This is something that comes up quite a lot when I'm talking to brides and designing their wedding dresses, and I think it's something that's worth talking about in relation to the whole wedding. Bridal magazines and blogs talk about trends quite a lot and there seem to be two camps of brides- brides who are really committed to a modern and trendy wedding, and brides who can't imagine anything worse. I think this trend-aversion is often inherited from mothers who got married in the 80s in huge, princess Diana sleeves. The theory I hear a lot, from brides and mothers of the bride, is that if you go "timeless" when you look back at the photos you won't have any regrets.
A 'trend', in it's purest form, is when a large group of people decide they don't like something and try to go about it in a different way. Designers soak up popular culture like a big sponge and produce work and then it sort of looks like other designers work and the media thinks "ah ha!! a TREND". Certainly, when I design I don't go hunting for what's tipped to be in, I think more about what Jenna Coleman was wearing on the last season of Victoria and the cute sleeve detail I saw there and turn it into something modern and fresh feeling. For example, I designed my bridal separates watching the scene of Much Ado About Nothing where they're all getting dressed and I loved the simplicity of the skirts and the way the tops went on like T-shirts.
One good example of how this happens is if you look at how wedding photography has changed over the last 10 years. In the early 00s, almost all wedding photography was the stiff, formal type we'd been seeing since photographs were invented. Then 'reportage' photography emerged, where photographers did minimal posing and portraits, and opted for a more organic snapshots and brides jumped on the opportunity not to have to spend 2 hours smiling awkwardly in a "the Three Mrs Smith" photo on their special day. Suddenly, every photographer was shooting in this candid style and it was the trendy, modern way of having your wedding photographed. This is slowly changing as brides want more posed bridal portraits for their social media and wedding albums, but that is a story for another day.
The problem really with trying for "timeless" is that it doesn't really exist. As I'm reminded every time 'the 100 years of bridal fashion' video pops up on my newsfeed, fashions change dramatically in about a 10 year cycle. So how do you navigate this quagmire of bridal trends?
My advice is this- make you wedding, and your wedding dress, as honest a reflection of you as individuals as you can. You don't know what's going to feel odd and old fashioned in a few years- I remember vehemently refusing to wear jeans that weren't low rise and being revolted by natural waist. I remember being revolted by skinnies. Then I remember thinking I would ONLY wear natural waist jeans for the rest of my life, and then boyfriend cut came in. All you can do is get to a place where you can look back at what you were wearing in the pictures and think, "oh my gosh, I loved those purple tights, I felt completely myself and so cool in them." Don't follow trends blindly, but lean into the ones you love and do them in a way that feels authentic and comfortable to you.
It's really difficult to put an exact start date on my business- it's not like I woke up one day and thought "That's it! Today's the day!" and knuckled down to building a brand. It was more gradual than that, so for the sake of ease I generally count from the day I did my first photo shoot. Obviously, several months of work went into that shoot and creating the dresses for it, but that's the day I started to be able to see a real direction and start really marketing. By this measurement, my business is just over a year old, so I thought it was about time I told the story of why and how I started it.
My sister bought a wedding dress in 2013, and absolutely hated dress shopping. She wasn't being super picky, she just wanted something empire line and with sleeves, and she could not seem to find one anywhere. We were living about an hour north of Glasgow at the time, and we did a miniature tour of Scotland hunting for dresses, but everywhere seemed to sell the same strapless corseted dresses. I was about to move to India for 6 months, so I couldn't make her one, and she ended up with a high street dress that she loved. But I knew from her experience that there was a group of brides not being catered for in the UK.
My first collection was very focused on being the sorts of dresses my sisters would like to wear, and through that I found my signature style almost by accident. I've been very lucky that the fine art wedding movement is slowly making it's way over from America, and that my dresses suit it and are gaining popularity. This year will be my first busy wedding season, and I'm so excited to show you what I've been working on.
What I've learned
1) Build your own website for the first year.
2) Do the reading
3) Don't undersell yourself.
4) Think twice before you spend money.
This week I was extremely excited to see an absolutely amazing selection of these images on Magnolia Rouge this week. These pictures launched my bridal lingerie collection, which mimics the vintage, romantic style of my wedding dresses.
