Interview with a Couture Bridal Dress Maker
Ok, so January is still with us but today happens to be National Hug day!! So go on, if you’re even remotely thinking about it, go and give ’em a hug!!
Did you know that it’s also Blue Monday… I don’t know about you but I need something lovely to cheer me up and I think I have just the thing! How does an Interview with a Couture Bridal Dress Maker sound? I have two dress makers who I know well and I will be interviewing them both but first up it’s lovely Mel from Joan Brown Vintage Bridal based in Leek. So, make yourself a nice cup of something hot (or cold and fizzy, it’s your choice!) Sit back and have a read of how these lovely ladies made it to the top of their game.
How did you get involved in the dress making industry?
“I started dressmaking at the age of six with a particular interest in bridal wear after watching Charles and Diana’s wedding. On leaving school I studied fashion design where again I largely focussed on bridal and occasion wear. As my children got a little older I decided it was time to pursue my dream and start my own bespoke bridal wear business.”
How many bridal dresses have you been involved with?
“I have worked with hundreds of brides from smaller scale jobs such as hair accessories, handmade veils, alterations and restoring vintage gowns, to the whole package of fully bespoke dress design. I also work with bridesmaids and mother of the bride too.”
What is the best thing about your line of work?
“I cannot help but be caught up in the excitement of every bride I see planning their day. It’s so special and sometimes emotional to be part of this and really lovely to meet family members and friends throughout the process.”
How many brides do you have a year?
“This depends on how my production schedule looks in terms of work load. Some commissions may take a week, some may take months, so It can really vary quite a bit from year to year.”
What process do you typically follow when working with a new bride?
“The process starts with what is an exciting meeting with brides to discuss initial ideas, fabrics and budget. During the first meeting we look at what can be achieved with the given budget and draw up initial ideas. Then I plan with brides an appropriate measurements date and I set to work drawing up the design and finding samples for the bride to approve prior to her fitting. Once she has been measured, dresses are typically completed within 3 fittings, maybe 4 depending on complexity of design.”
Is it better for a bride to know exactly what she wants, or for them to be open minded and flexible? How much should they trust you?
“Both are absolutely fine. All brides are pretty unique, some brides have never worn a dress in their lives and some just love fashion and really know what they want. I adapt my service and offer advice where it’s appropriate. If I felt realistically something wouldn’t work or suit, I would be honest as the main goal in my job is that brides have a stress free experience. This can only can be achieved with a good working relationship, great communication with your bride and honesty on both parts.”
How much time should a bride budget for when making a custom dress?
“Ideally a year in advance but I am open to enquiries from brides no matter what the timescale. If I have availability in my diary, if I can help then I will. 2020 brides so far are looking very organised!”
What should a bride bring to a fitting?
“Definitely wear the underwear for fittings that they will be wearing on the day, particularly the bra. This is equally important to wear on the day of measure too. Bridal shoes or a pair with same heel height as those that will be worn on the day. Also bring one person that the bride trusts and puts them at ease to their first couple of fittings. It’s important that we can talk about the fit and how she is feeling about the progression of the dress. I’d advise bringing bridesmaid groups to the much more exciting final fitting so they can see the finished dress.”
So, do you have any tips for a bride on a tight budget?
“Be careful to avoid fabrics such as cheaper cuts of satin or lace, often they appear quite shiny and low quality on photographs. This is also true of embellishments. Gorgeous georgettes or Matt crepes have a more expensive look and feel but cost much less than high quality laces. Keep your dress clean and simple and invest in some quirky accessories or floral Arrangement instead. Be careful of buying custom made designer ‘copies’ online. Their quality is hit and miss. Lastly buy second hand or vintage. Ive been lucky enough to work on altering and customising some absolute bargains that brides have found online. Or maybe there’s already a fabulous vintage dress in the family that we can breath life into.”
What was the most memorable dress you ever made?
“I was really happy when my cousin asked me to make her dress in May 2017. Our gran is the name behind my business so it seemed extra special to be making one for my cousin. However there isn’t a dress that doesn’t stick in my mind, I’ve been blessed with such lovely customers and it’s a total honour to listen to their ideas and help them bring them to life. Thanks so much! Xxx”
A great big HUGE thank you to Mel for taking time out of her busy schedule to take part in this interview for me. If you want to find out more about having your dream dress custom made, then I’m sure that Mel can help you with all y0u need to know. You can contact her using the links below.