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Rachel’s Wedding

Like so many people, when real life beckons, my blog goes on hold. But I’ve been prompted today to return, and so I am at last, nearly a year later, blogging about Rachel’s wedding day.

It was perfect.

Rachel and Danny were married on October 30 of last year, in a beautiful outdoor venue called Cross Creek Ranch. They took their vows in the late afternoon, standing under the spreading branches of a huge grandfather oak tree. As the sun set, we moved to an open air barn set with beautiful tables and strung all over with Christmas lights. Their wedding had a strong autumnal theme, with just a pinch of Halloween spirit added to the mix: a candy bar in lieu of traditional party favors, a Corpse Bride cake topper, and Rachel’s purple Iron Fist zombie shoes.

I was privileged to get to come early to dress Rachel, and to stay to attend the wedding. What a splendid treat for me! All through the creation of her dress, we discussed her wedding plans, and we fine tuned some of our vision for the gown to fit that day. It showed. Looking back, I can’t imagine a different gown for Rachel. And at the same time, I can’t picture her exact gown on anyone else or at any other wedding. It just fit.

Even before I helped Rachel into her gown, she was beaming. Even in her zip-up sweatshirt, there was no mistaking that she was the bride. She simply radiated joy and anticipation. But in her gown… the room full of bridesmaids and family members fell silent for a moment as I laced her up. She was really breathtaking. And just as importantly, she felt beautiful. Every bride deserves that experience on her wedding day.

And, watching her walk hand in hand with her new husband, I was as excited for Rachel as for any of my dear friends. Now, almost a year later, there’s even more to be excited about: she and her husband are expecting their first baby!

Don’t you just love weddings?

All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Rachel’s professional wedding photographer, Joel Cocker of Custom Art Cafe.


A long overdue, much anticipated post

Well after the many months of work on Rachel’s gown, the day after we moved to our new house we met for her final fitting and a photoshoot in her gorgeous gown. In the weeks that followed her wedding, I began blogging about the whole process of creating her gown, and just before I got to a post with the photos from our shoot, my laptop died.

I had not backed the photos up.

I hadn’t backed anything up in several months, and there were other things more urgent to recreate than those photos, so my blogging got pushed to the back burner for several months.

Then a little miracle happened. Searching through my sent emails for a particular message, I found photos from that shoot that I had emailed. These, at least, were saved!

So, many months later, I am proud to introduce you to my bride Rachel:

More photos to come soon… I found a few shots I took at her wedding that were salvaged, and I’ve contacted her professional photographer who is allowing me to use some of his photos as well. 🙂


How Much Does it Cost?

This is probably the question I’m asked most frequently. It’s probably the question most dressmakers are asked most frequently. And the short answer, as unsatisfactory as it may be, is “it depends.”

Generally speaking, a custom made garment will cost more than an off-the-rack garment. And generally speaking, it will be considerably better made, will fit you better, and will last longer. There are sometimes exceptions to the rule that custom costs more; some high end designers charge an incredible premium for  their name on the label, and I don’t, so there’s a savings in that. Some things tend to be marked up far more than they need to be when they’re sold in stores – like overpriced veils at bridal salons. But generally speaking, off-the-rack clothes are mass produced, and there’s an economy of scale there that is lost in the world of one-of-a-kind. When I sew a custom garment, I draft a unique pattern specific to the design my client has requested, sized to her precise measurements rather than a “dress size.” I personally help to select the fabrics for her garment, cut them by hand, and sew a garment for her that has never existed before. I devote several hours to the design process, the pattern drafting, the materials shopping, and the muslin fitting, even before beginning work on her actual garment, that off-the-rack clothing manufacturers don’t have to do (or perhaps only have to do once in every thousand or hundred thousand or million garments they churn out). The quality of the garment and of the experience a dressmaker provides are incomparable to buying a garment on a hanger. The price reflects this. Still, how much it costs, depends.

