Considering a Bespoke Wedding Dress? Your FAQs answered.

written by Rachel Lamb
3 · 02 · 18

Continuing my mini series on my Bespoke wedding dress design service, I thought it would be useful to take a look at the most common FAQs that I get asked by brides-to-be. These questions come up over and over again, so here goes:

How long does it take to make a wedding dress? 
I get asked this all the time and there isn’t one answer! It depends entirely on the design of the dress. If we put the hours end to end it can be anywhere from approximately 40 hours to approximately 160…ish. It could be more or less than this, but this is average for me and my work. However the way I work means the hours are spread out over months, rather than worked from start to finish in one go. I time every dress I make so I have a good idea of how long a particular design might take to make.

Working on a toile.

What lead time do you need? 
Usually 6 months or more, but often it’s less than this. A year is ideal. 18 months is wonderful. If it’s a complicated design or requires much thought or the bride is not available regularly for fittings, 2 years is not unheard of. Again, it depends on the design and the time of year and what is already booked into the schedule. The shortest turnaround I’ve done is 1 month, during the winter! The best thing is to always ask. Sometimes I get very booked up for certain times of the year and can’t take on any more work, but if this happens I try to put a post up explaining the situation.

How much do your dresses cost?
Again, it depends on the design, but generally speaking Bespoke is from £1500+ to wherever the design takes the price, and the Collection dresses are currently between £1000 – £2500 with simple separates from £300. I mentioned in my previous post that Bespoke can be as simple or extravagant as you want, so these prices are a general guide. But the best thing is to ask. Your wedding dress could be more or less than these prices – it just depends on what you want. Generally my prices are very competitive. Lace dresses tend to be more pricey as lace is more costly per metre, and more complicated to work with, and certain weaves of silk fabric can be costly per metre, as are multiple layers of fabrics for example in skirts with many layers. On the other hand synthetic fabrics are very good these days and can reduce the cost of a wedding dress in some cases, again – depending on the design. So I can make the same design in different fabric types and it will give a different price.

What happens if I don’t like it / it doesn’t suit me?
This is a really common question and totally understandable if you don’t understand how the process works. So I’ll try to explain in general terms and then go into more detail:

I have never had a bride who didn’t like her dress, because after plenty of discussion and finding out your likes and dislikes, I will already have designed a wedding dress for you and you have agreed to the design – a design that you presumably love and are excited about! It’s likely you will have ideas about what you want anyway, and I will suggest ideas too based on our discussions. We will have looked at fabrics together and you may have tried on some of my designs to get a feel for what suits you. You don’t have to do this – some brides don’t try anything on beforehand and others try on virtually everything I have!

So I’ve sketched your design and you’ve chosen your fabrics – with my guidance as to what will work for your chosen design.

You aren’t expected to know exactly what will work and what won’t – that is what I am here for, to advise and guide you towards making choices that give the best results and the results that you want!

Pattern drafted from measurements.

You will then have several fittings in a mock up fabric, such as cotton calico – so not the actual fabric your dress is made in – and we will have fun creating and fine-tuning your dress design together in 3D while you’re actually wearing it during fittings. These initial fittings are very precise, it’s not just a case of ‘taking it in a bit’. The whole outfit is balanced and fitted to suit you and your proportions. If a feature is in the wrong place – say a seam is too low, or you’re revealing too much cleavage for comfort for example, we move it to where you would like it, then and there, so you can see it in its correct place straight away. It’s only when you are happy with your prototype design that we cut out the real wedding dress. So as we’ve also already been draping the real fabric against you during your toile fittings and playing around with trims and volume in the mock up, by the time it comes to your first fitting in the actual fabric – the start of the real dress – you already know what your dress is going to look like proportionally and design wise. Once we’re into your actual dress fabric you continue to have fittings to fine tune it, and often at this stage we might play around with where a particular trim goes or how many lines of beading you might want, or the exact placement of the lace, if this is something that we didn’t decide at the design sketch stage.

The whole process is one of incremental adjustments to achieve the look you desire. It’s very exciting and fun to create a design together! It’s not like going to have your hair cut – where the stylist is doing something for you that cannot be reversed, while you passively sit there until it’s done! If the worst happened (and it never has) and you didn’t like something, we would correct it, or start again.

Pattern pieces traced from pattern draft.
Toile with alterations.

