Whether you’ve tried on gown after gown with no luck or you have a very specific vision for your wedding day look, a custom design may be the right fit for you. But how does the process work, how long does it take, and what can you expect to pay? We interviewed four local custom bridal designers about the ins and outs of having a gown created just for you.
Make the Cut
What type of brides typically seek the help of a custom designer? Elizabeth Hendershot of Elizabeth Leese says she sees a wide range of clients. “Custom is a great option for people who are looking to have something completely unique,” she says. “A lot of my brides are wanting to incorporate lace from their mom’s gown or their grandmother’s gown—so it’s a special way to include heirloom details.” Hendershot also works with brides who have been shopping and just can’t seem to find the right one. “They are completely burned out from trying on wedding dresses and can’t find their dream dress—so they come to me,” she says.
Trust the Process
Every designer has their own creative process for how they work with brides—from their initial consultation to the way they conduct fittings. For Nardos Imam of Nardos Design, her process begins by asking the bride to try on gowns so that they can get a feel for the silhouette. “Let’s try every shape—a column or a mermaid. Then we narrow down the shape and look at swatches,” she says. After that, Imam sits with the bride and sketches and re-sketches until she gets it right. “It’s like designing a house,” she says.
Have a Fit
After the initial meeting, the designer will make a muslin dress, which is a cotton fabric that is used as the pattern for the silhouette. Then the bride comes in for her first fitting. “In the fitting we can do design changes, work on the fit, and decide how long we want the train,” says de-signer Patti Flowers of Patti Flowers Design Studio. The designer can present embroidery and beading options, too. This is the time that communication is the most important between bride and designer. “We work together so that she feels beautiful,” says Flowers. A bride will come in for two to four more fittings so that they can make sure the fit is perfect. “I finalize the hem, and if we are adding embellishments, we place them with the clients to ensure it is to their specifications,” says Mackenzie Brittingham, in-house designer at Stanley Korshak Bridal. At the final fitting, the bride can take her freshly pressed gown home for the big day.
It’s About Time
Most designers need at least three to six months to complete a gown, but more time is ideal, especially if the design is intricate. “It depends on the bride’s timeline and the complexity of the piece,” explains Hendershot. “Usually our pieces have beading, so we like to start those earlier.” Rush orders are possible on a case-by-case basis.
The Price is Right
The starting price point for a custom gown is comparable to a high-end designer gown at an upscale boutique. Of course, each design’s cost will vary based on fabric, beading, and design. But designers should be up front about costs from day one. As long as the budget is realistic, says Imam, “We can dream within it so you don’t have to compromise the look.”
Why Settle for The One?
If a formal gown can’t fully capture every facet of your personality, consider a second dress for the reception. “A lot of brides are opting for fun, short cocktail dresses to change into once the ceremony is finished and the mood of the party changes,” says Mackenzie Brittingham.