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!
August 18th, 2016 | Julia Braime
This afternoon on the blog we’re thrilled to bring you details of an upcoming event that features not one, but two, of our fabulous Sponsors.
Between Thursday 1st and Sunday 4th September, the gorgeous Little Pearl Bridal Boutique in Pickering, Yorkshire, will be hosting a Charlotte Balbier trunk show, so you ladies on the dress hunt book out a day in your diary asap!
The event will give brides-to-be the amazing opportunity to be among the first lucky ladies in Yorkshire to exclusively view and try on Charlotte Balbier’s brand new collection, ‘Untamed Love’ – which us girls here at Brides Up North HQ are totally head over heels for!
From exquisite back detail and fine fabrics to edgy separates and dreamy floral prints, this collection really does have an oh-so-pretty design for everyone, so our advice to you is to book an appointment for the trunk show, pronto!
Here to explain how to do just that, whilst telling us a little more about the Charlotte Balbier event and collection, is Little Pearl owner, the lovely Diana.
Tell us what brides-to-be can expect from the Charlotte Balbier trunk show…
diana says: As the exclusive North Yorkshire stockist of Charlotte Balbier, we are very proud to be hosting this event. The boutique will be transformed into a haven of bridal beauty with statement florals and soft flowing ethereal gowns, there really is a style for everyone within Charlotte’s new collection. I’m so excited to see brides-to-be trying on the dresses and hearing their thoughts on the collection too.
No Little Pearl event is complete without a gorgeous goody bag for our visiting brides, plus pink fizz, cakes and £100 accessory voucher for brides that find their gown during the trunk show!
What type of bride would you say the new Charlotte Balbier collection appeals to?
Charlotte’s new collection is perfect for brides who love fashion and style, and who really want to express their personality through their gown. This collection brings some stunning fresh designs and styles to the bridal world that we just know our #pearlsgirls are going to fall totally in love with!
Do you have any personal favourite designs from within the collection?
Luna is the ultimate in boho chic! Such a soft, romantic lace fabric and plunging neckline, she brings something unique to the boutique. It’s all about the florals for me too, so I cannot wait to see Untamed Love and Bloom gliding around the boutique at the event! We’ve had lots of requests about these gowns and I love that brides are wanting to push boundaries and go for a statement florals on their big day.
Is there anything brides can do in advance to prepare for the trunk show?
It will really help a bride if she has already tried on some different styles, and therefore has an idea of what she likes. Not to worry if they haven’t though as Charlotte’s collection has a range of styles, from fishtails to full skirted A-lines and more boho inspired designs – there’s something for everyone!
What are you looking forward to most about the event?
I love hosting events in the boutique and making appointments extra special for all of our visiting brides. It’s just the best feeling seeing lots of happy and excited ladies on their journey to finding their dream gown!
How do brides-to-be make an appointment to attend the trunk show?
The trunk show will run from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th September, so ladies should get in touch quickly to book their exclusive appointment. Due to popular demand for these appointments, we request a £20 deposit, which is refunded to ladies as soon as they arrive for their appointment. Email email@example.com, or call the boutique on 01751 798080. Hope to see you there!
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.
May 3rd, 2016 | Rachel Parry
Back in March our wonderful sponsor and new talent to the wedding industry Rebecca Juliet Bridal, held a rather special launch event in the North West to showcase a range of beautiful bespoke wedding dresses, all handmade by designer Rebecca at her studio in the picturesque village of Chipping.
Calling upon some of her creative industry friends, Rebecca treated brides-to-be to an evening of bridal fashion, complete with fizz, cakes and chocolate, at the stunning Eaves Hall in Clitheroe.
Great fun was had by all as brides were given oodles of inspiration for every element of their wedding day.
For those that couldn’t make the event Rebecca is taking over the blog this afternoon to tell us how it all went whilst filling us in on her gorgeous debut collection and giving details on how brides-to-be can book an appointment at her studio to view the collection, or discuss a fully bespoke dress for something truly unique.
With images by Sarah Valentine Photography.