I do: constantly check in with you throughout the fittings to explain what I’m doing and to ask what your preferences are: Is this okay? How do you feel about this length here? Is this enough fullness/tightness/giving you the look you want? No? OK – let’s adjust that fullness now (for example), while you’re here in your calico toile (prototype) so I get it right before you go.

I do: ask you if you have any comments, worries, are not sure about anything etc at the end of every fitting. I always give you the opportunity to comment and have your say – it’s your dress, not mine!

I don’t: Demand that you stick exactly to the design as sketched if something different occurs during the fitting that looks better! This is the beauty of commissioning a dress in that sometimes happy accidents occur during fittings and you end up with something unexpectedly even better than originally planned! Sometimes we might decide to lose a detail too if it looks great without it, or add more of something because it looks good. Generally speaking there is an element of flexibility in the design – it’s all about what looks good on you.

So back to the original question, you have watched and experienced and had a say in the design from the start and evolving while you’re wearing it during your fittings. You don’t just turn up at the end and I say “Ta-da!!!” without you having seen any development of the design since the initial sketch!

Have you ever made a dress you didn’t like?
No, but I’m human so naturally I sometimes prefer some over others. Even if the design is not really to my taste, I am always proud and flattered that I’ve been chosen to make something so special for a bride. Every dress is a learning curve and every bride is a different personality with a different body shape, so it’s more a question of having pride in all my work, and a sense of achievement and satisfaction when it’s finished and I have a happy bride!

What happens if I change my mind about the design?
This has happened, but thankfully it’s rare. Depending on timescales we would do our best to change the design or restart it if it’s very different. The service is not about forcing you to have a design you don’t want – it’s the exact opposite of that! So in all cases, we talk and do our best to help achieve what you want. However, I would hope to have covered this eventuality during our initial meetings so that we can prepare ourselves in advance for a potential change if necessary. Although the service is very flexible on the one hand, it is not infinitely flexible, in that it can’t be an opportunity to just try out multiple different styles on you during fittings. We work to the design sketch in all cases and the design has some degree of flexibility, but you must make decisions during the process in order for it to progress and the design come to fruition within the timescale.

Where do you get your fabrics?
I use UK wholesale suppliers for my fabrics. I find this is the most cost effective for the short lengths that are required to make individual wedding dresses. Those suppliers in turn source their fabrics internationally. Laces are generally European and silks and synthetics are from Europe, the Far East and Asia.

I have my own fabric – will you use it for my wedding dress?
I am always happy to accommodate your own fabrics within your wedding dress if possible, but I always ask to see the fabric first to make sure it will work for your design. If I don’t think it will, I will tell you.

I’d like to use some part of another dress in my wedding dress, can this be done?
Again, if it will work then yes. I ask to see whatever it is and we discuss if it will work or not. For example, I have had brides ask to use parts of their mother’s wedding dress in their own dress. In all cases, if it works for the design, then yes. Sometimes it’s better to use the fabric rather than a portion of an existing dress.

How many dresses have you made?
Close to 1000, almost.

What underwear do I need?
It depends on the design, but whatever you choose you will need your underwear from your first fitting onward. Generally I recommend a simple, moulded strapless bra and big pants or a g-string. Some dresses have cups fitted in them, and sometimes these work quite well depending on your shape and the design. Other options include very low cut bras, or stick on bras for backless dresses. Sometimes it’s better to wear no bra. In all cases keep your underwear simple. If your dress is boned you don’t really need a boned corset style undergarment unless you need a lot of support and the dress can’t provide that. In all cases, we would discuss underwear and what you will or won’t need.

I don’t know what suits me, can you help?
Of course! Come and have a chat and we can talk about it!

I know exactly what I want, how do I know you can do it?
Well ultimately you don’t know – you have to trust me. But I have nearly 20 years of experience making wedding dresses for brides and I am also an honest and professional person. If I can’t do something, or I don’t think it will work, I will tell you. I don’t take on work I don’t know how to create, or that I don’t understand. I want to give you a brilliant service and also to sleep well at night, as I’m sure you do too. I don’t want to put my name to a failed design and I don’t want you to wear something that isn’t what you wanted. It’s a relationship built on trust, communication, professionalism and skill.

I hope this has gone some way to answering some of your questions! Can you think of any more that I haven’t answered?

To ask another question, for further information or to set up an appointment, please email me.


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