slim_clothing_hanger_with_bar_14This is a really exciting time of year in the studio as February tends to be my busiest month for taking commissions.

Most people tend to over-indulge in December and so are fairly unwilling to be measured up for a dress until they’ve regained their pre-Christmas physique. The new year also brings the scary reality of “OMG I’m getting married THIS year!!”

This year has been no exception and the phone has been red hot with both dress enquiries and new dressmaking students. I’ve got some stunning projects to get my teeth into this wedding season and I’m desperate to share them with you, but alas, I cannot.

Wedding dress commissions have to be very secretive and I would never be the one to let the cat out of the bag, so instead of telling you what I’ll be doing this year I thought I’d share with you how the process of having a dress made works, from the initial consultation right through to the wedding day.

Those of you who are regular readers may remember that last year I made an outfit for my gorgeous friend Becca. Well luckily I had the foresight to take pictures as we went along so I’ll use the story of her dress to illustrate the process.

Before meeting a bride for the first time I usually set them a little homework. I ask them to collect together images, magazine cuttings, photos of themselves in their favourite dress, and more recently to start a private Pinterest board (what did we ever do before Pinterest?). This lets me see their ideas and their likes, but also their dislikes.

This is one of my favourites from a few years ago, starting in dress heaven…

A client of mine a few years ago was so excited about her homework, and after trying on 87 (yes, 87!) dresses in the shops before finding me, she was determined to get the dress of her dreams, so was more than wiling to set aside a few hours of quality time with a scrapbook and Pritt-stick.

Starting with her dress heaven…

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and ending in her dress hell…

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At our first meeting we look at all the ideas and discuss the requirements for the dress on the day. A wedding dress should be comfortable to wear and reflect both the personality of the bride, showcasing her personal style, but also suit the surroundings and the proportions of the wedding venue. It’s important to take into consideration little details that could have a big impact on a dress design such as the width of the aisle in a church, and whether or not you are allowed bare shoulders at your chosen venue.

Next we look at the theme colours of the wedding, the colours that best suit the bride and the type of fabric most suitable for the designs in mind.

I keep boxes of short lengths of a huge range of fabrics so that my clients an get a feel for how their dress will drape and fall.

With all these thoughts in mind its time to sketch out a few ideas…

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At this stage my drawings are very basic, more of a rough outline the silhouette and main features of the design rather than a beautiful illustration.

I have a folder of ‘ladies’ that I have drawn to speed up the design process…

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I place the chosen silhouette beneath lightweight printer paper and simply sketch a design over the top. It helps keep a consistency from one sketch to the next so that its easier to compare one idea to the next.

When it comes to my final designs for a client I will try to draw an accurate representation of their body shape and proportions. Whilst elongated fashion illustrations are beautiful many people find it hard to imagine themselves in the dress from the drawing. If a client has very wide hips or a short neck there’s no point drawing them as a swan-necked waif just for the vanity of an illustration.

Here are my final ideas for Becca’s wedding dress…

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Next week I’ll be opening my little black book and sharing my fabric fabric haunts. And the journey of Becca’s wedding dress will continue.

Until then, Happy Sewing! X


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