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!
March 3rd, 2014 | Julia Braime
A few weeks ago I introduced you to one of our lovely Brides Up North Featured Suppliers, the mother and daughter team at Jessica Bennett Bespoke Bride, who design and hand make stunning wedding gowns entirely from scratch.
Now, when I got married a few years ago, this is something that I would never have considered doing – and didn’t really know was available at my (average) budget, location (Up North of course!) and what the process would be. Even if I had thought about it, I would have worried that the final design wouldn’t come out in line with my expectations, or how I could possibly get my ideas across to the person making the gown. I hadn’t really imagined the dressmaker as a “designer”, and thought that the off the peg option was the safest one. I loved my wedding dress (All That Jazz by the wonderful Alan Hannah if you were wondering), but having met Jessica and hearing about what they can do – and seeing the results – if I had my time again, I think I might just be paying her a visit.
Jessica summed it up herself in her first interview here at Brides Up North when she said: ‘A wedding dress is arguably the most important dress a girl will ever wear. It is something that is dreamt about for years and we… feel that there should be no compromise on the most important dress you will ever wear!
Bespoke is also perfect for those brides that want something truly unique, something that no other bride can be seen to have worn. Having something custom-made enables the bride to give a true reflection of their personality, find a style that suits their body shape perfectly and they can also design their dress around the style of their wedding day.
We… have a lot of brides who have had a style in mind for years – a red-carpet dress they saw in a magazine, a famous wedding gown or a thought up design that they have held onto. To go bespoke means our brides are able to have exactly what they want, with no compromise.’
Given my own misconceptions, I thought it was about time that someone in the know talked my readers through the bespoke process, so that they understand entirely what’s involved and exactly how rewarding the choice can be. And since it was Jessica who inspired this post, who better than to ask? She’s back on the blog today to talk you through it, step by step.
Images by Kirstie McNulty Photography.
The Initial Consultation
Jessica says: The initial consultation gives us the opportunity to get to know our Bride, understand her wants and requirements and also how she envisages her big day to be. At this stage we will discuss styles, fabrics, colours and time scale. From this we will then be able to give the client a more accurate quote based on what has been discussed and we will begin to source samples of fabrics.
The Design & Toile
We will begin to collate all of the ideas discussed at the first consultation, thinking about the style of wedding our Bride is having, location, time of year and how all of these factors will affect the design and fabrics of the dress. We will then start work on a toile. This is in affect a mock-up of the proposed design. This will be done in a calico fabric and will meet the brief given to us in the first consultation. The toile gives the Bride the opportunity to see her proposed ideas made up in a fabric and make any alterations to the style, the shape and fit of the dress before we actually begin work on the final fabrics which more often than not are silks and laces.
An initial measurement will be taken from the Bride at first consultation if she is happy to go ahead and begin the process. If the client needs more time to think about it another appointment will be arranged once her decision has been made to take first measurements (these can be taken over clothes) – these measurements will enable us to begin work on the toile.
Once the toile has been made up the Bride will have another fitting done and any alterations to the size and shape of the dress will be marked out on the calico fabric of the toile. This will then be taken apart and will form the pattern pieces for her wedding gown.
Approximately 6-8 weeks after the toile fitting the Bride will come to try on her wedding gown that will now be made up in her final fabrics (silks, lace etc). This will be made to the measurements of the last fitting but will not have any final seams or hems in and so can be taken in/ let out more if necessary. At this stage we, with the client, will make final decisions on length, over all fit, fastenings and finishing touches.
4 weeks later at the next fitting we will have the Bride’s wedding gown ready to a finished standard. This will include hems on the length, seams and fastenings. If the Bride is happy with the gown at this stage she is able to take away/ confirm that no more alterations are needed. However, if the Bride needs any additional adjustments to the size (due to weight loss/gain) this will be the final opportunity to have these confirmed.
More often than not the design of a dress alters throughout the Bespoke process as our client’s get inspired as they see their gown at every stage and realise the potential of the bespoke dress making service.
We also make a range of accessories from birdcage veils to cathedral veils and covered silk clutch bags for Mother of the Brides. Most Brides like to wait and see their dress on before choosing the length or type of veil as only then will they know what will be the perfect match to their bespoke gown.
Dressing On The Day
This service is available to our Brides and large bridal parties. We can help take the stress out of the morning for our clients and ensure all our ladies get to the aisle looking their very best. If a client opts for this service we can bring the gown with us on the day if this is requested.
There is nothing more valuable to us than a happy customer and so we will do all we can to make sure each of our client’s leaves us feeling thrilled with their garment and the service they have received.
For more details visit Jessica’s brand new website at www.jessicabennettbespokebride.co.uk, contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 07852 158 566. Jessica is also on Twitter and Facebook, so say hello!
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