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!
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.
October 20th, 2016 | Julia Braime
Engaged or not, looking at beautiful bridal wear is one of our very favourite pastimes and so we’re excited and honoured to be adding another fabulous designer to our list of Sponsors. Ladies, prepare to swoon as we welcome So Sassi to the blog.
As its name suggests, this label is all about brides showing their own unique style through their bridal attire choices, whether they are looking to achieve a pretty and timeless look or to make a real style statement.
Inspired by both designer and high-street fashions, So Sassi also enables brides to think outside the bridal box, with striking separates, big playful bows and even cute caped designs, all forming part of the latest collection.
Can you give us a little background on So Sassi and how the label came to fruition?
so sassi say: So Sassi was created in 2012 as the esprit label from Sassi Holford. The gowns are designed for the fashion forward bride looking for a twist on tradition. The gowns are designed and handmade by a team of talented fashion graduates at the Sassi Holford studios in Somerset.
What is the ethos behind So Sassi dresses and what type of brides do the designs appeal to?
The ethos behind the label is about having fun – we wanted to create a collection that is fashionably stylish but that also keeps the light hearted aspect of bridal. Our ideal bride has her own unique style.
Tell us a little about the latest So Sassi collection?
The 2017 collection has a playful yet romantic vibe! We have gorgeous romantic gowns like Pixie which feature soft tulle, subtle sparkle bodice and diamante waist detail, but then we have Daisy which is a really pretty hi-lo, 3D floral lace gown – it’s so cute!
Where did the inspiration for the collection come from?
Our inspiration comes from many sources; the runway, cool accessories and high street styles. These themes are then developed and combined with shapes and fabrics, it all comes together from there. The collection was really exciting to put together this year and we feel it definitely shows in the dresses!
What types of fabrics feature in the collection?
We experimented with a few fabrics and fabric combinations this year, putting together beautiful soft tulles, stunning spot organza, soft crepe and illusion laces with bold checked fabric and 3D florals. There is also a gorgeous new leaf lace detailed fabric that we’re hoping to see a lot more of!
Similarly, what types of detailing feature in the collection?
We’ve really focussed in on ensuring that the details are just as important as the overall look of the dress. We’ve created a few more accessories for brides, to help transform their looks by simply adding or taking a way an accessory. For example our Jasmine jacket can be removed and replaced with the Crystal belt for the evening!
September 22nd, 2016 | Julia Braime
Ever since we first laid eyes on the stunning new Untamed Love collection from our crazily talented Sponsor Charlotte Balbier, we’ve been a little obsessed with it.
We put it down to the fact that the collection not only emits Charlotte’s signature uber-pretty look, but it also pushes bridal boundaries with a number of bold and beautiful boho designs for the fashionistas out there.
Keen to show the collection in all its glory, we’re today sharing a full look at the dreamy designs in this special post.
And for those of you that like what you see (and let’s be honest, how couldn’t you?) we also have an important date for you to put in your dairies. On 29th & 30th October 2016, the gorgeous Lace & Co Bridal Boutique in Horbury, West Yorkshire, will be holding an exclusive Charlotte Balbier trunkshow showcasing both the new 2017 ‘Untamed Love’ collection as well as exquisite designs from Charlotte’s stylish Separates collection too.
Better still, on 29th October Charlotte will be joining boutique owner Heidi at Lace & Co, to meet her brides on person. The event is by appointment only so be sure to book your place by visiting www.laceandco.com, emailing email@example.com or ringing 01924 277725.
Now, bring on the dresses…
Milena – A very beautiful fishtail dress with capped lace sleeve and back detail.
Untamed Love – The signature gown from the Untamed Love collection in an exclusive floral bloom fabric exclusive to the house of Charlotte Balbier.
Hepburn – The pretty floral and preppy and organza gown of the collection with stunning back detail and satin bow belt.
August 12th, 2016 | Julia Braime
This morning on the blog we’re thrilled to be giving you an exclusive look at the fabulous flagship boutique of our talented Sponsor, Felicity Cooper Bridal.
The stunning label was launched by designer Fiona Cooper back in 2010 and was initially stocked among other designers at The Wedding Boutique in Cheshire, owned by Fiona. Following an amazing response from brides, the Felicity Cooper name went from strength to strength and officially launched onto the international bridal buying platform at London Bridal Fashion Week in 2015.
In line with its popularity and success, Fiona has now relaunched, rebranded and refurbished her Cheshire boutique in the chic town of Knutsford, transforming it into the Felicity Cooper Flagship Boutique, stocking the label’s full collections and offering a bespoke designer service for those that desire a one-of-a-kind dream dress for their big day.
Here to give us a tour of the stunning flagship boutique is the leading lady herself…
Tell us about the location of Felicity Cooper Flagship Boutique and how you first came to set it up?
fiona says: The flagship boutique is on King Street in the historic town of Knutsford. Having opened The Wedding Boutique in 2008 and stocking my own collections from early on, relaunching as the flagship boutique for Felicity Cooper seamed the natural progression.
Why did you decide to solely stock Felicity Cooper dress designs at the boutique and how has the store changed since the relaunch?
Felicity Cooper had become the biggest selling brand in the boutique, largely because we could offer the bespoke service, our designs always stood out and brides just loved them. The relaunch has meant a rebrand and refurbishment of the boutique. The feedback so far from brides and their guests has been fantastic.
Tell us about the look and the feel of the boutique?
The interior design of the flagship boutique remains true to our vintage styling and design but has a modern geometric twist. It’s sleek, clean and a little bit quirky.
Does the boutique stock both the 2016 and 2017 Felicity Cooper collections?
Yes the flagship boutique stocks all the Felicity Cooper designs from all collections. The 2016 First Love collection has a slightly more traditional feel to it whereas the 2017 Natural Soul collection pushes the boundaries a little, with stunning embroidery and cotton laces. We tried to make sure that over all the collections there is something for every style of bride.
For brides wanting a totally unique dress you also offer a bespoke designer service at Felicity Cooper Flagship Boutique. Can you tell us about the process of having a dress specially made?
At a bespoke appointment the bride will come in and initially have an appointment similar to any other bride. We will discuss the wedding, find out the bride’s like and dislikes. Look at the different shapes and fabrics. It’s once the bride has confirmed the shape that we start to get into more detail, researching the right fabric. We then build the dress gradually to ensure the bride is happy along the way. This does mean the bride would have to have two to three more fittings than a bride choosing a dress from the current collection. But it is a great way to create a totally original dress just for the individual.
What is it you love about designing a bespoke gown?
Every bride is totally different and I love bringing their thoughts and ideas to reality. Getting to know them more with the number of visits and all the bespoke brides leave genuine friends.
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