After months of planning, how did your launch event go?
rebecca says: It was a fantastic evening to celebrate the launch of my new business. Rebecca Juliet Bridal has been a dream of mine for many years and it was really emotional watching my dresses go down the runway to smiles and applause from our guests.
It was also a great opportunity to work with some other exceptionally talented local wedding experts; I felt honored that they had gathered to support me with my new venture and the Eaves Hall were the perfect hosts.
What did the event involve?
Upon arrival guests were given a lovely ribbon charm bracelet to wear and were welcomed by the mesmerising voice of Hannah Rose, an up and coming local musician, with beautiful mellow acoustic music that is ideal to underpin any wedding day. They were then spoiled with glasses of bubbly and delicious cake mini canapes from the award winning Lisa Marie Cakes as well as exquisite handmade chocolates from Bowland Chocolate Company.
The highlight of the evening was the catwalk where we showcased the debut collection; a blend of bohemian and chic to give a really fabulous and classy look for brides-to-be. The models looked amazing in the gowns, as they weaved through the guest tables having had a full makeover from Baie 16 using Jane Iredale products, a salon only range of beautiful make up.
They loved rocking up the runway to a great music selection from Total Entertainment Solutions, who managed all the sound and lighting for the event. After the show the models stayed in the dresses and mingled with our guests as Hannah continued to impress us with her stunning singing voice.
What other suppliers took part in the evening?
Eaves Hall hosted the event for me. This exclusive venue, which is part of the fabulous James’s Places group, was beautifully decorated with floral arches and stunning blossom tree table centre pieces by the very talented Felicity Farm Flowers.
The hall was further enhanced with show stopping blossom trees and huge vintage letters from Brides Little Helper, another award winning local supplier to give it a magical feeling akin to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Sarah Valentine Photography, a fine art photographer, mingled effortlessly and captured the memories of the evening beautifully for me.
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April 15th, 2016 | Julia Braime
Every couple is different when it comes to planning their wedding and every bride is different when it comes to picking their dress. There is no rule book to follow on how much the overall budget for the wedding should be, or how it is to be split between the different elements of the day. And while for some, the venue and food will be top of the list, for others it’s the honeymoon, entertainment or attire that gets the majority of the cash.
In terms of the bride’s spend on her dress it may be the case that she’s been saving on the side of the main budget to buy her dream dress, or that this is something her parents have said that they would like to contribute to. Whatever the case, the dress ‘allowance’ generally comes down to the bride’s mind-set: ‘you only do it once – spend on an amazing designer gown’ or ‘it’s only one day – save with a high street dress’.
So today on the blog we’re debating if ladies should be booking appointments at bridal boutiques filled with fabulous designer gowns once that ring is firmly on her finger, or if it’s worth giving the high street options a go for a pretty gown at the fraction of the price?
(All gowns pictured in post body by ASOS. This is not a sponsored post, we just think they are pretty!)
rachel says: high street happy
Once upon a time I would never have suggested a bride look to the high street to find her wedding gown but now I would say it’s certainly worth considering.
We’ve seen the likes of BHS, Monsoon and Phase Eight releasing wedding dress collections (and making a good job of it too) and now more stores are jumping on the bridal bandwagon by launching their own big day collections – most recently fashion giants ASOS and H&M.
This means there is now more choice than ever for brides-to-be when it comes to selecting a gown at the lower end of the price scale, with high street designs starting from as little as £100 – leaving lots more in the spending pot for the shoes and accessories!
And just like the designers, the high street are taking notice of brides’ desire for individuality and so you won’t just find a one-style-suits-all approach within the collections. Instead there are options for the boho bride, the fashionista, the style statement maker and fans of vintage. Just this week Self-Portrait has launched its first bridal collection within selected Selfridge’s stores (and it includes some real beauties – some of which are shown in our Gallery below). With modern and rock n roll influences, the brand has created “a contemporary capsule of affordable, timeless wedding dresses for the ‘untraditional bride’”. Sounds good to me!
