I just posted some pics of a veil I made for a bride, Kira, getting married today in Sydney. Seconds later, I saw she had published a video on Instagram of her (still in her veil and wedding dress) and her husband from an hour previously, STRANDED in the middle of nowhere.
I can’t (and won’t) post Kira’s video because of her privacy settings but it seems that they had switched their accommodation some time ago, but no-one told their driver. By the time they realised they were at the wrong cottage – because it was locked and no-one was around – the driver was gone.
And there was no phone reception. The video shows John some distance away down the shiny wet road trying to find a bar of network to call for rescue.
“I’m not happy,” Kira stoicly comments, adding that this isn’t quite the wedding night she had imagined.
In the time it’s taken me to type, they have posted an update from their actual accommodation, so I’m pleased to report that they have been rescued from the arse-end of the outback. However, despite it being a lukewarm autumn night, they arrived to find the aircon on full blast.
Seeking refuge from the frigid room in a nice hot shower, they’ve discovered only cold water streaming from every tap.
I’m sure they’ll think of something, but what a start to married life! The best is yet to come. Or at least it had bloody better.
“We recently attended a wedding and the bride wore THE DRESS I brought to you a few months ago. I could have screamed!!”
So began an email from one of my brides whose dress I’m altering later this year. Imagine. You’ve just spent more money than you’ve ever spent on one item of clothing that you’ll probably only wear once, on arguably the most significant day in your life with all eyes on you… and someone has beaten you to it.
I imagine the feeling must be similar to that felt by Captain Scott’s Antarctic party when it finally ended the near 900 mile expedition at the South Pole over a year after setting out, only to find a note from their rival Norwegians informing them they’d beaten them to it by 35 days. But without the prospect of imminent death from hypothermic exposure.
Shop closures reduce choice
The closure of many traditional bridal boutiques – all but one within three miles of me in the last few years – is limiting choice for brides so the chances of buying the same dress as a friend or relative has increased.
Brides usually come to me for bespoke dresses because they have a good idea of what they want but it doesn’t exist in boutiques. A secondary reason is that they want the peace of mind that no-one could possibly have the same dress (or whatever) as them. But I digress.
This bride is actually the third customer I’ve had in this predicament, although hers was all the more galling because the dress in question was already the third one she’d bought and had to return. The silver lining is that she now has a new dress, completely different, but absolutely stunning, and we’re working on incorporating some of the meaningful details she loved.
Each of my other brides handled the predicament differently. The first asked me to completely restyle the back of her dress, removing most of it and dropping the flare point of her fit-and-flare skirt section (below). That made it sufficiently different from the bride with the same dress, plus there wasn’t a lot of crossover of guests attending each wedding.
The other bride’s dress doppelganger was closer to home: her new sister-in-law. This meant that a lot of guests – my customer’s entire family – would attend both weddings.
However, she decided to wear her dress anyway. You know how people complain that wedding dresses look completely different on the model? My bride reasoned that their different body types, flowers and accessories would make enough of a change that not many people would notice, and she didn’t mind too much if they did.
Helping brides whose wedding dresses were being made in Ukraine, AND their Ukranian dressmakers.
While Putin’s troops attacked Ukraine this week, two british brides contacted me. Both had ordered wedding dresses that were being made in Ukraine. Now this can no longer happen, they asked if I could make them instead.
I could have rubbed my hands with glee and snapped up the extra orders. But I shouldn’t profit from a loss of business from someone potentially losing everything, just because they happen to have had their country invaded this week, and I haven’t.
So I *think* I have figured out a way to help both the brides and their original dressmakers in Ukraine. I will make what they had ordered, for the same price. Then, after hard costs (fabric etc), I would donate the rest of the price to the ukranian dressmaker (if it was a small, independent operation like mine) or to the Disasters Emergency Committee (if it was a factory contracted by an international brand).
The first bride has just agreed and we tracked down her original, ukranian dressmaker on Etsy. Her name is Vera. She leads a small team and, her shop’s announcement tells us, is currently living in an underground shelter with her family.
As a stroke of genius, Vera created digital, downloadable postcards so people can donate directly. So I did.
I’d been wondering how the hell I could offer practical support in a war zone from the UK, with my skill set limited to making wedding dresses and writing the odd blog. I know what I’m doing* is a drop in the roaring ocean but it’s something. I hope.
If you or someone you know is in the same position as my two brides, please get in touch and I will help if I can.
To my fellow wedding industry pros, if you’re able to help by doing something similar, let’s work together.
*For what it’s worth, I have also donated to the DEC and encourage those who are willing and able to do the same.
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?
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?
I’ve had to keep schtum about this custom creation since November and I’m so happy to be able to share it now, not least as it means that the bride has finally tied the knot after all the covid-related postponements and uncertainty.
Emma Haigh from Rotherham contacted me nearly a year ago with her idea of having a bespoke veil embroidered with a silver space shuttle and the phrase ‘To Infinity and Beyond’. We then had a chat via videocall and she told me that her fiancé is a big fan of Toy Story and that they had visited Cape Canaveral together to watch a shuttle launch.
I sketched some ideas and tried different fonts and we settled on having our silver shuttle lifting off from its launchpad in a whirl of smoke, into twinkling stars above. I added some metallic blue into the latter as a subtle ‘something blue’.
After postponing the wedding from 23 December 2020, Emma finally tied the knot on 10 August 2021.
Infinite love to the bride and groom and their growing family. 💕 🚀
Forget Pantone, this is ‘Pelling Pink’. It’s not a single colour but shifts and changes shade and intensity with movement and glitters in the light.
