Photo: Aliza Rae Photography, Model: Michelle Martin of Modelogic Midwest
Every bride wants her wedding gown to be unique, so how can she create a look that's completely her own? When it comes to custom wedding gowns, it all comes down to communication, and a little bit of imagination too. These Etsy vendors know exactly what goes into making it happen.
"Custom gowns are for any bride looking to personalize her wedding day style, and the bride who finds bits and pieces of dresses she loves and wants to combine them into one dress," says Amanda Jennings of MinkMaidsCollection in Wisconsin.
As far as inspiration goes, Yanique Barnes of Dreamers and Lovers in Los Angeles, CA, says to start by looking inside your own closet. That natural fashion sense, knowing what you look best in and feel comfortable wearing, will help determine what kind of silhouette will flatter your body type. Then, find a designer who shares your aesthetic. And that means everything from the cut to the color to the fabric. Make sure your chosen designer has experience with the type of fabrics you want to work with, and is willing to create the kind of gown you're envisioning. Whether you're looking for something out of the ordinary or simply want something locally made, chances are you'll be able to find a few pros who've created everything from vegan to maternity wedding gowns, if you scour the internet.
Probably the most important aspect of ordering a custom gown is discussing the overall process. "It's imperative, when ordering a custom design, that the bride-to-be has had a full discussion about the designer's process," Barnes says. It's good to ask for a sketch to make sure that that his or her interpretation is exactly what you have in mind. And it's probably not a good idea to bring a photo of an already existing gown and ask for a duplicate. "Hopefully the designer would refuse to do so for reasons of integrity, but even if she attempts to do so, inevitably the fabrics, cut, and other details will probably turn out slightly different because of her own hand, eye, and skills," says Rebecca Schoneveld of Brooklyn, NY.
As you might expect, fully custom-made designs can often be nearly double the price of an off-the-rack piece, says Barnes. Think of all the time and care that goes into the design and manufacture. It's an intensive process for just one dress. Still, independent sellers on sites like Etsy might be more within your budget. Jennings adds that some designers can work within a bride's budget if she's open to design modifications. "Simplifying the silhouette, removing intricate details or inner construction, and using different fabrications will all help to reduce the cost of a gown," she says.
Keep in mind that most designers aren't in a position to offer refunds on custom pieces. So Barnes recommends making sure all correspondence is clear in emails so you're more likely to end up with your dream dress. What's more, Schoneveld thinks it's a really good idea to try on a muslin, or mock-up, of the gown before it's cut in the actual fabric. You should be 100% sure of the proportions and the design before the final piece is made. Then, rest assured that you'll be getting a wedding gown that's truly one-of-a-kind. If your chosen designer is out of state, Barnes suggests seeing a professional seamstress nearby to take your proper measurements.