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.
My lovely friend Alex shared photos of her brother’s wedding last week, featuring the happy couple flanked by male family members clutching bouquets of broccoli.
It seems to be a growing trend in Asia. Alex’s new sister-in-law YaChun Yang (aka Allie) had seen a YouTuber in her native Hong Kong propose to her boyfriend with broccoli, and there are plenty of examples from Japan too (although I never saw it when I lived there 20-odd years ago).
I’m absolutely here for bouquets for all. They’ve only become associated with women/brides because they were originally composed of fragrant herbs to ward off evil spirits marauding for virgins. And as we know, all brides are virgins, because who in their right mind would marry a woman who wasn’t?
These days of course, wedding bouquets are more for aesthetics than their proficiency at repelling randy wraiths. Grooms and their parties usually wear flowers in their buttonholes, so it’s no great leap to give them something floral to hold and save them awkwardly twiddling their thumbs in the photos.
In Japan, where the garter toss has never taken hold, grooms now have their own bouquet to throw.
And why broccoli in particular? Some say the way it grows, with many stems branching out from the central stalk symbolises a growing family, and so brings fertility to whoever catches it. But don’t let that put you off; an alternative theory is that the nutrient-rich brassica simply brings good health.
But it doesn’t have to be broccoli. Ornamental cabbages are fairly common here in the UK and I’ve seen chillis used in bouquets and decor. A cauliflower or brightly coloured vegetable selection could also look elegant.
And there’s another benefit to clutching your five-a-day at your wedding: a vegetable bouquet would inflict a weighty blunt-force trauma to any lurking demon, should the bride or groom – both virgins of course – find themselves so accosted. 🥦
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.
I received a press inquiry this week asking whether couples should coordinate their wedding outfits. This question both resonated with and rankled me.
It was a well timed question; this week alone I’ve been working on coordinating outfits for three couples and it’s certainly something I’m seeing more of, for different reasons.
That said, my couple planning their traditional white wedding are also incorporating the same fabric for elements of their outfits. In this case, the bride is wearing a hooded cape and the groom a bowtie in the same pale pink velvet.
It can be a cultural, which is true for my bride and groom planning their Ghanaian-British fusion wedding. In Ghana, the bride and groom’s outfits are made from the same fabrics, which is what I’m doing for the them, making the bride’s dress from the same traditional kente fabrics as the groom’s outfit.
The third couple are both wearing black with custom embroidered motifs that tell each of their stories.
Now for why the question rankled. First, being for a western publication, it was inherently western-focused but this excluded the cultures and traditions of other countries that are honoured here, such as my British-Ghanaian couple.
I also (politely I hope) asked the journalist not to forget weddings involving two grooms, two brides or non-binary couples who I also see coordinating their outfits, probably more so than heterosexual couples.
And finally, the classic word “Should.” I don’t like to see “should” in any question about weddings, other than that the couple should love each other and should wear whatever the hell they want, matching or not. 😊
NB photos are not of my work or couples; their weddings are still to come so the details are top secret!
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.
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.
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.
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?
In the bewildering days and weeks of the first lockdown in March 2020, I wished there was something tangible I could do to help. But I make wedding dresses. And weddings were cancelled. What help could I actually be?
I considered making facemasks but didn’t know the first thing about the antimicrobial properties of different fabrics. There was a call to make hospital scrubs from donated duvet covers, but my daughter was coughing and I was terrified garments from our home might infect entire hospitals.
Then at 8pm one Wednesday in my studio, I heard the town erupt in cheers. Guilt. I’d completely forgotten we were supposed to be at the end of the drive for the first weekly Clap for Carers. I realised that, just like my brides who’d had to postpone their weddings, there must be NHS staff doing the same AND doubling down on the front line against the virus.
Usually when (if) I have spare time, I’ll dream up some new designs and create experimental samples to put in photoshoots and display at wedding fairs. With my peak season cancelled, I’d committed to spending money on fabrics and time on making new dresses, so why not offer them to NHS brides instead, as a small way of saying thank you?
With no real expectation, I made my offer public. Suddenly, I was in The Guardian, the Observer, the Metro, the Telegraph and more, and the requests poured in. Boom. I was helpful.
I’d love to help everyone who contacted me (even the cheeky feckers who admitted they already had a wedding dress but could they have a going away outfit? Or a second dress for the evening?), but there were scores. I committed to three: one, a GP, for 2020, occupational therapist Immi in 2021, and nurse Sameen in 2022.
This year, it was Immi’s turn. She and Jai postponed their wedding last year to 2 September this year, at the beautiful Polhawn Fort on a cornish cliff top.
After poring over design inspiration together, Immi and I came up with her perfect boho-style wedding dress over a year ago. It included dropped flutter sleeves, a plunging neckline on a sheer backless bodice and a full, floaty tulle skirt embellished with lashings of lace.
Working remotely, all our consultations, including taking her measurements and fitting her toile (the mock-up dress I make to test the measurements). Despite first speaking in April 2020, we only finally met in person for the first time in February 2021.
I made the wildflower lace for her bodice myself and cut, arranged and stitched on the motifs by hand.
The skirt had multiple layers of tulle, satin crepe, and glitter net to represent the oceans this surfer loves.
The lace on her skirt had to be cut and pieced together by hand to create the peaks at the front and back.
Immi was an absolute joy to work with and there were plenty of hugs and tears at Immi’s final fitting (which included Immi’s mum and soon-to-be mother-in-law).
Most of all, I am so grateful to Immi not only for putting her trust in me to make her wedding dress but for making me feel useful in a pandemic.
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!