It depends on how complex the design for your garment is. I will draft your pattern, sew a mock-up, fit you, and cut and sew your final garment.  If your garment is, for example, an unlined shift dress made from 3 pieces of fabric cut from 2 pattern pieces, each and every one of these steps is going to take considerably less time than if your garment is an elaborate bridal gown with a fitted bodice, corset style back, full ballgown skirt with over lays and pickups and the like. The last bridal gown I made had 27 unique pattern pieces when all was said and done and took a little over 100 hours to cut and sew (which is in addition to time spent discussing the design with my client, shopping for materials, and thinking about the best approach to constructing her gown). The level of complexity has a big impact on the total price.

It depends on what fabrics you choose. Some fabrics cost considerably more than others and some fabrics require special care to work with. To the best of my ability, I’ll let you know when it’s worth the extra expense – when it will make your garment really fabulous, and when it will make your garment more durable and able to last longer. Sometimes there are a variety of fabrics that are suitable. If you fall in love with the most expensive fabric, the price of your garment will reflect that.

It depends on how much fabric you need. A full length dress requires more yardage than a knee length dress. A ballgown silohuette takes more fabric than a narrow A-line. A gown with multiple layers in the skirt takes more fabric than a dress with a single layer. More fabric costs more because there’s a greater material cost, and also because it takes more time to cut, sew, and hem the extra length.

It depends on how fast you need it. Rush orders cost more, if I’m able to take them on at all. It’s not just because I prefer not to be rushed; they cost me more too, since there are rush fees for any materials I have to order extra quickly, and since my working overtime costs me money in other places (like a babysitter while I hem your dress or pizza for dinner three nights in a week when I’m too busy sewing to cook). Orders placed early on are more cost effective, and usually more fun as well.

So you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into determining the price for a custom garment (it’s not nearly as simple as how much “a bridal gown” costs). When you send me a quote request on my website, I’ll always respond with follow up questions to try to get a clearer understanding of your goals, both for the design of your garment and the budget you’d like me to respect. Please believe, I’m not trying to gain some sort of negotiating upper hand. I’m trying to be sure that as we discuss the design options, I make recommendations that are appropriate for your goals. I don’t want to tempt you with fabrics or design options that are outside your budget any more than I’d want to make suggestions that are contrary to the vision you want to achieve. My passion in this job is to help other women – to help your design become reality, help you create a garment you couldn’t find out there already.

So I’m thrilled to work with you to make your vision fit your budget when it’s possible; I can do all of the following things to help achieve this: I can recommend design elements that fit your budget. I can help you find good values in fabrics and other materials. I can construct your garment well, so that it lasts longer than off-the-rack clothes and is more affordable in the long run. I can make your garment to fit you properly, so that alterations are not needed as an extra expense. And I can take the time to listen to your needs and ensure that the value you have in your custom garment are worth every penny that it costs.

But, there are also compromises I won’t make to reduce the cost of your garment. I won’t use fabrics that are poor quality or ill suited to the design you want. I won’t promise more than I can deliver for the budget and time frame at our disposal. I won’t cut corners on the construction. And, so that I don’t have to, I won’t undercharge for my labor. You are investing in a one-of-a-kind garment that is supposed to be beautiful and unique to you; I’m committed to the quality of my work and won’t compromise where that’s involved.

In the end I know this means that not every prospective client will choose to work with me, and that’s okay. Realistically, it would not be possible for me to accept every garment I’m approached with. Furthermore, I sincerely respect your needs and your budget. So, I will provide you with good honest information to enable you to make an informed decision on whether or not I’m the right dressmaker for you. If you decide that I am, I can assure you it will be worth the cost.



Early on in our custom design process, I let Rachel know that if she was interested I could custom make her veil to coordinate with her gown. She was delighted with the possibility but had no ideas about what specifically she would want. I think our mutual friend Ann-Michelle was the first to suggest she consider a fascinator instead of the traditional veil. As soon as we began thinking on that track it was clearly the right call for Rachel and her wedding day.