Emma Pelling had always wanted a pink wedding dress but finding the perfect shade, not to mention style, proved problematic. The main problem was that we simply couldn’t settle on any one shade of pink. The solution then was to simply not settle for a single shade and create a dress that subtly changed shades as Emma moved.
I designed a bespoke princess-style dress with multiple layers of silk, tulle and glitter I’m shares ranging from ivory to lilac to a hot dusky rose. We experimented inside and outside with great swathes of fabrics a spectrum of variations until, five hours later, we had the perfect combination. When layered just so, they would shift and slink and gather and flare to reveal all the different shades. I’m calling this Pelling Pink.
The skirt section featured the softest ivory tulle layered over a pink glitter tulle and a lilac-pink silk satin. The latter I just happened to have picked up in an eco-sale of designer dead stock with no plan for it but it was just too beautiful to leave. I’m so happy I got to use it for Emma’s dress.
The bodice included an additional extra-sparkly pale pink tulle layer and I created custom lace to embellish the illusion panel. A keyhole back and a corset fastening provided interest on the back, and a closer look at the corset lace ends revealed that I’d personalised them with Emma and her fiancé Sam’s names so they could literally tie the knot.
We made the front slightly shorter to show off Emma’s stunning pastel pink and blue shoes while the back dipped to a chapel train.
With Covid-19 wreaking havoc on wedding plans, this dress has been over a year in the making. I am absolutely delighted that Emma and Sam finally figuratively tied the knot on Sunday 13 June 2021, followed by a celebration with friends and family on Sunday 11 July. Loads of love to you both, Mr & Mrs Sullivan!
“I need help,” began Catherine’s first message to me. “I got swept up into buying a wedding dress. I love it on the hanger but on me, I just don’t feel right.”
Worse was to come: “I wonder whether it’s more me that is the issue rather than the dress. I’m just so worried I haven’t found the right dress and have wasted my grandmother’s money. Please can you help?”
That’s a lot of pressure for a bride, especially the belief that the reason your dress isn’t fitting is somehow your own fault (it’s really not).
I hear what Catherine said very often. It can be utterly overwhelming to be planning a wedding, making big (expensive) decisions and feeling anxious about being the centre of attention.
It’s a very common concern to second-guess your dress, especially before you’ve had it altered to fit you properly. It can feel like it’s not your dress and that you’re playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes! Of the hundreds of brides I’ve worked with, I’ve only known one actually change her mind and buy another dress (and she was already on her second when we met!).
It can make a world of difference just to have it fit you properly so that it feels like it’s your dress, it flatters you and it moves properly as you move rather than dragging on the floor under your feet, slipping off your shoulders, digging in in some places and gaping in others.
It’s MY job to make your dress fit and work for you so delegate that pressure to me.
Today, I received the loveliest message from Catherine, who married last month wearing her dress after I’d altered it to fit her. She ended it: Thank you. You really did make me feel like the bride I wanted to be.”
“This is the only part of our wedding that’s gone perfectly,” Gemma told me at her final fitting, and I don’t think I could get a higher accolade than that!
Gemma couldn’t find what she wanted ANYWHERE (and trust me, she’d looked!). For her Indo-Anglo fusion wedding to Shai, she wanted to mix the traditional Indian bridal three-piece lehenga (cropped top, skirt and dupatta/scarf) with contemporary Western embellishments and colourways. She was particularly smitten with the lace on a sleeve she’d found on Pinterest and also wanted to incorporate matching elements from her fiancé’s ornate Indian outfit.
A self-confessed ungirly girl, she also wanted to avoid anything too blingy. However, when my super-sparkly glitter tulle came out, all bets on no bling were off. 😁
Gemma’s ivory top featured guipure lace over a boned satin bodice and an illusion panel over her shoulders creating a keyhole back. When we couldn’t find a lace that matched the Pinterest sleeves she loved, I embroidered the sleeves with a bespoke design I created just for her (I design and make lace too). Lined with silk, the top also included hidden, in-built support so we didn’t need to worry about bra straps.
The skirt was a serious lesson in go big or go home. Its nine layers included satin, netting, glitter tulle, the softest floatiest plain tulle, silk organza and custom-cut guipure lace to match the top. I included a channel in the lining for in-built, removable steel hooping so she wouldn’t have to wear a separate underskirt and risk it peeking out above her skirt – they’re not the prettiest of undies. I hemmed the stiff netting with red, ivory and gold ribbon to encase the scratchy edges (a couture detail neglected in mass produced wedding dresses, resulted in irritated feet).
I embroidered her something blue, two butterflies, on the lining of the skirt in an ornate red and gold heart bearing her married name.
And OF COURSE it has pockets, as all wedding dresses should. And, because it’s 2021, a matching silk-lined face mask.
Finally, that beautiful ornate dabka embroidery on the skirt waistband and hem of the top was a bespoke creation by the talented hand embroiderers of Sindy Saggar Couture (@sindysaggarcouture). Finding a supplier to create the design to match Shai’s outfit was a major challenge given the timescale, lockdown in India and a wild goose chase with the original supplier but Sindy came to the rescue (thanks again to Deep, @thewellheeledcoach for hooking us up via The Luxury Wedding Lounge group).
I also altered the bridesmaids’ outfits when they arrived from overseas in the wrong sizes (one was 10″ too short, another 15″ too small!) with no time to exchange them. I made the matching face masks for them too in matching colours and fabric.
Gemma and Shai’s wedding on Saturday 12 June 2021 was a celebration of their love and commitment, a fusion of traditions from around the world and also marked the first time the wider family had been able to get together in two years. Even with a lockdown limit of 30 people and no dancing, THAT is worth celebrating in style. ❤💛❤🤍❤💛❤