How do I choose a designer? In my opinion, this is the most important question that can be asked. It is critical that you choose a reputable, talented and experienced designer. Some designers will have attended formal design schools, but many have a natural talent that is evident in the quality and craftsmanship. Ask to see samples of their work and a portfolio of their designs. Any reputable designer will be happy to give you a list of referrals from satisfied clients. They must have good communication skills and good at solving problems (should any arise). There is significant time involved in making a gown, so if a designer says it won't take much time keep looking for another designer. I have personally spent anywhere from 80 hours for an informal beaded gown to 175 hours for a very detailed couture gown, so I know what is involved.
Where do I look for a designer? The internet is a great resource to locate a designer in your area. Also, ask friends and family for a referral, often times Aunt Martha knows that Sally's daughter had her gown made by Ms. Fabulous Designer. Fabric shops are also a great resource; they have seen the designers work and usually have a list of preferred vendors. Your wedding coordinator or some of the vendors that you are working with sometimes know of a custom designer through networking and being in the wedding industry.
How do I know that my gown will turn out just as I had envisioned it? Your designer will sketch out your gown and work very closely with you throughout the design process to ensure that you get the gown that you have always dreamed of wearing. A reputable designer who specializes in wedding gowns has a passion for what they do and they know how important that this gown is to you.
How long will it take to complete my gown? Ideally, your designer will want a minimum of six months. It can be done sooner, but you may incur additional rush fees.
Do I get to choose my fabrics? Yes, you will have the opportunity to look at swatches of fabrics or go with the designer on a shopping trip to select your fabrics, laces, and embellishments.
How many fittings are required? Typically, you will need to have 2-4 fittings of your gown. Generally, the designer will make your gown in a simple cotton fabric to check the fit, style and proportion. Once you give your approval, the Muslin is taken apart and used as the pattern to cut out the fashion fabric.
Does it cost more to have a gown custom made than to buy from a retail store? There are several reasons that a custom gown can cost more that purchasing it from a retailer or online store. The major difference is that gown designers purchase the fabrics, laces and embellishments in a large volume so they get it at pennies on the dollar. Most gowns are manufactured in another country where wages and operating costs are lower than here in the United States.
Will my gown look homemade? Again, a reputable designer will have the skill, talent and experience that will ensure that your gown looks just like a ready-made gown, or even better! A key is to have your gown professionally pressed, which will ensure that it will look impeccable on you Big Day. The designer will either send it out to be pressed, or will use their own professional steamers.
Lori Davis is owner of Elle Couture Designs. With over 30 years of experience in the design and dressmaking industry, she bring her passion for luxury fashion to create stunning one-of-a-kind wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, evening gowns, cocktail dresses and other specialty clothing. Her extensive design experience is evident in the details and fit of the gowns. Her expertise with fabrics, embellishments and embroidery allows her to guide her clients throughout the process and ensure that they will receive the gown or dress just as they had envisioned wearing on their big day or special event.