The photos show off my photography friend Rachel's unique style along with my lingerie collection. We were also lucky enough to collaborate with some of my favourite suppliers again, including Wildflower florist and Emma Hill Bridal Hair, and to have Sarah Brown Jewelry collaborating and giving us some absolutely stunning rings.
I love veils. Maybe it's my millinery training, but I think veils finish the bridal look perfectly. They look amazing in the ceremony and in photos, and it's the only time in your life you'll ever get a chance to wear one so it feels so special. If you're having something a bit unusual and modern, it's a great way of making sure you still look like a bride, and if you're having something traditional it finishes the look perfectly.
Having said that, I know a lot of people either haven't considered it or aren't sure how to wear it. So here are a few frequently asked questions about veils answered.
What length veil should I have?
Veil length is going to depend on your dress, the style of your wedding and your own personal preference. I would say always go at least elbow length for a classic look, and if you're having a train I would seriously recommend you match your veil length to it.
2. How do I keep it on my head?
Normally, a veil will be bound onto a comb. If you're having your hair up, it should slide into the top of the style really easily and feel pretty secure. Have someone else help you take it out to avoid messing up your hair.
3. how much will it cost me?
Like the dress, the cost of the veil will depend on how complex it is and how much material goes into it. My simple veils start at around £150, but if you're adding a lace trim that has to be done by hand and can add a lot to the cost of making it. If the budget is tight, consider borrowing one from a friend as your "something borrowed".
Attire Bridal recently got in touch with me to interview me about my first bridal collection
Q. How long have you been in the bridal business?
I studied fashion at University and spent my summers working for bespoke milliners like William Chambers, so my transition into the wedding industry was a gradual one. While we made a lot of our hats for horse racing fans, my favourite clients were always the mothers of the brides. My sister got married in 2014 and that was my first experience working with a bride, and from then I knew that I wanted to build my own business. As soon as I had this realisation, I wanted to learn as much as possible from as many industry professionals as I could, which led to working for Joyce Young in Glasgow, before setting up my own label in January 2016.
Q. What do you think defines your own collection?
I am inspired by the fine art wedding movement, and I try to embed nostalgic, romantic vibes into all of my work, using soft and beautiful high quality fabrics. The aim, within all of my designs, is to weave historical artistic references throughout the collection to create a timeless atmosphere while still feeling fresh and contemporary. Q. What makes your designs stand out from other bridal labels?
As a small, independent label, my brand has the agility to react quickly to changes in bridal trends - which often means I can get slightly ahead of the curve. Almost everything I produce is a bespoke, one-off piece for particular brides, which means I spend a lot of time with my clients and have a very unique relationship with them. My timeless style appeals to refined, sophisticated brides planning beautifully styled weddings.
Q. What influences have played a major part in your first bridal collection?
My first bridal collection was heavily influenced by a trip to Florence around the time that I started designing. The soft champagne tones, draped silks and delicate silhouettes all feel like they could be in a painting by my favourite renaissance artist, Botticelli. I tried to blend these pattern-like drapes into the collection in a pragmatic, contemporary manner.
Q. Tell us a bit about the construction techniques that you’ve used?
One of the things that is very important to me is that the dresses are comfortable to wear. I want brides to be able to dance, eat and enjoy the most special day of their lives, so much of my construction is centred around how to minimise bulky linings, tight corseting and heavy underskirts and still have the dress feel really special and bridal. I also use fake button-up backs and hidden zips so the dresses are as easy as possible to slip in and out of, 100% silk linings that feel great against your skin, and cuts and silhouettes that don't require heavy structure to look great on the day.
Q. Do you have a favourite gown, and why?
It's really difficult to pick just one out of the collection, and some of the big favourites have been unexpected like the Billie Separates, which were my best seller for 2016. I love the movement from the dove-grey chiffon skirt on the Elin, but my personal favourite is the Maymie regency-inspired lace dress, which reminds me of Jane Austen novels and my sisters.
Q. Have you won any awards for your designs?
At the end of last year, I won The Wedding Industry Awards "Best Newcomer" award for the South West, and I was on the shortlist for the national award, alongside finishing runner-up in the South West category for Best Dressmaker/Designer, only beaten by an industry veteran, which I feel vindicates the hard work I've put in over the last twelve months. I'm also going to the finals of the South West Wedding Awards, for their "Best Newcomer" category. Of course the best prize is when brides are really pleased with their finished dress, and bring me thank-you chocolates.
