All your questions answered about bespoke wedding dresses
Do you think about having your wedding dress custom made for you, but have no idea about what’s involved? Do you love the idea of it, but worry about cost and whether you’ll love it? I’ve compiled all the answers you need when thinking about a bespoke wedding dress.
What is a bespoke wedding dress?
When you opt for a bespoke wedding dress, it means you’re asking a professional designer or professional dressmaker to design and make a wedding dress specifically for you – from scratch. The dressmaker will discuss with you what you want, your style, your vision as well as the types of fabrics that you would like your wedding dress to include. From delicate chantilly lace to embellished beads and sequins, a dressmaker can source unique fabrics to create a one-of-a-kind wedding dress, or they can show you traditional bridal fabrics such as silk taffetas and satins, which mirror classic designs you may have seen in bridal magazines.
Most importantly, bespoke wedding dresses are custom made to a client’s measurements and requirements. Whereas a bridal shop will fit a wedding dress to you, a bespoke dress is made for you. A client may also request that their wedding dress features a combination of design elements from various styles, which may not be easily found in ready-to-wear bridal shops.
How long does it take to make a bespoke wedding dress?
The time line for a bespoke wedding dress is one of the most common questions and concerns. Unfortunately, owing to the negative effects of fast fashion, society is used to thinking that clothing comes off a clothes rack at our convenience whenever we want it. This is definitely not the case with bespoke garments, especially bridal. For standard bespoke wedding dresses most bridal dressmakers ask for a lead time of at least 3-6 months, sometimes more depending on the complexity of the style and design. This timeframe is so that the dressmaker can plan a realistic production schedule leading up to his/her clients’ weddings, as they will no doubt have several brides booked at any one time. Furthermore, a bridal designer may have to wait for specific fabric to be made or restocked with their supplier.
From measuring to fitting, a dressmaker will also have to consider important factors, such as a bridal client’s tendency to lose or gain weight over a period of time, or the client’s personal goal to add muscle/definition, tone up, lose or gain weight and so on. A client will be asked about these goals and if they do or don’t have any, and a schedule will be created accordingly.
If your wedding is less than 6 months away, it is absolutely always worth asking a dressmaker if they have availability. In general, bespoke wedding dresses do not take THAT long to make, it’s just the combinations of factors listed above that require a realistic and safe time-frame for such important dresses.
How much does a bespoke wedding dress cost?
Another huge concern is the cost of a bespoke wedding dress versus buying one from a traditional bridal boutique. Yes, a bespoke wedding dress can be more expensive considering that it’s made entirely from scratch and may include high-quality fabric, but often the cost is not more than a mid-level priced wedding dress in a shop. An average starting point for a fully bespoke wedding dress may fall somewhere between £1200-1600 plus materials. Dressmakers typically list their costs like this because bridal fabrics vary so much in price that it’s impossible to give an an approximate cost for materials.
Additionally, in the same way that you ask a mechanic to give you a full quote of labour and materials before they commence work, the same principles apply to your dressmaker. I give all my clients a detailed breakdown of the labour and material cost and confirm that they won’t have to pay anymore money, unless agreed.
Choosing a bespoke wedding dress also has far more value for money associated with it than a wedding dress from a bridal shop. For example:
Bespoke means your wedding dress is tailored specifically to your body and shape and nobody else’s. This means the fitting and alteration sessions are often included in your overall wedding dress quote from a dressmaker. In comparison, a bride will have to pay extra for wedding dress alterations in a bridal shop increasing the original cost of the wedding dress anywhere from £150 upwards. So based on the above, if you buy a wedding dress for roughly £1200, you may end up paying another £300 on top of that for alterations such as shortening the hem, taking in the side seams, adding bust cups and so on. Before you know it, your wedding dress alteration cost has mounted up and you’ve ended up paying more than you planned to in the first place!
Here’s an example of my client Jean in her bespoke Mother of the Bride dress. During the production of her dress we met 4 times in total. Once to discuss her style, requirements and to choose fabric and then a further 3 times for fitting sessions. She was so happy to finally have a beautiful cocktail dress that fitted her body proportions properly. You can see by the smile on her face how beautiful she feels!
Your bespoke wedding dress will be completely unique and one-of-a-kind because it hasn’t been made in a factory. You’ll be like any other bride and your dress will completely represent your personal style and taste. You’ll have complete control over choosing your fabric and will be offered fabric swatches to look at and touch. Swatches are an essential tool for a client to be able to understand and choose the style of their dress, and a good dressmaker will have many examples to hand, or can order specific swatches. Furthermore, your bridal dressmaker may be able to source unusual, contemporary fabrics that will help create a truly bespoke and individual wedding dress.
In my bridal studio in Cambridge, I have a wide range of bridal fabrics in different fibres and colours from suppliers in both the UK and Europe. I also travel to London regularly to discover the latest in bridal trends and materials.
A bespoke wedding dress made by a professional dressmaker will have involved impeccable skills that take years of experience to build. In contrast to being factory made, a bespoke wedding dress will often feature couture elements such as hand-finished hems or delicate lace work that is a clear sign of high-quality. With bespoke, you really do get what you pay for.
With a bespoke wedding dress, you know the designer and the dressmaker and you can also ask exactly where your fabric comes from, which is important when considering the ethical value of a single wedding dress.
What if I don’t like my bespoke wedding dress?
I think the thought of the final wedding dress being unveiled in a dramatic “ta-da!” moment is enough to frighten anyone. However, this is totally not the case. During production of your bespoke wedding dress your dressmaker will involve you every step of the way. After your first consultation and measuring session, your dressmaker will begin work on a toile of your wedding dress. A toile is essentially a mock version of your dress made in basic calico cotton. In your first toile fitting you’ll start to get a good idea of how the dress will look and fit, which will be built upon as the weeks go by. Your dressmaker will also show you how the fabrics you have chosen will work with the design ensuring you are completely happy. If you have chosen a professional, qualified dressmaker they will not proceed with each stage until you are 100% happy with how your dress is looking.
Some dressmakers work from home. What if the dress gets damaged?
A professional dressmaker will take a great deal of pride in his/her work and will ensure that your bespoke wedding dress is always protected and stored away from potential damage. A basic contract and deposit should also be drawn up, stating all details, labour and when you expect your bespoke wedding dress to be ready for collection. Furthermore, a professional dressmaker should also have insurance protecting their work from any accidental damage, which means you’re taking just the same level of risk when ordering or leaving your wedding dress with a bridal shop.
I hope that helps answer your questions about bespoke wedding dresses. If there’s anything more you’d like to know, please leave a comment. To check out some examples of bespoke wedding and bridesmaids dresses, please visit my gallery.