Your first enquiry could be by e-mail or telephone. You will need to check my availability for your wedding date and also let me know a rough outline of what you require. If I have availability and think I might be able to fulfil your needs we will make a date for a design consultation.
The design consultation usually takes place at my home although I can also visit you if you prefer, though this is not ideal as I cannot bring all the fabric sample books, photo albums and useful bits and pieces with me! You should allow a minimum of an hour for your first consultation; sometimes it may take even longer!
During the consultation we will discuss what you require and I will make notes and create quick sketches of ideas. I will be able to provide a reasonable idea of the cost of any ideas we discuss but a firm quote will be posted or emailed to you afterwards.
Right: design sketch and lace samples for Karen
Fabrics and materials:
I will advise on fabrics and materials at your consultation. I have sample books with hundreds of colours and types of fabrics to which we can refer. You can order fabrics through me or I can recommend suppliers and shops for you to visit. If you decide to purchase all or part of your materials elsewhere I can provide guidance* on fabrics, weights and quantities required. I can also accompany you on a fabric shopping expedition, see the end of this page for more details.
If you buy your fabrics from me I will provide samples as soon as the fabric arrives from my suppliers. Samples are not given out at the design consultation unless specially requested, ordered and paid for (I will have to order them in for you from my suppliers).
I can order extra fabric for you if you need it, perhaps for the florist, the invitations or venue decoration. I am happy to sell you fabric from my sample books even if you decide to have your order made up elsewhere!
If we are designing from scratch, any pictures or reference material you can bring with you to give me the ‘flavour’ of what you want is immensely helpful. References might be from history, bridal magazines, films, a picture of your venue, the colours of a landscape or anything that has some element of what you require. Before creating a new design for my own collections or for a costume I often put together a ‘mood board’. This is essentially a collage of images which pulls together all the elements desired and conjures up an atmosphere to inspire the final design. Pintrest is a great way to pull together ideas you have found online.
Pictures are especially helpful if you (like most people) are not sure of the technical or design terms for the style or details you require. Designing for someone who has no real idea or cannot explain what they want is very difficult but not impossible, it will just take much longer to narrow down the specifics.
Normally all consultations are free but if someone seems to be ‘pumping’ me for ideas and drawings without committing to a booking I may decline further advice without payment. Similarly if a lot of design ‘options’ are requested as drawings I may request payment for my time in supplying these.
Finalising your design and the Quotation:
After your appointment I will provide a line drawing of your design with a quotation (by post) for you to approve, with notes on any styling or fabrics discussed. This will probably list the materials and the making costs separately. Some people get to the stage of finalising a design and putting down a deposit at the first consultation, for others it takes longer to define exactly what is required.
If some details were not decided at the consultation the posted design/quote may include ‘options’, for example, different sleeves, necklines or fabric choices for you to consider. Some parts of the quote may only be an estimate if the exact details of a design have not been finalised or the amount of work involved (for example lots of embroidery) is not clear.
Above: design sketch and finished dress for Izzie
Making your Dress:
All consultations and fittings take place in my own home so you will be completely private and you will have my full attention during your appointment. You are welcome to bring mothers, bridesmaids, children etc but please let me know beforehand.
Work is normally carried out with reference to a line drawing that we have agreed is the final design. Occasionally the exact details of a part of the design may be finalised later in the making process; for example the placement of beading detail or the length of a hanging sleeve. If you change your mind once work has started design alterations can sometimes be made during the making process but any extra time or materials needed will be charged for.
Measuring: Every bespoke commission will have a pattern drafted especially to fit your figure. The first step is to take your measurements. I may also take a few digital photographs of you (clothed) for my own reference.
I always prefer to take the measurements myself; this means that I can make allowances for the type of figure you have, such as a short waist, low bust or rounded shoulders. If I am making items for bridesmaids or groomsmen who live too far away to attend a measuring appointment I will supply a guide to the measurements I require. I will always suggest that an experienced dressmaker takes the measurements. You will be asked to sign a disclaimer absolving me from any problems arising from inaccurate measurements.
Small size alterations are to be expected during a making process and I usually leave at least 2 inches of seam allowance inside the garment to allow for changes. The hem will similarly be cut long to allow for shoe heels. I can take no responsibility for a garment fitting if you lose or gain a lot of weight. If you plan to diet please inform me early on and we will plan the making process accordingly.
First Fitting: You will need your shoes and the underwear you plan to wear on the day as early as possible in the fitting process. This is important as the shape of what goes underneath will obviously affect the clothes above! You may also be needed to attend early fittings for the corsets or petticoats of historical (and sometimes contemporary or spectacular) dresses. These foundations need to be correct before further work can be carried out.
Usually I will make up a ‘toile’, which is a mock up of the basic elements of your dress in cheaper but comparable fabric in order to check certain aspects of style and fit before using the final materials. A toile is not always necessary and the stage at which you first see your dress will vary from design to design. A toile can be helpful to prevent costly mistakes; for example, if I am working with particularly expensive fabrics, to a complex design or if you have more unusual body shape.
Left: toile fitting for Sara, below, on her wedding day
Most commissions will need at least two fittings, and up to four or five is normal. Your final fitting will usually be about 10-14 days before your wedding to allow for any last minute weight loss/gain. Earlier or later final fittings can usually be accommodated if you let me know at the design consultation.
Receiving your finished order
Once your order is finished I will prepare and steam it as necessary so it is in perfect condition and ready to wear. You may try your garments on when you pick them up but usually you will have had a final fitting beforehand so that the order can be taken home unworn and ready for the big day. Your dress will be ready to transport inside a white, waterproof gown bag on a padded hanger.
A ‘pencilled in’ picking up date is made at the time you first commission your order and a final date and time can be confirmed at a later fitting. You may pick your order up as soon as it is finished, which could be months before the wedding if an ‘early make’ has been scheduled or some people prefer to leave it with me until just a few days before the wedding.
Most people collect their order in person but I can also send it by secure courier. Postal prices with insurance depend on the value and weight of your order and on your location. When posted your order may need steaming upon arrival.