Q. Where can people get a glimpse of your gowns?
The best place to see galleries of my dresses is on my website. You can see all of the dresses expertly photographed by the super-talented Rachel Rose Photography on my "collection" pages, and I update new photo galleries in the blog every Wednesday. I'm also a big Instagram fan, so the a great way to see what I'm up to is to follow me at @ailsamunrodressmaker.
Q. Where do you see the business in five years?
I would love for my dresses and style to be more widely available, and to grow my business to have a ready-towear line available in bridal boutiques or online. The core of my business however will always be about providing my clients with the best possible personal service and making them feel incredibly special on their wedding day
It seems that the trend for strapless wedding dresses is slowly leaving us, opening up the bridal industry to a whole range of possibilities for dresses with sleeves. I love to make sleeved wedding dresses, so today I've rounded up some of my favourite sleeve designs from my inspiration collection.
One of my favourite options for a subtle wedding sleeve, this is a delicate alternative to cap sleeves. It covers your shoulders and the tops of your arms and adds a sweet detail to a simple wedding bodice. You could cover it with lace or combine with a scallop hem for more detail, or keep it simple like the Billie Separates.
2. Poet sleeves
With a slightly 70's Victorian vibe, these sleeves are a bold, fashionable choice. Super sheer silk organza keeps them feeling pretty and bridal, with the pearl button detailed cuff. I love these sleeves for a spring bride, they keep just a hint of the cold off.
3. cape sleeves
These cape sleeves are a dainty addition to the Maymie wedding dress. It's a style you don't see often in mainstream fashion, so it's a definite must-try. The shape narrows your shoulders and hides the tops of your arms (which lots of brides are conscious of). The hem of this lace sleeve is hand pieced to create a soft edge.
4. Elbow length sleeves
These sleeves balance out the fullness of the skirt and are a modest way of covering your shoulders on your wedding day. I love this length sleeve, it's flattering and easy to wear. Choose fine soft silks in summer or thicker fabric in colder months.
*This post was originally featured on the English Wedding Blog*
Since I started my own business I’ve been confronted with two quite different opinions about my pricing strategy. Brides sometimes expect having a dress made for them to be cheaper than going to a bridal boutique, whereas other industry professionals have told me I’m undercharging (most of my dresses cost around £1800-£2500). A blog post by Olivia Bossert inspired me to explain what goes into the cost of your couture wedding dress.
Any dressmaker that you hire has to first advertise so that you know they are an option. Very few people come to me straight from Google or my website, so a small amount of the cost of your dress is associated with how you found me in the first place. Whether that’s spending 2 days at a wedding fair, putting together a styled shoot for a magazine or blog or spending a little cash upfront on Facebook or internet advertising, this is a fairly big business expense for me. This is why referrals are so important to me and to other small wedding businesses, and why so many of us offer discounts to people who recommend their friends.
2. Consultation and fitting time
The point of getting a bespoke dress is that firstly, you get exactly the design you want. Sometimes it will take me two hours in a first consultation to get this completely right. Then there can be up to four further fittings to ensure the fit is completely perfect and that all the details fit and look right. Conservatively, I probably spend about 6 hours in consultations with every bride on the run up to the wedding day, and dressmakers need to charge for this time.
3. Experience and design
This is a slightly abstract concept, but creativity and experience are big factors in how your dress turns out, and that will factor into the cost of your dress. To try and explain it better, think about paying for a painting. Sure, the time and materials that go into it are a factor, but you’re also buying from a specific painter because you love their work and you want a piece of it in your home. You would spend more on a painting my an established artist than you would a home-painter. The same is true for a couture dress, you pay more to have an experienced atelier make it rather than your auntie on a sewing machine.
4. Pattern cutting and sampling
If you’re ordering from a pre-given selection of dresses (for example, if you want a dress that is exactly like one from my sample collection) this stage is shorter and your dress will come out a little cheaper. If your dress is completely bespoke however, your dressmaker will need to spend quite a bit of time pattern cutting and making a toile of the dress. A toile is a first draft of the dress in cheap fabric, that allows the dressmaker to see how the fit and style is going to work. The time and materials for this need to be factored into the cost of the dress.
