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Why White?

How Queen Victoria, new-fangled photography and rubbish laundry facilities created the iconic western tradition

Ever wondered why western brides wear white? Queen Victoria sparked the trend in 1840 and actually raised eyebrows by choosing white, which was usually only worn by debutantes for their presentation to court.

Victoria & Albert on their wedding day, and her trend-setting dress displayed at Kensington Palace.

Before then (and for a while after), brides would wear their best dress, whatever colour(s) it happened to be. There wasn’t even a concept of a wedding dress as something you wore just for your wedding day. It was expected that you’d wear your wedding dress again for other functions ans indeed, Queen Victoria did.

A bride and groom in Chicago in the 1890s

This expectation helped make the white wedding dress aspirational as it was only really practical to wash and maintain white fabrics, especially silk, if you were mega-rich. Ideally, you had staff to take care of that for you. European royals and nobility did of course and so the white wedding dress became associated with wealth and high social standing.

Simultaneously, photography was becoming more advanced and accessible and white dresses looked good in the early sepia photographs. Even nearly 200 years ago, we were all about the ‘Gram.

All of this means that you can still consider yourself a traditional bride if your dress isn’t white. This week, I took delivery of this stunning lace-satin-glitter (yes, all of them, in one fabric) fabric and I am ridiculously excited about it.

Satin, lace AND glitter all in one fabric. BIG plans for this beauty. HUGE.

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Typical!

My brides and dresses are all so different. Do I even have a typical customer?

What do a pink glittery ballgown, a satin ivory shift mini-dress, and a two-piece embroidered lehenga have in common? Or a backless, barely-there lace dress with a long-sleeved, high-necked, satin-twill number?

Some of my 2021 brides in their bespoke gowns on their wedding days. L-R: Emma, Steffi, Gemma, Isobel and Immi

I mean aside from the obvious, that they are all wedding dresses. And made by me.

The answer is in why I made them. Or rather why I had to.

UK brides are spoiled for choice whatever their budget with independent bridal boutiques, concessions in Harrods and Selfridges, chain stores like Wed2b and David’s Bridal, second-hand dresses and hell, even Asos is getting in on the bridal scene. If, and that’s a big if, they want a traditional ivory dress.

Not all brides do. Some don’t want ivory. Some don’t want a dress.

The very variety of styles I’ve made in the last year might suggest I don’t have a typical customer. But I have found that my brides tend to have some common traits:

1. All of my brides have a strong personal style. They know what works for them, what looks dynamite, and what doesn’t;

2. They know exactly what they’re looking for. Some had mood boards, others had lists of elements such as neckline, silhouette, embroidery details, etc, some had even produced sketches.

3. They couldn’t find what they were looking for ready-made in any shop. It didn’t exist.

That’s when they looked into going bespoke and found me.

So, do I have a typical customer? Yes and no. Do the traits above sound familiar to you?

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The UK’s First Wedding of 2021

Microwedding 2021 in lockdown. Wedding dress alterations by Holly Winter Couture
Microweddings: When daffodils replace guests

Just look at the love and joy! These beautiful pictures are of, I believe, the very first wedding to take place in the UK this year, and I am so thrilled to have had a (small!) hand in it. Featured on BBC News, Jess and Jonny finally tied the knot on Monday 29 March, the first day that weddings were allowed in 2021, as lockdown restrictions started to ease.

Microwedding 2021 BBC News Jonny and Jess. Wedding dress alterations by Holly Winter Couture seamstress dressmaker Surrey Hampshire Berkshire
Guest list reduced from 180 to four but Jess and Jonny tied the knot anyway.

Coronavirus had forced them to postpone their original 2020 summer wedding and cut their guest list from 180 to just four (plus the bride and groom themselves) to comply with the latest regulations but they leapt at the first opportunity to tie the knot they had.

Microwedding 2021. Wedding dress alterations by seamstress dressmaker Holly Winter Couture Farnborough Hampshire
They did it!

Jessica’s beautiful beaded mermaid dress had been under wraps for over a year and I last saw her for her final fitting in December 2019 (she arrived in full Mrs Christmas costume on her way to work with children!). Jess came to me for wedding dress alterations when the dress she had bought turned out to be a classic case of expectations vs reality.

Wedding dress expectations vs reality saved by couture finishing by Holly Winter Couture alterations
Expectations vs reality vs couture finish

Jess fell in love with the dramatic waves around the hem of the dress when she saw it online. Trying it on in the shop however left her feeling a little flat, just like the waves which fell over into a messy heap when she walked. I reassured her there was a solution (there is ALWAYS a solution ๐Ÿ˜Š) and gave her glorious waves some extra staying power with a little couture magic. We also added some sparkly straps and shortened the length at the front.

Wed2b Osiris dress alterations Camberley Holly Winter Couture
The glorious waves of Jess’s hem.

I am over the moon for Jonny and Jess and love their style of staring down the restrictions and doing it anyway. They are planning a celebration with friends and family in 2022 and, oh my goodness, I cannot wait to show you the dress we have in store for that! ๐Ÿ˜

Holly Winter Couture studio with bride customer Surrey Hampshire Berkshire wedding dress alterations
Mrs Christmas and me (an elf? ๐Ÿงต๐Ÿชก) in my studio, December 2019. ๐Ÿคถ

Wedding photos by the very talented Rob Burress at Shooting Hip.

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Weddings can resume but wedding dress fittings can’t ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ

Weddings in the UK are officially back ON, from 8 March with maximum six people. Hurrah for my bride planning to elope with her intended!

Unfortunately, I can’t reopen for in-person appointments – including fittings – until 12 April. So how’s she supposed to get her dress altered.

She even suggested doing her fitting outdoors, hoping we’d be within the rules when two people can meet outdoors for food or drinks. Sadly not the case and besides, my two children will be back at school and exposed to 180 people daily by then so I’m not as isolated as I could be. It’s just not worth the risk.

But we’ve struck upon a solution. We’ll do her fitting via videocall, with me guiding her mum (whom she lives with) on where to stick the pins and which bits to measure. Then we can exchange the dress contact-free and I’ll alter it for her.

Adapt, adapt, adapt.

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Karma and Covid Collide

Oh, irony, you sweet, delicious bastard. ๐Ÿ

Someone I know who was stridently opposed to same-sex marriage is now engaged and trying to plan a wedding. And she is stridently complaining that it can’t currently happen because of Covid-19 laws (in our part of the UK, we’re in Tier 4, which essentially means we’re in lockdown and weddings can only take place in exceptional circumstances, usually to do with terminal illness).

Apparently, she doesn’t like being legally prevented from marrying the man she loves. Imagine that! Isn’t it outrageous?

My heart goes out to everyone trying to organise a wedding at the moment. I don’t wish the stress, hassle and expense of replanning a wedding on anyone. Even her. Seriously.

But. Still. Mwahahaha!

It is all I can do to resist replying with something about them apples.

๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ

#loveislove