageboy and they wore traditional trachten from Vienna. The girls in dirndls and the boy in lederhosen!
We got our flowers from The Yorkshire Lavender Farm and then made the decorations and bouquets ourselves the day before with help from Aunties and sisters!
I loved every second but I think walking down the aisle and seeing Christian for the first time that day was the most special moment.
My husband and his best man had an old red Morgan for the weekend and so they arrived at the chapel in that. Our guests travelled on a double decker bus and I was taken there by a close family friend and returned with my husband in the Morgan.
Our cake was made by a friend and much of the other decoration was done by Tilly Rose Designs, who made our centre pieces and signage.
We hired a bus from The Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company and a car from Lakes and Dales.
We wanted a really relaxed day and for it to be and English-Austrian cultural mash-up! We had a log sawing activity – an Austrian tradition where the bride and groom saw through a log to signify them working together to succeed.
We had goulash soup at midnight (another Austrian tradition) and a great band – ‘Mad dog and the Sophisicats’ playing throughout the day with a ceilidh band at night.
We had a honeymoon before our wedding! We went to New York and Toronto as some close friends were getting married in Canada.
My top tip for other Brides Up North would be to relax – don’t stress about little things – as long as everyone is happy you’ll have a great day!
Congratulations Liz & Christian!
June 11th, 2014 | Julia Braime
Have I got some eye candy for you lovely lot today! The lady behind this (fabulous) wedding dress is nothing if not versatile. She’s also extremely talented and a rather lovely person at that. I know. I’ve met her, and see these beauties in real life.
Step forward Kelly Redhead of KMR Bespoke Bridal. One to watch and superstar designer of the future, she’s here to present her 2015 Whiting Collection to Brides Up North. You saw it here first girls (oh, except from on the pages of Vogue Italia – yes, that’s exactly how we roll!).
Images by Folega Photography.
Kelly says: A collaborative literature vintage themed shoot at Cusworth Hall, Doncaster brought together a talented group of suppliers. Cusworth Hall was a fantastic venue to hold the shoot with many of the shots taken in the Library, in keeping with the literary theme.
The little details from the various suppliers involved with the shoot worked perfectly with my designs and the fresh approach of the photography by Sarah really did make this shoot romantic and full of love.
The Whiting Collection is my debut 2015 collection of bridal gowns. The collection is named after my late Grandmother who inspired me from a young age to become a designer. Three of the collections gowns were used in this preview shoot at Cusworth Hall; Grace, Ivy and Annie.
Grace is an elegant floor length bias cut ivory silk crepe and guipure lace gown. A high illusion neckline is finished with bound silk crepe detailing and delicate cap sleeves. A KMR signature of a keyhole back opening paired with a detachable lace train creates a stunning back. The gown is finished with a silver crystal embellished waistband.
Ivy is a stylish ivory embroidered lace and silk crepe backed satin gown. Elegant lace sleeves and a deep V-shaped neckline at the back of the gown are finished with a delicate scallop lace edging. Creating a figure enhancing silhouette the gown has a bias fishtail skirt with a train to add a feminine touch. The gown is finished with delicate covered buttons and rouleau loops down the back.
Annie is a sophisticated strapless gown with a sweetheart neckline. The elegant circle skirt is made up of layers of silk taffeta and silk chiffon with a beautiful train. The bodice is finished with delicate pleated silk taffeta, a plunging back and fastened with rouleau loops and covered buttons. The gown is finished with a stunning silver crystal motif on the waist.
There are three other gowns in KMR’s 2015 bridal collection. As this was a preview shoot of the collection the final three gowns will be revealed soon.
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June 10th, 2014 | Rachel Parry
I love couples that think outside the box, so when I saw Will and Stacey’s quirky Save the Date video I just knew the wedding would be equally impressive and individual – and I wasn’t wrong.
A traditional church wedding was followed by a fabulous reception at the picturesque Easby Hall in North Yorkshire.
Both Will and Stacey put a lot of thought into the day to include personal touches in honour of friends and family, both past and present.
The stylish couple paid particular attention to their wedding attire with Stacey having a vintage-style bespoke dress designed and made by the hugely talented Kate Beaumont. Meanwhile, dapper Will shunned a traditional Prince Edward suit or top and tails in place of a brown Hugo Boss suit, complete with tweed waistcoat, pocket watch and purple socks.
With images by Chris Booth and Claire Collinson.
Will says: We got engaged while we were travelling in Latin America – Argentinian Patagonia to be more precise. I obviously didn’t have ring in South America, however I did have one in mind.
Before my Mum died in 2010 she asked me to use my paternal Grandmother’s engagement ring. My middle name is Howel – the name of my paternal grandfather – so my Mum thought it would be nice for another Howel to propose with it. When we returned to the UK in 2012 we got the ring-resized and tidied up, using Werk in York.
Our wedding date was September 21st 2013. We wanted either an autumn or spring wedding and didn’t want to wait until spring 2014. We also had to make sure the date didn’t clash with my siblings’ weddings – my brother David got married in June 2013 and my sister Mary got married August 2013.
We got married in St Agatha’s Church, Easby, near Richmond, North Yorkshire, and had the reception at Easby Hall – a very short walk from the church. We wanted a small wedding of 50 to 60 guests and Easby was the perfect size. We also loved having such a beautiful church right next door. It was also only 15 minutes away from Barnard Castle, where Stacey’s family live and where we both went to school. Easby Hall had never hosted a wedding before – we were the first after they got planning permission, which they only received three months before our wedding. This meant we had to essentially plan the wedding in three months but it also meant the hall was free on the date we wanted it.
Easby also had a sentimental connection as Easby Abbey and St Agatha’s church was one of the last places my Mum visited before she passed away.
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