The AFFORDABLE One I Haven’t Found at the Boutiques.
When does a girl first think about their ‘wedding gown’? I don’t know about you, but I was around 7 years old! I got a bridal doll. I got a paper doll cutouts. Most of you won’t have any idea what they were, but almost every set of paper doll kits had at least ONE wedding gown you could cut out and put on that doll, along with a veil and some flowers to hold! Then, I got a little older and started trying to draw wedding gowns on stick figures. THAT didn’t last very long! God didn’t bless me with artistic skills like that! In my early teen years, I started to buy bridal magazines to look at the pictures of wedding gowns and save the ones I liked best. AND THEN, came age 16 and I got my HOPE CHEST! I started really thinking about being a bride then…getting married…the whole picture! I started saving items in my Hope Chest. I still have it and it’s filled with 54 years of memorabilia from life. BUT…I never did get that DREAM WEDDING GOWN. We just didn’t run in circles where one could have a custom made wedding gown!
TODAY, however, all is different. You can find companies and seamstresses that can help you design your own wedding gown for the same cost as one from the Boutique in your town. The big questions are:
How does that work?
Is it hard?
Does it take a long time?
Could I do it myself?
And the big question, HOW MUCH WILL IT COST? Can I afford a custom dress?
Well, let me help you with those questions!
It’s not hard. It can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t take much time, though it can add a few weeks to your planning. It might be MUCH MORE fun than going from shop to shop trying on gown after gown that is never right! AND our custom gowns typically won’t cost you more than a gown you would find in the average boutique – in fact, it may be even less! Here’s how we do it at A Touch of Camo/Custom Bridal Collections.
First, you can read some of how to get started by looking at the Design Your Own Gown page on our website. Most of our brides start by sending us pictures of parts of the dresses they like. The bodice of one, the train of another, the type of beads or embroidery and such are just emailed or texted to us as pictures. Some brides actually put together a sketch of what’s in their head too (Those are the ones with more artistic ability than I have!).
This involves lots of emails because we prefer having a working record in the bride’s words of what she wants, but we have to get it from her head to our heads and then back to her head, so we all ‘see’ the same dress. Sometimes that is easy. Sometimes the bride is very clear. We are sharing sketches from our September 2019 bride named Kelly.
The next part involves the details of designing: what color does the bride want? Does she want camo or no camo or a solid accent color? Does she want embroidery? What color? Beading? What kind? For some gowns, lots of time is spent on the fabrics: lace, tulle, organza, chiffon fabrics. Sometimes we must send samples so a bride can actually choose, for example exactly which lace she likes or what colors she wants in layers on her gown. We show her choices and she decides what she likes, and where or how she wants these to be added into HER GOWN.
Kelly knew most of this already. She wanted a mostly white satin gown. She wanted a camo pattern and knew which one: True Timber White Snowfall (now called Conceal White) but she wasn’t sure about embroidery, beading or where or how. In describing her dress she spoke of wanting it to be like a fairy or a princess and to sparkle, so we suggested silver embroidery rather than a solid color, as it added sparkle in a subtle manner. We also showed her a lot of different bead choices via pictures. She ended up choosing white beads and Swarovski crystals, which she wanted around the front hem area of her dress so it would sparkle as she walked or danced. She picked a swirly embroidery pattern along the sides of the camo train in the white part of the gown rather than on top of the camo, so it would be more defined.
Our custom brides must also submit 11 different measurements to have the gown sewn with the closest fit possible to the body. We explain this in detail and offer a measurement form on the website here.
Once we have all this detail, we write it back and forth to be sure it’s clear. If a bride cannot configure the vision in their head, we work with a fashion designer that will do a sketch of the front and back of the gown based on what we tell her. It is black and white, but it clarifies that we understand the vision correctly. In this case, Kelly wanted to see a professional sketch (a picture of the designer’s sketch attached) to ensure she got all the design elements she wanted.
At this point, Kelly was essentially done with the hard work. Well, except for sending payments! And the detailed work started with our side of this creation. Based on style and measurements, we consult with our factory designer and/or seamstress to get a yardage of fabric we must order in for sewing. We then must submit the order, WITH NO ERRORS to the factory or seamstress. We always go right back to the bride’s emails, sketches or final sketches/pictures to put this together and submit all that we have to the designer or seamstress. We then confirm with our seamstress that she sees and understands the same dress that our bride wants. When this is confirmed, the order starts as soon as we’ve received payment on the order.
We keep our brides in the loop all through the process via emails or texts, so they know when the order went in, what is the anticipated completion time, and if/when there are any questions that come to us we go right to our bride to clarify. In Kelly’s case, we needed some designer input as to how much of the skirt to bead at the hemline and what looked best per the designer’s ideas and what extra costs might be if we chose to do more than ordered to start with. So some adjustments were made in those aspects. But, always, the decisions are from the bride.
When a gown is finished at the factory, pictures are sent to me to proof and agree to shipment of the dress. Obviously we cannot see all the measurements, sewing, and other quality checks we do on our gowns before we ship to the bride, but we can clarify colors, patterns, style, etc. so we know if the finished gown LOOKS like we were expecting. We do share these pictures with our brides and thus let them know, if they agree, the gown is ready to ship. We have tracking on our shipments to us and we inform the bride the minute the gown arrives at our location. Most brides are nervous by this time about their wedding gown being out of our ‘control’ with the postal service chosen! After a gown arrives, we do a complete quality assurance check on the gown. Then we steam and dry the gown. Right before packing the gown, we put it on our dress form and take very nice pictures of it for the bride. We can then show her all the close-up views to verify it’s exactly as ordered. (In our next blog post we will discuss our quality assurance, packing, and shipping process, as it’s rather involved). Attached are some close-up pictures of Kelly’s finished gown so you can compare it to her original sketches and the designer’s sketches.
Finally, we fold and package the gown and at the time of shipping, the tracking number and delivery time are sent to the bride. We do check in with her after delivery has occurred to see if she was ultimately pleased when she was able to try on her gown. Sometimes we get pictures back at that point and actually get to ‘meet’ the beautiful bride we’ve been working with for months! And we do always seek pictures from the wedding day, and, with permission, we add those to the website with a listing for this new dress, which is now available for another bride to purchase, and this new custom design is ALWAYS named after the bride who designed and first wore this style.
SO, in the case of Kelly’s gown, it will soon show as an option here, under our Camo Collection, on our website. Can you guess the name of this new design? The name of the style to look for will be: KELLY!