5. The fabric
I think it’s pretty obvious that the cost of the fabric has to be factored into the cost of the dress! However, it is not by a long way the only factor. Halving your fabric costs (by going for polyester over silk) will not half the cost of your dress. I think it’s almost always worth stretching the budget for a completely silk dress.
6. Making the dress
This is the other obvious cost- the sheer amount of time spent making a high quality couture dress. Most of us are accustomed to buying off the high street, often clothes made in India or China where people are paid an equivalent of 50p a day. They also use fairly low quality, quick production techniques. This means it can seem a little expensive buying high quality garments domestically produced.
7. Rent on a workshop or studio
If your dress takes 2 weeks to make in the studio, the price of the dress has to cover the rent on the studio for those two weeks. Some small businesses can operate without premises, but often creative businesses need space for their tools and equipment.
So there you have it. This list is by no means exhaustive, I haven’t mentioned the wear and tear on machines or the cost that goes into packaging your dress, but I hope this list gives you a bit more of an idea of where the money you pay for your wedding dress goes when you choose to have a handmade item. It can seem like a lot of money, but in the wedding industry you really do get what you pay for; most of us are much smaller companies than you would usually deal with and we cannot afford to overcharge or disappoint even one customer.
*This post first appeared on Pasties and Petticoats*
There is a test with jam samples in a supermarket. It says that when faced with too many choices, customers were ten times less likely to buy jam, because they were overwhelmed by their options. If you’re offered one of six, rather than one of twenty four, your much more likely to walk away with some jam.
This presents a bit of a problem when you’re planning a wedding – you’re faced not just with the massive, overwhelming selection of suppliers, but what if each of them also offer a completely personalised service?
I make bespoke wedding dresses, and it’s a point of pride to me that I can make you exactly what you want for your wedding day. I know this provides a lot of choice in comparison to buying off the peg and this can appear overwhelming, but don’t let this put you off. The benefits of bespoke are plentiful, just use these simple tips to help focus on what you want…
What do you really NOT want?
If you don’t know what you want, tell me what you would do anything to avoid.
Some brides can’t think of anything worse than not being able to wear one of their comfy bras on their wedding day. Others tell me stories about weddings they went to where the bride couldn’t move, or dance, or eat, and want more than anything to be able to move and dance and eat on their wedding day. Sometimes what you don’t want is more abstract – perhaps you don’t want to blend in with all the brides you see on social media. This is a great starting point for your dress, and you can keep coming back to it if you get swept away in wedding madness.
What do you want to be able to do in your dress?
It is so easy to have a clear idea of what you want and then be swept away by the fishtail or the massive train or the 7 tulle underskirts. But what looks amazing standing still in front of a fitting mirror might become a giant cramp in your wedding style when you’re trying to strip the willow (mostly Scottish brides), pick up your niece or do a wheelbarrow race (family traditions are weird). My advice is to think about the whole day, and what you’re really going to be comfortable, warm/cool and happy in. Most of us are not used to wearing big skirts and boned corsets for long periods of time, with the obvious exception of Shakespearean actresses, and would be much more comfortable in something less formal.
How much do you really want to spend?
The wedding industry is a place where you really do get what you pay for. So one of the really crucial factors to decide before you start shopping for a dress is to decide how much you want to pay for your dress. If you don’t want to spend more than £1000, you probably won’t be able to afford to have a train. If you want to spend less on your dress than on your ring (like my sister), that will limit you again. It will be easy once you’re trying dresses on to try and eek up the budget- and maybe having the veil of your dreams IS more important than having a photo booth, but make sure you know where the contingency money is coming from before you commit to a dress.
I hope that gives you a bit more direction, not just with your dress but will all the aspects of your wedding. It might seem like you don’t know what you want, and it may be difficult to articulate, but you will already have a fairly good idea of what it is that you want. If in doubt, a really good idea is to pick supplier who’s work you like and trust them to do their job. Getting your photographer or dressmaker to recommend other suppliers is a great way of making sure the styles work together cohesively.