The Case for a Custom Wedding Gown

custom bridal gowns“There’s a market for the bride who wants a say in how her wedding dress is designed.”

The only thing worse than showing up at a party and seeing someone else in your dress is showing up at a wedding and seeing the bride in the gown you just ordered. Opting for a custom dress eliminates this possibility, and it isn’t as pricey as you might think.

Atlanta designer Katriesa Raines of Olive says she’s created one-of-a-kind wedding dresses for as little as $600. Here, she gives her pointers for designing bespoke bridalwear.

Seek a Shared Vision

As you compare custom wedding-dress designers, pay attention to their portfolios to get a feel for their style sensibilities. If you want an ornate princess dress, don’t choose a designer whose tastes tend toward the understated. And if you envision a playful ’80s look, don’t call Raines. “If you see my dresses, they’re all inspired by the ’50s and ’60s—they’re ladylike and modest,” she says.

Raines says brides should check out her forty or so dress silhouettes, pick one they like and begin brainstorming from there. “I can add a sleeve, make it short, take out a big V in the back, you name it,” she says. If none of her silhouettes seem like good starting points, she’s probably not the designer for you.

Walk in With an Opinion

Inspiration boards. Magazine clippings. Antique photos. Raines loves ’em all. The only thing she doesn’t love is a bride who has no idea what she wants. “If you don’t have a look in mind when you come into your initial design appointment, I’m going to challenge you to really look at this process and decide if it’s for you,” Raines says.

Come prepared to discuss the feel of your wedding, your color palette, the dress style you want and your favorite fabrics (she’ll have lots of samples to touch or try on). At the end of the meeting, Raines will take your measurements in the silhouette you’ve chosen and draw up a sketch of the dress.

Timing Is Everything

Raines advises brides to meet with her at least six months in advance of their wedding dates. “But,” she says, “everything is made locally, so I can turn it around fast if I have to. I’ve done custom dresses in as little as thirty days—but it’ll cost ya!”

Fall in Love With Your Fabric

The second appointment is the fabric-choosing session. Raines sources several options based on the initial design meeting, then lets you choose the one that’s most true to your vision.

She says brides rarely source their own fabrics since Raines can get hers at a lower cost, but she’s willing to work with a bride who’s dead set on a fabric she’s already found. “I once had an Indian bride who loved my silhouettes but wanted to remake her sari,” Raines says.

Meet Your Dream Dress

After you choose your fabrics, your dress goes into production—usually a sixty- to ninety-day process. Then it’s time for the appointment you’ve envisioned for months: your first dress fitting. “Because we’ve made it just for you, nine times out of ten it fits perfectly,” Raines says.

Still, she has a tailor on hand in case you want the waist a little higher or the V-back deeper. If you need any alterations, you’ll return for a second and final fitting. “Then we take it away to save for your big day!”