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!
Do you also make couture dresses for other members of the bridal party such as bridesmaids/mother of the bride?
As a fashion designer I am able to design and make dresses for all the bridal party, which allows all the gowns to complement each other. I can use the same fabrics and colours, but change the design to suit every bridesmaid so that the over-all look is perfect.
I work alongside a team of luxury suppliers, from jewellery designers to milliners, which works very well for the mother of the bride, as we are able to work together to make sure the hat and accessories complement the outfit perfectly.
What are some of the couture gowns that you have created that you are most proud of?
I’ve have never been unable to source a fabric or a colour. One bridal client many years ago wanted a medieval cloak in luxurious velvet and I was requested to match the colour to a dried dark red rose.
I also had the honour of being asked by nine clients to design gowns for a prestigious ball. Eight weeks of working every day and long hours on each individual gown to me was couture heaven! Every design was completely different, from slimline and elegant, to full and fabulous, using sumptuous fabrics and eye-catching colours.
And, finally, please can you tell us about the Blossom and Belle charity tea party event that you will be hosting in York later this month?
If you are a free-spirited bride wanting something unique and bespoke this is the event for you. Taking place at the beautiful Tithe Barn, the afternoon will feature fabulous workshops, from creating your own floral buttonholes to personalised wedding favours. Visitors can also take time out to relax in our vintage tearoom and will also get to meet select high-end, luxury suppliers whilst listening to some beautiful music.
There is a free glass of fizz on arrival, plus fabulous raffle prizes, including a bespoke veil worth £300 from Blossom and Belle, free engagement shoot by Olivia Brabbs Photography, Wedding cake by From Where The Ribbon Ends and bespoke Tiara by Elisoberry. Buy your ticket now by visiting our website for your chance to win an afternoon tea for two from our tea room by the fabulous Babaganoush caterers. The £2 ticket sales with be split between York Against Cancer and York MS Society. Please note there is a £0.66 Eventbrite fee.