I’m also bowled over by Needle & Thread’s swoon-worthy bridal collection with dreamy designs varying from slinky floor-length gowns, to modern separates and mini dresses, not to mention ridiculously pretty tulle, almost ballerina, style creations.
One of the main reservations of buying bridal from the high street can be the thought of missing out on the boutique experience – and while having specialist on hand to help you pick a dream dress is a hugely valuable service – there’s nothing to stop you creating your own special shopping experience at home or on the high street. Either make a day out of it with your leading ladies, factoring in time for a lush lunch and a champagne stop (or two) on the agenda. Or, order online and invite your nearest and dearest to help you pick over an evening of fizz, canapes and cupcakes (surely that’s an ideal job to delegate to your bridesmaids). Who knows, you might even be able to afford to keep more than just the one dress!
julia says: undoubtedly designer
We’ve featured all sorts of amazing frocks on these pretty pages, from vintage finds to high street bargains to couture masterpieces and the one thing that they had in common was that the bride felt like a million dollars in them and they all looked bloody beautiful.
I also think it’s wonderful that there is now a range of fashion forward options at varying price points for today’s bride and would never judge a friend for choosing a more affordable option, but would I pick up my wedding dress during a high street haul? Not a chance!
I’ve been lucky enough to sit on the front row of some of the world’s most prestigious bridal events and work alongside some of the most talented designers in the business. What makes these labels successful is the unbelievable attention to detail that they pay to every gown, every sequin and every client.
What makes these dresses worth saving for and spending on is the whole ‘dream dress’ experience. It’s in the exciting trips to the boutique or atelier with your loved ones; the anticipation (and pop of Champagne) at every fitting; the rustle of tulle in a big, starched box; the million hand sewn pearl buttons; the bespoke accessories and additions and the perfectly steamed silk chiffon.
Not only that, it’s the exquisite fabrics, perfect cuts and delicate boning that nip, tuck, lift and skim in all the right places. These gowns really will make you look the best you ever have, and I think that’s worth paying for.
On your wedding day you want to feel special, beautiful, unique and individual, not just one of thousands of off the rail identikit Saturday shoppers. Your wedding day fashion can be flash, but it should never be fast!
I love some of the most recent designs hitting the high street and featured here today, but I still wouldn’t give up the couture experience over bagging a stylish bargain.
To be honest, I’ve never seen a clearer cut need for a two dress wedding day… some of these numbers would look amazing on the dance floor! Pass the credit card.
what you said on social…
Elizabeth says: “I’ve dreamt of getting married since being a little girl and so have saved up for my dream dress. Going to the boutiques was an amazing and unforgettable experience so for me it would have to be designer every time!”
Jemma says: “We’re doing our wedding on a £4,000 budget (excluding the honeymoon) and so I’ve decided to buy from the high street. I’ve fallen in love with a lace Monsoon gown with scallop detail which is just under £300. I think it could be ‘the one’.”
Fay says: “I’ve already picked a designer gown and enjoyed every minute of the shopping experience. However it’s quite a voluminous dress and after recently seeing a real wedding on a blog where a bride chose a slim-line high street gown to change into for the evening do, I’m tempted to do the same.”
February 2nd, 2016 | Julia Braime
Our lead Sponsor here at Brides Up North, Charlotte Balbier is famous for celebrating a bride’s individuality and style and sometimes, just sometimes, breaking all the bridal rules (kinda why we love her)!
With great delight we are proud to debut the new Balbier separates collection on our pretty pages. Charlotte has created 11 inter-changeable separates all designed for the bride to build and create her own individual look.
Maybe a satin slip with a lace topper and satin sash, or a ball gown skirt, crop top and lace reverse bolero? Whatever your personality and look the new separates collection offers a diverse way of creating your very own bridal syle.
charlotte says: Now, more than ever before, a Charlotte Balbier bride is a free spirited feminine woman who is confident in both her fashion and bridal style, expressing her unique individuality, personality and style through her Balbier gown.
Girls, get ready for some serious dress crushing…
Harper: A slipper satin dress with shoestring straps and low back. Fabulous with one of the lace overlay gowns, lace toppers or worn simply as it is.
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