How to say yes to just right wedding dress.
Custom Wedding Gown Creations
It seems like a luxury dream: a custom, one-of-a-kind wedding gown to wow your family and friends—and the dapper groom, of course—on your big day. Unfortunately, many brides-to-be often feel intimidated by the design process. But the perks of working one-on-one with a local designer are plentiful.
“When you go to the big chain bridal shops, you can lose what bridal gown shopping is all about,” says Jackie Barutha, owner of Jaxie, a Milwaukee-based bridal accessory line. “Bridal gown shopping should be a fun, memorable experience—not trying on gowns you hate that are way out of your budget because the sales associate isn’t listening to your vision.”
Read on to get the inside scoop from Barutha, fellow Milwaukee-based bridal designers Delanie Ford of Delanie Couture and Amanda Ergen of MinkMaids, and Madison-based designer Monica Freng of Monirose, on achieving your perfect personalized wedding-day style.
Finding Your Perfect Match
For brides, there’s little question that choosing the right bridal designer is key. Learning about a designer’s specialty, point of view, personality and history is a must.
Ergen, who designs custom bridal gowns and handbags for her line MinkMaids, considers herself a full-service designer. She not only designs, but also offers her styling services on the big day, helping the bridal party get ready (steaming and ironing dresses, taping straps and plunging necklines, and re-pinning hairstyles).
“I consider it a little extra wedding-day insurance,” she laughs. “I designed bridesmaid dresses for a wedding and was helping them get dressed when the bride had a minor emergency with her store-bought dress. Luckily, I was there with my sewing kit and was able to fix her up! I like to think that I saved the day.”
The best advice for finding your perfect designer match? Spend time together, understand the designer’s point of view, ask a lot of questions (no matter how insignificant they may seem) and be honest about your expectations and budget.
“I enjoy working with clients who don’t really know what they want, or what might look good on them,” says Ergen. “Getting to know someone and designing a gown to fit their personality can be fun.”
Preparing for Perfection
After searching exhaustively for the perfect dress when she was a bride in 2007, Freng decided to create the gown that she saw in her mind’s eye but couldn’t find in a store. “Walking down the aisle in my gown was one of the most memorable moments of my life, and the desire grew to share that experience with others who wanted a unique, handcrafted gown,” she says.
Today, Freng, who almost exclusively uses natural fibers such as silk and cotton in her designs, works one-on-one with clients to create custom pieces. “The inspiration comes from the bride’s personality, tastes and the mood of her wedding day,” she says. “Some brides already have a clear vision of what they want, while others need more direction. It’s my job to take those inspirations and craft them into a unique gown that will make them feel radiant.”
The designers encourage clients to bring in photographs of general designs they love and specific inspirations for the piece. The next step? Sketching. “At that point, I am incorporating details she likes with a few ideas of my own,” says Ergen. “Once we’ve worked together to choose a design, I start sourcing fabrics and colors that will work with the silholette.”
Your Dream Design
Sometimes a design will evolve through fittings—that dream dress might not look quite the same when the bride sees it on herself. “It’s really a collaboration,” says Ergen.
The whole process can take anywhere from two to six months, depending on the size of the bridal party, intricacy of design and whether travel is involved for fittings.
For accessories design, Barutha of Jaxie discusses many factors with clients: budget, overall look, wedding venue, colors and dress style, to name a few. She recommends starting the process at least eight weeks before the wedding day.
“I have the bride show me her dress, then talk about what look she wants to accomplish. I really believe your wedding day is the day to get away with anything,” says Barutha. “If you want that over-the-top look, go for it! It’s your day to shine.”
Ford urges potential clients not to be afraid to ask for the seemingly impossible. “A few years back, a bride brought in a picture of a glorious eggplant-colored Marchesa gown,” she says. “She wanted it as her wedding gown, with a few personal touches. I had absolutely no idea how I was going to replicate the design, but I did it and it turned out beautifully. It’s still my favorite dress to this day.”
The designers also note that working with family heirlooms is truly a treat. “I love hearing the stories behind heirloom pieces. It’s such an honor to be entrusted to use a bit of history to make a piece that is truly personal to the bride,” says Ergen.
Barutha agrees, “I had a bride come to me with her mom’s veil, which she wanted reworked. Her mom recently passed away, so it was an emotional consultation. It was extremely heart-warming when I delivered her piece to her; she absolutely loved it, and even made me cry!”
Meet the Designers
- Delanie Couture by Delanie Ford
Design aesthetic: Old Hollywood
Claim to fame: Custom bridal, bridesmaid, flower girl and mother-of-the-bride gowns
Price range: $300–$3,000
Where to buy: Contact designer through delaniecouture.com
- Jaxie by Jackie Barutha
Design aesthetic: Vintage glamour
Claim to fame: Bridal belts and sashes, headpieces, cuffs, clutches, hair fascinators, birdcage veils, couture veils and pearl necklaces
Price range: $58–$395; custom pieces start at $100
Where to buy: Zita Bridal Salon, Miss Ruby Bridal Boutique and GLOW Salon & Spa in Milwaukee; online at shopjaxie.com
- MinkMaids by Amanda Ergen
Design aesthetic: Architectural inspirations
Claim to fame: Custom bridal, bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride gowns and handbags
Price range: Custom bridal gowns are $300–$1,500; bridesmaid dresses start at $150; handbags are $25–$75
Where to buy: Online at minkmaids.com