Again we perused the internet for inspiration. Rachel liked the look of a couple of photos with flower fascinators that had wispy feathers sort of sweeping out around them. On a shopping trip together to find flowers for the gown, we found some feathers dyed a deep purpley magenta that were just perfect! These, together with flowers Rachel selected to match the bouquet she would carry, and some stunning iridescent beads that matched the Dupioni exactly, came together to make a beautiful accessory for her hair, that coordinated wonderfully with her gown.


Change of plans

After Rachel’s fabric fitting, I worked on embellishing the skirt. Our original design plan had been to dot the skirt with small purple fabric flowers, and adding a sprinkling of beads and sequins around them for some extra sparkle. It sounded good, it worked in the sketch, it had been gorgeous in a couple of inspiration photos we drew from. In real life, on her gown, it was all wrong. The contrast between the deep purple and pale ivory was too stark, and the small flowers made the skirt looked almost polka dotted. Adding that to the mixed textures and silk pick ups that we were already using, and the skirt was far too busy. I sent Rachel pictures of the gown with the flowers pinned in place, and she replied first asking me to thin them out, and then asking if we could rethink them altogether. Rachel apologized but I let her know – this is part of the custom process, and it’s precisely the reason why I send progress photos! Sometimes what sounds good in theory turns out a bit different in practice. It was time to rethink things.

Over the course of a couple of days we emailed back and forth. I sent photos of a number of possible alternatives, adding flowers at the hem instead of dotting throughout, beading small sections of the skirt with purple beads, clear beads, small ones and large ones, sections matching the beading on the bodice, random scatterings and little flower shaped bead clusters, long trailing “vines” of ivory thread and clear sequins. I tried to do just enough of each sample to let her see, without devoting too much time to any of them and without overhandling the fabrics.

Ultimately, Rachel decided she didn’t want purple beads or purple thread in the skirt; the contrast was just too much. She liked the look of the ivory “vines” with sequins, and asked if I could do this but also scatter in a few of the beaded flowers (in clear beads) for a bit of texture. I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that she wanted to change plans; the end result is so much better than what we’d designed at first, such a better fit for Rachel and for her wedding.


First fabric fitting

Fabric fittings are exciting. By this point we’ve been working together to design and create a beautiful garment, but we’ve been working in pictures, sketches, mock ups. At this point, I’m able to show my client the *actual* garment we’re creating. And in the case of a bride, it’s the first time she wears the gown she will wear on her wedding day.

Rachel first fabric fitting was FUN. Only one minor, nitpicky change was needed for a perfect fit (when I pointed it out she told me it was too small to matter; but I told her “No, we’re going to FIX it.”) Rachel brought the shoes she planned to wear on her wedding day (awesome, awesome shoes) and I marked the hemline of the skirt. We discussed the pick ups I would soon be pinning in the over skirt (I cheated in the last post and showed you a photo post-pickups because I’d neglected to take a picture of the earlier step). We both oohed and aaahed excitedly over how well the purple fabric complimented her complexion and hair color, how beautiful her figure looked in the gown, how adorable her shoes were. And we took a picture for her to share with her friends and for me to share with you! After this, we were ready for me to begin working on the finishing touches for her gown.

But coming next… a surprising change in plans.


Skirting the issue

Rachel’s gown included a skirt with four layers in all – the Dupioni over skirt, ivory tulle over satin for the under skirt, and of course lining. I had to sew the tulle layer twice; my iron has a Teflon shoe and so it does not melt fabrics, which unfortunately allowed me to neglect to turn the temperature down low enough for the delicate tulle fabric. It didn’t melt, but it shrank badly the first time. I didn’t notice my mistake until I’d sewn the entire tulle layer, pinned it to the satin, and realized it was a good six inches shorter than the satin layer! Thankfully I buy tulle by the bolt and had plenty on hand to correct my error quickly, without any delays to Rachel.

Aside from that sewing up the skirt went beautifully and and without much to comment on; we’d pretty well perfected the shape and fit in our muslin fittings. I basted the bodice to the skirts and let Rachel know we were ready for a fitting … in her *actual* gown! Stay tuned for more. 🙂

June 2018
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